Technology Elevates the Hybrid Workplace, but we Must not Forget the Human

15 February 2023

By Sten Løck
Microsoft IT consultancy Delegate advises on digital transformation, as well as develops and implements customized IT solutions for medium-sized and large businesses. The consultancy also advises on technology specifically for the hybrid workplace, where the solutions provide efficiency, knowledge sharing, learning, and ensure governance. However, development should not make us forget the human aspect. The hybrid workplace poses fundamental challenges, such as social capital and leadership.

Det var Covid-19, der for tre år siden startede det markante skift til den hybride arbejdsplads, men det var teknologien, der gjorde det muligt. Siden har IT-virksomheder som Microsoft oprustet yderligere på denne front og tilbyder en lind strøm af nye avancerede muligheder for samarbejde online, fortæller Thomas Quistgaard, Founder & Partner hos IT-konsulenthuset Delegate. ”Microsoft har i dén grad skruet op for udviklingen af nye værktøjer til den hybride arbejdsplads. Det sker i erkendelse af, at modellen er kommet for at blive, og at der stadig er brug for teknologi, der gør arbejdet mere medarbejdervenligt, effektivt og sikkert. Derfor ser vi nu en næsten helt ny generation teknologi specifikt designet til det formål. En af de store nyskabelser fra Microsoft er Viva, en platform integreret med Office 365 og Teams, som støtter en arbejdskultur, hvor medarbejderne fysisk befinder sig forskellige steder og i forskellige situationer.”

Artificial Intelligence Organizes and Offers Content

Viva comes with a range of different apps tailored to the hybrid workplace, explains Thomas Quistgaard. "For example, there is Viva Connections aimed at employees who are out in the field such as technicians on the go. They are part of the hybrid workplace, which typically cannot make use of office facilities. Viva Connections makes Teams easily accessible on mobile devices via a special dashboard and with personalized content tailored to the individual employee."

Another Viva service is Topics, which uses artificial intelligence to organize the company's content and expertise, which is offered to employees in an easily accessible form when they need it. "We all need information to perform our work, but it can be cumbersome and time-consuming to have to search for the right information. Viva Topics is the company's encyclopedia, where all knowledge is organized in terms of topics, making it easy to find information. But Topics is also proactive. When an employee, for example, is writing or reading an email, Topics recognizes specific terms and automatically offers additional information. The employee can click on the relevant topic and be taken to a page with exhaustive information, including which employees are experts in this field. Topics thus promotes both efficiency and knowledge sharing in the company," says Thomas Quistgaard.

Personalized and Inclusive Learning

Viden er også et centralt element i Viva-appen Learning, en samlet hub for digital læring på tværs af virksomheden. ”Når medarbejderne er spredt for alle vinde, kan det være en udfordring at sikre et ensartet og inkluderende læringsforløb. Med Viva Learning kan virksomheden samle læringsværktøjer og viden ét sted. Learning personaliserer indhold ift. den enkelte medarbejders behov, samtidig med at medarbejderen også selv kan gå på opdagelse for at finde interessante læringspro- dukter.”

Delegate uses Learning in a variety of contexts where there are changes in the client's organization, such as the implementation of IT systems or the introduction of new employees. "One of the dangers of rolling out new IT is the risk of losing some employees in the learning process. With Learning, we ensure inclusive learning and a stable introduction to new systems. For new employees at Delegate, we have an onboarding program designed to efficiently and safely teach about the company and the specific job," explains Thomas Quistgaard.

In connection with onboarding, Delegate has created their own app, which functions as a "Task Manager." It helps streamline processes. When a new colleague starts, tasks are initiated, many of which depend on each other and must be executed by different parts of the organization. With the app, it all happens automatically. For example, the task of setting up a new email account can be automatically sent to IT when HR has filled in the name and other data of the new colleague, and the app can provide notifications for when to order a PC and phone, deliver flowers, etc.

Security in Focus

The continued digitization of the workplace requires new standards for security and oversight, such as in the management of access and user rights. "An employee of course needs the necessary rights to perform their job effectively, but what happens in case of changes? The employee may switch to a new team or leave the company. It is important to be vigilant and immediately change the rights so that an employee, for example, no longer has access to specific areas. Delegate has developed a tool for Teams that ensures the company is always up to date on necessary changes in rights."

The technological development continues at full speed, and new solutions for the hybrid workplace are constantly emerging. Thomas Quistgaard points to artificial intelligence as a technology that will gain even more ground. "It's exciting what's already possible, for example, with ChatGPT, and more will come from that front. Today, Teams and Outlook can already suggest a reply, and all you have to do is hit send. We're getting dangerously close to a situation where artificial intelligence takes over, so there are no longer any people involved. That's why we also need to approach new technology with caution. Just because it's impressive doesn't mean it's right. We need to hold on to the human perspective."

"It's exciting what's already possible, for example, with ChatGPT, and more will come from that front. Today, Teams and Outlook can already suggest a reply, and all you have to do is hit send. We're getting dangerously close to a situation where artificial intelligence takes over, so there are no longer any people involved. That's why we also need to approach new technology with caution. Just because it's impressive doesn't mean it's right. We need to hold on to the human perspective."

Thomas Quistgaard
Founder, Delegate

The Social Community Must be Actively Prioritized

The same sentiment is echoed by Co-CEO Peter Østergaard. Even though Delegate's business is technology, as a responsible company, one must also be aware of the downsides, he says. "The spread of the hybrid workplace, which we have witnessed especially in the last three years, brings definite benefits. Technology enables efficient and flexible work, and we constantly see new tools to support that development. However, the hybrid workplace also entails some fundamental challenges for organizations. There is a need to continuously build social capital, i.e., what creates strong internal collaborative relationships and social interaction. Collaborating online is different from being together in an office, and we risk missing out on something."

The importance of human contact should not be underestimated, according to Peter Østergaard. "Being with other people provides something unique, as we are social individuals! In a workplace, relationships are of course professional, but informal socializing such as small talk at the coffee machine or over lunch creates a cohesion, a social glue, that we as a company also depend on."

Watch out for Meeting Inflation

At the same time, the hybrid workplace also changes the conditions for leadership. "A continuous and informal dialogue with employees has always been an important part of my toolbox.
It strengthens the relationship, helps knowledge sharing, and small problems can be solved quickly without much fuss. Now you have to be careful that the need for a quick chat doesn't immediately turn into a Teams meeting, making it more formal and less ad hoc. I think that the hybrid workplace has in many places led to an inflation of meetings. If there is an issue, an immediate meeting is needed."

There are other aspects of the hybrid workplace that companies should be aware of, according to Peter Østergaard's experience. "Our employees are dedicated and hardworking, but sometimes they need help to take time off. Online, you can work all the time, but you also need to remember to take breaks. Otherwise, you become a less whole person and employee. Another risk to be very aware of is the perception that employees who frequently show up in the office are favored over those who the manager doesn't see as often. As a leader, you should make sure that such a perception doesn't take hold."

Delegate - A Workplace with Full Flexibility

What can companies do to address the challenges that the hybrid workplace brings? First and foremost, it requires attention, says Peter Østergaard. "Leadership today is different from leadership three years ago, and you need to be aware of what the new reality offers in terms of opportunities and pitfalls.

It requires an extra effort to maintain the social capital in the company. At Delegate, we regularly hold social events to bring people together in an informal context and do what we can to promote a strong sense of community. At the same time, as a leader, I still try to have informal conversations with employees. For example, I can see when an employee is in transport and take the opportunity to give them a quick call.

Otherwise, the keyword for Delegate's hybrid workplace is freedom. "Our way of working is simply work from anywhere. It is entirely up to each employee where they want to work from and, for the most part, also when. Employees have the opportunity to take time off for private appointments during the day or exercise, they plan their own work. There is a certain self-regulation because we work in teams, but in principle, the hybrid workplace works best for us by giving employees the freedom to structure their workday themselves. And, of course, we use technology to perform efficiently and in collaboration, but always with an eye on the human aspect," says Peter Østergaard.

How to Create a Good Hybrid Workplace

1. The right technology is crucial for making your hybrid workplace a success (For instance by using Microsoft Viva).

2. Agree on the rules of the game with your team regarding flexibility, availability, and task completion, and then trust your employees.

3. Remember the physical events. Prioritize both professional and social gatherings where colleagues meet face-to-face.

4. Replace watercooler talk with a weekly informal check-in.

5. Working from home and physical presence should be equally valued. An employee working in the office is not more diligent than the one who chooses to work from home.