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Why Hybrid Work Environments Require Remote-first Collaboration

In a post-COVID-19 world (hopefully soon), most companies will shift to Hybrid work environments as people who crave in-person collaboration get back into the office. As employees head back in, companies will need to set up for the new normal. This article explains how meetings and collaboration require a remote-first approach in Hybrid work environments.

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By Rob
September 10th, 2021

Hybrid work environments are the new paradigm for company structure. The definition of a Hybrid workplace is to combine an in-office workforce with a remote team. This definition is broad and largely ignores the variations that may occur. Perhaps a better description is closer to a “digital nomad.” These “nomads” are employees who can work from anywhere they desire. So let's redefine the Hybrid workplace as: 

An environment that combines the option of an in-office work environment with a remote team, affording employees the flexibility to choose where they work based on the tasks they set out to accomplish for the day. 

The primary change in our definition is flexibility for the employee to choose. A recent study by Microsoft indicated that: 

"Employees want the best of both worlds: over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams." 

Surveys indicate that employees prefer to choose their work location, hence the Hybrid model. If this is true, how does a company align its process to support a Hybrid workplace while also supporting remote team members? Companies will need to build processes that support all of the people and their various locations equally. 


7 Benefits of a Hybrid Work Environment

While it may seem chaotic and challenging to handle the variability of a Hybrid work environment, it also has benefits. Companies can foster a dynamic and modern workplace that offers many opportunities for employees to succeed. Here are 7 benefits of having a Hybrid work environment:

  1. Flexibility: Employees will be able to choose where and how they work. They can collaborate online with colleagues in other locations, and attend face-to-face meetings when necessary.

  2. Innovation: Employees benefit from the freedom to choose the right environment for the task. In-office plans were great for team camaraderie and collaboration but created a distraction for individual work that required deep concentration and focus.

  3. Reduced latency in person: Although video conferencing works in many situations, collaboration sessions have lower latency when "live." It's easier to sketch ideas, understand body language, and explore ideas without talking over each other. 

  4. Better time management: No one likes to spend two hours a day in traffic to get to an office when in-person presence isn’t required. Having the flexibility to choose when an in-person session is beneficial for the team generates successful progress.

  5. A place for in-person summits: When it comes to planning company events for the team it is crucial to have all hands on deck. Having a Hybrid office setup eases the effort required to host events, providing the company with conference room space and other amenities required. 

  6. Easier to attract top talent: A Hybrid work environment sets up the opportunity for fully remote employees. This means employers can hire individuals with strong professional skills who may not wish to move, relocate, or otherwise relocate for personal reasons. 

  7. Better talent retention: While some employees may want to return to an office environment, others prefer to remain in their own safe space. Whether that be a home office or public space, such as a coffee shop or library, it gives employees the autonomy to choose and focus on how they do their work. 

Meetings and Decisions Should Follow a Remote-first Policy

one on one meeting

The advent of COVID-19 forced teams to operate fully remotely. This benefitted previously remote employees by allowing them to feel more included. It leveled the playing field and made them feel that they were an integral part of the team. Before the shift to remote work, companies made "hallway decisions," where only those "in the office" stayed informed, leaving others feeling frustrated and isolated. Since the Hybrid workforce has both in-office and remote members it's critical to maintain remote-first best practices when shifting back to in-person meetings, even when no remote employees are present. 

Remote-first meeting best practices

  • Have daily standups or weekly checkpoints to create accountability and task transparency. Standups can be done synchronously over a video conference or asynchronously over company chat. 

  • Keep meeting collaboration small and schedule a time that works for people in different time zones. Scheduling should be easier with smaller meetings. 

  • If some participants are in person, make sure they make the remote worker part of the conversation. Tips include: everyone dialing into the video conference on their machine or making the conference screen the centerpiece of communication. 

  • Be present by keeping the meetings small; only active members should attend the meeting. Avoid multitasking and side conversations on chat when the meeting is in progress. 

  • To increase transparency, record the meeting and share it with your team. 

How AI Notetakers Can Increase Transparency in the Hybrid Workplace

Transparency and trust are the cornerstones of a productive Hybrid workplace. However, getting the entire team informed and aligned without scheduling meetings about meetings can be a challenge without the right tools. Here’s how an AI Notetaker can help: 

  1. Eliminate the need for a person to take notes. An AI notetaker that automatically records the meeting will save time and effort. The digital artifact empowers meeting participants with a perfect memory enabling them to go back to their points of interest. 

  2. Increase transparency of meetings with a library of knowledge accessible to everyone on the team or organization. A library of knowledge shared between employees will help open communication, improve problem-solving, and support cross-team collaboration. 

  3. Highlight and create shareable clips of decisions, keeping stakeholders on the same page. Clips of decisions made during meetings will ensure that everyone is informed and in agreement, all working towards achieving the same goal. The AI Notetaker should also support collaboration tools making the recording transcript a living document of everything that has happened in a meeting. 

  4. Improve productivity, efficiency, and team morale. Employees with searchable call recordings will feel more connected to their remote colleagues and will be aligned with company goals and initiatives. 

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The shift to hybrid work environments requires companies to think about maintaining remote-first best practices while bringing back in-person meetings. Communication and collaboration are the lifeblood of any company, but an effort to keep everyone informed is daunting. Having a remote-first process for communication will ensure that all employees will stay informed and aligned with the company goals. This sense of inclusion will improve productivity, efficiency, and morale. Recordings captured and shared by an AI notetaker aid in knowledge transfer and dissemination of information throughout the Hybrid organization.

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