I have always considered myself a well-organized person, someone who is quite adept at managing tasks around deadlines.
Prior to the pandemic, however, I believed that this could only be possible for me in an office environment. At home there would be too many distractions, the routine would be different, and I would be unable to work effectively.
A year of remote working has served to dispel such pre-conceptions. The quick shift to working from home was a shock to the system for us all – we had new types of challenges and frustrations, but we also enjoyed the benefits, all that while developing new skills. I am now of the opinion that I, as an individual, am more productive at home.
Of course, we have seen the benefits that this new approach can offer: the time not spent on subways and trains or in traffic; virtual meetings have proven to be shorter and more organized; there are less interruptions; and breaks are more enjoyable with your family around.
Taking all this into account, do I really want to go back to the office?
The answer is yes, desperately!
Quite simply, it is not feasible to remotely manage a transformational project like the one we are currently undergoing at Kyocera Document Solutions America. We are creating new teams; devising strategies and processes; setting out ambitious new objectives; and expanding our business domains – these are complex processes, and such situations require collaboration and close communication. This is very difficult to achieve with a remote workforce.
Companies are not merely a collection of individuals. Team dynamics and interpersonal chemistry, things which can really only be cultivated in person are what define organizations. The emotional element is a fundamental part of business and, for this, face to face contact is invaluable.
The excitement of new goals and new achievements, the way we support and drive each other forward – that contagious energy is what makes winning teams greater than the sum of their parts. These are precisely the reasons why we need to implement an effective hybrid working style.
We cannot ignore the fact that the business world will have changed after the pandemic. However, I firmly believe that statements like “Nothing will be the same again” are far-fetched, and I expect some things will revert to the way they were prior to COVID-19. We must continue to be prudent and flexible, adapting to market changes, and implementing the best strategies. The way of working has changed radically, and it would be foolish to ignore the many benefits that hybrid working presents.
While it sounds wonderful in practice, successful hybrid working requires stringent planning and a set strategy in order to be successful. During these uncertain times, organizations need to be predictable in how they go about their business.
Such a framework needs to define how and when our people can work from home. We must set clear objectives and expectations. Successful models will be those where all employees know exactly what to expect. This predictability is crucial – otherwise, chaos will never be far away.
The past year has shown that people do not always have to be in the office to carry out repetitive or straight forward tasks – these can be done from the comfort of our homes. To complement this, we have a duty to provide set goals and defined metrics (KPIs) which create maximum transparency and accountability.
This was probably a major factor holding remote working back in the past – many companies did not fully trust their employees to be as productive from home or their managers to have the necessary skills to handle teams spread across various remote locations.
As mentioned, the past year has gone a long way in proving the value of working from home. Nonetheless, one stumbling block remains for many companies: the technology deficit.
In the hybrid work age, employees must be equipped with the right technology, tools that permit them to complete tasks at the same speed and with the same quality as if they were in the office. Our team members must be able to work seamlessly across workspaces and, to this end, printing and document management will be play an important role.
For example, being able to initiate a document process at the office before finalizing at home, or vice versa. Employees need to scan documents at home before uploading to the corporate cloud-based shared database, while we will need to print out documents at home with the same quality and cost efficiency as in the office.
Therefore, we need to start thinking about home offices as new office locations, and image technology suppliers need to be ready and able to monitor, maintain and, bill for those devices.
Collaboration is at the heart of all organizational success and is underpinned by the close bonds formed from working side by side. This is how we build a strong, long-lasting corporate culture.
As human beings, the need to be part of a group is in our DNA. That feeling of belonging cannot be obtained when solely working remotely.
I always say that everything starts with an emotion. That emotion becomes the driving force of motivation. As mentioned, that emotional connection with your team can only really be fostered by working together in the office.
Yes, we can save costs by closing our offices, and allowing our team to work from home. We can also enjoy food from our own cooking or our favorite restaurants at home. However, do we really have the same experience as when we go to that restaurant with friends, where we enjoy the atmosphere and share some unforgettable moments? Absolutely not.
Therefore, if we want to maintain and reinforce our company culture, create an even stronger team spirit, and improve collaboration between team members, we must return to working together under one roof while maximizing the undeniable benefits that remote working has to offer.
President & CEO
KYOCERA Document Solutions America, Inc.