The Year of Hybrid in the Public Sector

5 Workplace Predictions

Lieven Bertier, Workplace Segment Director at Barco ClickShare sets out Barco’s top trends for public sector organisations to watch for in 2021 as we begin the era of hybrid working.

In a sector that was mainly focused on face-to-face communication between employees and citizens, the acceleration of the digital transformation by the pandemic was unprecedented. But while we’re not out of the woods and many organizations are still predominantly working remotely, what’s increasingly clear is that covid-19 will not spell the end of office-based work as we know it.

Many governments, institutions and public services are currently reviewing their office space requirements. Because most of the civil servants are desperate to return to the office, albeit with more freedom to work remotely when needed in a hybrid workplace model.

Employees will demand a hybrid working approach

Executives want to get back to the office while having more freedom to work remotely when needed. In our recent global workplace study, Finding a New Balance, employees ideally want to work from home two days a week and in the office for three. Whilst some public sector institutions have recognized this desire and made efforts to embrace hybrid working, many remain underprepared.

In another study we carried out, we found that just 50% of workplaces will be ready to implement a hybrid workplace in the next 12 months. More telling however is the fact that just 27% of UK workers felt their office was adequately equipped to support a move to hybrid working.

The public sector too must invest in hybrid working technology to meet the expectations of their employees and maintain productivity and engagement, especially as we begin to navigate the uncertain process of returning to the office. Now is the time for careful and strategic planning, supported by the right technology, to ensure adoption of new ways of working is as smooth as possible.

The desire for creativity will reshape our offices

Pre-pandemic, the desire for more traditional meeting rooms was slowly fading away. Neglected in favor of more modern huddle spaces and smaller breakout rooms, the municipal meeting room seemed ready for obsolescence. But the rise of social distancing requirements mandating rooms large enough to keep the 2-meter rule has changed things significantly.

Part of the reason for this is the serious creativity and collaboration deficit that we’ve felt in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst productivity and efficiency have survived and even thrived, the lack of human connection has been stark. As we return to physical workspaces, officials desperately want to connect with each other and collaborate in larger groups, making up for the lost time spent working alone. Expect to see public offices reconfigured to reinstate larger meeting rooms for brainstorming and group collaboration, which will have a significant impact on the layout of the office of the future.

The Year of Hybrid in the Public sector. 5 Workplace Predictions

People will catch up with technology

Many executives struggled to get to grips with often completely foreign technology and do so alone at home without the face-to-face support of IT teams.

Dutch futurist Gerd Leonhard outlined in his book ‘Technology vs Humanity’ that while trillions of dollars are spent on making the world technologically ‘smarter’, relatively little is spent on getting humans ready for that future. This sentiment was evidenced by the challenges many faced navigating remote working technology. 2020 may have seen one of the steepest technology learning curves we’ve ever experienced in the history of working life. In our study 65% of respondents reported having difficulties setting up impromptu remote meetings, and nearly half felt that video conferencing didn’t come naturally to them.

This year we expect people to finally start making the most of the technology available to them. Better quality collaboration will take place as a result.

Generation Next

In 2020 Gen Z burst into the public workplace. Unlike any before them, this group largely experienced a remote start to employment, perhaps appropriate for the most digitally native generation to date. Surprisingly however, Gen Z employees place great importance on face-to-face connection with colleagues and citizens: a recent survey found that 83% of Gen Z prefer to communicate with their managers in person.

As the workplace Gen Z population grows, the challenge for institutions in 2021 will be in offering the freedom of remote working without sacrificing the human connection this generation values. We predict an increase in flexible working policies underpinned by advancing collaboration technology for a generation that wants the best of both.

Engagement will become the new productivity

2020 left executives feeling less engaged than ever. Accustomed to multi-tasking during remote meetings and suffering from a lack of communication, workforces finished the year distracted and fatigued. Moving forward public sectors leaders must commit to creating hybrid meeting environments that keep people’s attention and enable them to focus on the discussion. It will no longer be acceptable for remote meeting participants to feel left out of proceedings; technology must bridge the gap, providing a more immersive experience for remote participants through superior quality visual and sound offerings.

In order to achieve a seamless transition between office and home, officials need to be as able to carry out their work at the same level from either location. Look out for significant investment into remote and ergonomic technology for the home office to boost engagement and ensure consistent performance in both settings.

2021, engagement will become the biggest tool in maintaining productivity. Public sector leaders should focus on finding ways to inspire their teams, because the results can be remarkable.

One thing we can be sure of is the continued evolution of the public sector. After a year which saw our working habits change irretrievably, 2021 will be all about catching our breath and investing in the technology to not only catch up to those changes, but to establish a workplace that will be fit for the long-term. Hybrid working technology will take center stage in this new era, allowing officials the freedom they desire without sacrificing the collaboration and connection they need to do their jobs and deliver for the community.

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