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Nationwide, Coinbase, Shopify, Box and VMware have gone “remote-first,” according to one source. Others like Facebook, Apple, Splunk, Salesforce and ServiceNow are all moving to a hybrid work model or leaving the choice of where to work up to employees.

For employees and employers alike, this is long overdue news. A recent FlexJobs survey reported that 65% want to remain full-time remote workers, while another 33% prefer a hybrid model. Just 2% say they want a full-time return to the office.

The reasons are clear. Employees love their newfound flexibility and report higher productivity. Leaders appreciate the increased productivity, along with lower costs associated with less office space and technology.

Indeed, reduced commute times and more time spent at home have improved the work/life balance for workers across the globe. The FlexJobs survey reports that a return to the office would mean less flexibility for 46% of workers and less work/life balance for 43%.

Clearly, the workplace as we know it today (or pre-pandemic) has largely ceased to exist. Instead, as I recently discussed in an article about the future of work, future workspaces and offices will become “collaboration hives” and innovation centers.

The recruitment conundrum: Finding the right fit in a hybrid world

In terms of recruitment, the global recruitment landscape has never been more competitive. And vast. A mass shortage in digital skills coupled with access to a wider geographical talent pool—and a limitless pool of opportunities for workers no longer tied to a specific location—means businesses are battling to onboard the right people.

The challenge is that international lockdowns and travel restrictions have made recruitment a largely remote process. While technical skills and recognition can help narrow down a candidate pool and a virtual interviewee can share their competencies and certifications, it’s much harder to determine if they are a good cultural fit.

But focusing solely on technical skills creates a cultural imbalance that can lead to disengaged employees, productivity drops and low employee retention.

That’s why it’s vitally important to also qualify a prospective employee based on who they are and how they fit with the values of your organization. In fact, our people are a key differentiator for us. We ensure each hire is the right cultural fit to guarantee our customers receive high levels of partnership and service to achieve their business goals. That commitment is critical not only to our success, it’s critical to our customers’ success, too.

Overcoming the challenges of disengaged employees

But there’s another story bubbling just below the surface of “Hybridworkland”: the one that begins with eager anticipation, cuts to a loss of company culture, low morale and digital overload (a by-product of high productivity) and ends with frustrated and disengaged employees.

Sixty-five percent of employers say it has been challenging to maintain morale, according to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and more than one-third say they’re facing difficulties with company culture and worker productivity,

As a result, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index found that 41% of the global workforce is likely to consider leaving their current employer within the next year.

And while our connections with “close” networks—our immediate team members—have deepened, it’s those connections with our “distant” networks that have frayed, putting innovation at risk. As Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft Dr. Nancy Baym puts it: “When you lose connections, you stop innovating. It’s harder for new ideas to get in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility.”

With these new remote and hybrid workforces, how can your organization support and retain existing employees, while filling badly needed open positions, and enable their creativity and innovation?

How best to support remote and hybrid workforces

I recently discussed how we’ve focused on supporting our employees and building our culture through a commitment to well-being and mental health, constant communication, and preparation for the future.

So let me turn to the technology aspect.

According to a new survey from Gartner, COVID-19 gave remote employees an increased reliance on digital collaboration tools and an altered relationship to technology due to a lack of in-person IT support. As a result, 18% consider themselves to be digital technology experts while over half consider themselves to be proficient.

It only makes sense then, that today’s mobile workforce has high expectations of their user experience. Rather than risk increasing employee churn and losing valuable talent already in scarce supply, it’s incumbent upon organizations to empower employees to connect any time, from anywhere and any device. 

Investing in secure and efficient collaboration tools can build an environment where employees are better connected, creating efficient communication channels that expand company culture and strengthen employee engagement. It can help you tap you into your distributed workforce’s collective knowledge and creativity and spring new sources of innovation and productivity to maintain customer delivery.

(One company, Aquent, has publicly stated that they had closed their offices and were re-investing those real estate funds into new employee engagement initiatives.)

Finally, the right collaboration tools can help you adapt to evolving business conditions and improve market responsiveness. As Gartner says:

“Today’s workplace is vastly different from 2019’s, and CIOs must prepare their technology stacks, office spaces, IT teams and mindsets to embrace the new future of the digital workplace.”

Logicalis:  Your networking and collaboration experts

As Architects of Change™, Logicalis can provide a range of options and guidance on selecting the right collaborative approach for your organization. Our highly certified engineers and professionals can merge voice and other communications tools and services into a unified, singly managed solution that enables employees to access the tools they need—any time, from any location and using any device—to collaborate more effectively.

Losing valuable talent to competitors who can offer a more engaging workplace that meets their personal and professional needs isn’t worth the risk. No matter where your employees work, supporting them with the right communication and collaboration foundation will not only make the difference today, it will continue to contribute to your—and your customers’–future success.

Jon Groves is CEO of Logicalis US.