Grappling with the challenge and opportunity of hybrid work will remain a priority for many organisations into the foreseeable future. According to research by McKinsey, executives are expecting that moving forward, just 10 per cent of employees will spend more than 80 per cent of their time in the office and 50 per cent will spend more than half of their time working remotely.
This is a massive difference from the pre-COVID-19 era, where 99 per cent of employees spent more than 80 per cent of their time in the office.
However, that very same study found that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) of companies lacked a detailed plan for handling remote work. The appetite for hybrid work is there but the awareness of how to achieve it is not. Here is where collaborating with a strategic business partner that can deliver solutions, rather than single products, remains a big opportunity for the channel.
“For partners, it’s really how they can help implement what a workplace strategy might look like and how they can help their customers improve elements like work-life balance, productivity and engagement,” Ingram Micro Director of Advanced Solutions Group (ASG), Brett Armstrong, said.
“Boosting engagement comes through audio and video, but there’s also more to it. For those in the office it’s about collaboration spaces and that might mean helping to strategise on the removal of desks and design more collaborative spaces.”
In other words, the channel’s role with hybrid work is to help design the vision and then deliver on the potential of technology – they need to be active participants in the customer journey.
Addressing the hybrid challenge
Armstrong said that the holistic approach to the hybrid work model needs to account for several key trends and not all of them are immediately obvious.
1) The changing nature of work itself and the differences in how work is done.
2) Growing customer expectations around real-time interactions and the depth of those interactions.
3) The expanding security challenge and how to mitigate against risks to protect both business and customer.
4) Technology disruption and keeping up with the rate of change – particularly around software and the cloud in this new age of digital innovation
5) Ergonomics and how employees can comfortably and safely work from home.
“For us, the role of our distribution business is to enable our partners with the tools they need in each of these spaces,” Armstrong said. This was the drive for Ingram Micro to launch the ASG business unit, bringing together tools around collaboration, cloud, cybersecurity, mobile and remote working and productivity applications. By ensuring that each of these tools can contribute towards a cohesive vision for the hybrid workplace, Armstrong said, Ingram Micro was able to empower its partners to have those strategic and whole-of-business conversations with their customers.
“Some of our partners will find that their customers already have the right collaboration tools, but perhaps those haven’t been configured correctly, or they might not have the right security tool. We take a modular approach so that our partners can pick and choose during their consultancy phase of what work from home looks like in their environment.”
The ongoing priority & opportunity
Hybrid work isn’t a technology challenge, Armstrong said. The technology is there and readily available. The challenge – and opportunity – is in the engagement. Organisations that take meaningful action now can drive inclusivity, improve productivity and enable much higher levels of interactivity, which in turn helps boost employee happiness, engagement, and productivity.
“This doesn’t need to be a long sales cycle,” Armstrong said. “If a customer has skilled partners that understand the technology and can use Ingram Micro to help facilitate solutions, they go in and quite quickly articulate some of the business challenges and how the hybrid approach can address those. Then, with the modular design approach, they can install and deploy something very quickly.”
From there, Armstrong added, there was a real opportunity to engage more deeply with customers, particularly as more solutions and innovations start coming to market. Improved signage for meeting rooms in the office, for example, or better calendar systems, backed with AI smarts, to help workers better manage the balance of meetings in their workday. Hybrid work is an ongoing engagement opportunity.
Hybrid work will continue to be a key opportunity and priority in the years ahead, as businesses look to find increasingly more sophisticated ways to engage the workforce and capitalise on having an agile and nimble working environment. For partners this will be an evergreen opportunity to bring new technologies and innovations that continue to contribute to the holistic vision of a successful hybrid working environment.