Home » Future of work » How SMEs can best prepare for a hybrid work future

Nick Hedderman

Modern Work & Security Business Group Lead, Microsoft UK

SMEs that champion hybrid working policies and digital tech including cloud-based phone systems will build a modern experience for their employees, while remaining competitive and attracting the best talent.

According to a recent survey from Microsoft, a staggering 71% of UK workers want flexible work options to remain after the COVID-19 crisis has passed. So, for many organisations, the future of work will be hybrid.

“We think hybrid is an attractive policy that will help employers find the best talent,” says Nick Hedderman, Modern Work & Security Business Group Lead at Microsoft UK. “It’s a good mix which offers employees the flexibility they are demanding, but also moments of serendipity in a physical location that are hard to recreate digitally — the spontaneous connections they can make walking down the corridor or standing in the lunch queue, for instance. We think hybrid is important because we’re human and need human connection.”

Small and medium sized enterprises have faced their own sets of challenges after Brexit and the pandemic, notes Hedderman. “They’ve been hard hit. But if they can embrace a digital approach and a hybrid work policy, there’s no reason why they can’t be successful.”

Hybrid working needs careful planning and endorsement

Hybrid working won’t happen by accident. “It has to be done by design,” says Hedderman. “It needs to be culturally acceptable and that requires leadership from SME owners and managers. Businesses will have to create hybrid policies, principles and processes and role model them to make them come to life. Of course, every company is different, firms are going to have to experiment to see what works for them and what doesn’t.”

We think hybrid is important because we’re human and need human connection.

For SMEs, it will be imperative to invest in the right kind of digital technology that will help them grow, such as collaboration and productivity platforms, which encourage a more open and asynchronous way of working. Basic infrastructure as a phone line will have to be re-designed as cloud-native phone systems so calls can reach employees at any given moment and on any device. This could be their PC while at their desk, the conference room speaker at the office or their mobile on the go. And they can implement it on their terms, opting for a cloud service, keeping their current operator or integrating existing hardware. Hybrid could also necessitate the rethinking of office environments. “When your people come to your physical premises, they have to add value,” says Hedderman.

Hedderman believes that every business needs to seize this moment of change, because the genie is out of the bottle, and won’t be going back in. “The UK is a resilient country with businesses that have a can-do attitude,” he says. “Looking at the growing number of people using our services, it’s gratifying to know they are working in a digital way.”

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