The channel can always coin a phrase to describe an emerging trend, and over the past few weeks the words “hybrid working” have started to enter more conversations.
From a reseller perspective, it simply refers to the continuation of significant numbers of their customers continuing to work from home. But it also gives a phrase to a pitch that can involve both technology and services to make sure users are able to support both those at home and those who choose to return to offices.
Last week, Poly dedicated an afternoon to a webinar going through its Hybrid working: Creating the “next normal” in work practices, spaces and culture report, with the conclusion being that life was not going to return to the way it was before Covid-19.
“The unfortunate circumstances experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic present an opportunity for businesses to challenge current thinking and shape a new future of work,” said Darrius Jones, executive vice-president and chief strategy officer at Poly.
“The next normal is all about hybrid working moving to the mainstream as we respond, redesign and reinvent – flexible working across multiple locations, with immersive, productive workspaces that accommodate the working style of every employee,” he added.
In many respects, the coronavirus has accelerated trends that were already happening, forcing many people to reassess their approach to work given the extreme restrictions on travel, spending time in shared office space, visiting customers and attending events.
Even before the virus arrived, the nature of work was changing because businesses were changing, according to Tom Cheesewright, applied futurist and contributor to the Poly report.
“Today, few can claim that the technology is a barrier to changing practices, but the lockdown has highlighted the need for investment into the cultural and behavioural components of flexible work,” he said. “The future is a flexible working environment that caters to the needs of all employees, giving them the most fulfilling work experience and in return allowing them to maximise the value they return to the organisation.”
The Poly report covered ideas around the design of future workspaces, the prospect of office towers changing their function, and the need to manage cultural changes and make sure teams are diverse and inclusive.
“Technology has a big role to play in creating the next normal, powering new workflows between people and places and enabling seamless communication and collaboration so virtual teams are motivated and engaged,” said Jones. “If we respond, redesign and reinvent, we can meet challenges head-on and constantly evolve with any changes we may face.”
Brother echoes changes
Printer supplier Brother has also added its weight to the argument that a hybrid approach to working will be the way ahead.
The firm is of the belief that resellers will play a vital role in helping the nation deal with a hybrid working world. It shared research that revealed a divided response to going back to the office, with 53% stating that they felt safer at home in the current climate.
Andy Johnson, Brother UK
Commuting on public transport was the top concern for many, followed by the prospect of having to share toilets and kitchen areas with colleagues.
“Understandably, many people in the UK are still concerned about returning to the office. But businesses also recognise that some employees are struggling to work from home and want to offer them the opportunity to resume some sense of normality,” said Andy Johnson, head of product and solutions management at Brother UK.
“Companies must cater for both, and this hands IT leaders the challenge of not only managing a mix of office and home working technology on a longer-term basis, but also making sure they can operate productively while keeping employees safe,” he added.
The answer to that particular challenge comes in the shape of the channel, according to Brother.
“Businesses will need their reseller partners on hand to help them with a range of challenges, from ensuring they have the right printing and scanning devices so people can work in the office safely, to providing remote working tools so those at home can operate securely at distance,” said Johnson.
Channel already responding
The past few months have already sparked a reaction from many across the channel as they move to help customers deal with current problems and prepare for the new normal.
Research from NTT Data indicated that 56% of office workers expect an element of working from home in their jobs even after their offices reopen, and the majority expect the future to involve a blend of working remotely and in the office.
NTT Data is focusing on what that means at a product and services level, and sees secure communications and collaboration tools as two of the main areas that will continue to be in demand.
“There is currently unprecedented demand for Microsoft Teams expertise as companies have transitioned to remote working,” said Simon Williams, CEO at NTT Data UK. “The next step is to build infrastructure to support the future workplace, a framework that will allow companies to return to the office and seamlessly blend remote working with working in the office.”
Andy Pearce, managing director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, cloud communications, at NTT Ltd, said: “The recent health crisis has resulted in a fundamental shift in the way we are working, but now businesses need to start thinking about how to manage the return to the office.”
NTT Data is working with NTT Ltd UK&I to increase the support it can give around Teams, and the move has got the thumbs-up from Microsoft.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated many workplace changes that were already well underway, such as the increased need to support mobility, remote work and distributed teams,” said Nick Hedderman, modern work and security lead at Microsoft UK.