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4 ways to make any hybrid workplace succeed

Companies rushed to remote work when COVID-19 hit, and got a lot wrong. Even as offices now reopen, work from home is here to stay—so lets get it right, this Salesforce exec says.

4 ways to make any hybrid workplace succeed
[Source photo: LightFieldStudios/iStock]
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While the past year hasn’t been easy for anyone, those working from home have uncovered some major benefits.

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A lack of a commute offers more time to work out or make dinner with kids or significant others. A more flexible schedule gives us a chance to set ideal focus hours at the times that work for us, not necessarily based on a 9 a.m. required arrival time. Work is now more accessible to those with different physical or intellectual abilities. 

That’s not to dismiss the collective burnout felt across the workforce during a global pandemic. The sudden pivot to working remotely did not come with proper tools or guidance to navigate it. We learned in real-time, sprinting to figure out how to work remotely, despite learning we were entering a marathon. Workers suffered the consequences with longer hours, isolation and other downsides.

While companies tried to encourage positive habits like “no meeting days” or mid-day walks to address the issue, society has largely been relying on tools and practices built for another reality.

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Over the last year, businesses all over tried to translate our in-person interactions to digital ones, rather than transform them for a new reality.

To get back to growth and succeed in a work-from-anywhere world, we’ll need to reimagine new technology tools and best practices—building an environment designed to make the digital-first era and hybrid workforce a sustainable, long-lasting solution.

Here are four strategies for success:

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Collaboration must get smarter

Those who encourage a quick return to the office en masse often cite collaboration as the reason; citing brainstorms are just not what they used to be when the team is muted on Zoom. This is because we’ve tried to recreate in-person collaboration over video—and it’s time we rethink this concept from the ground up. 

Cross-functional teams need to work in sync to prevent missteps or balls dropped if an employee isn’t reachable at a moment’s notice. Consider customer account plans, for instance—often recapped over email, discussed over text message, or forgotten in a document that doesn’t get opened for months. They should be accessible to sales, service, and even finance teams across the company, from wherever they are working, on platforms allowing for asynchronous collaboration.

When it comes to meeting collaboration effectiveness, automation can help simplify meeting prep by flagging when a critical attendee has yet to RSVP, and can even recap action items thanks to artificial intelligence, creating less admin drag on everyone involved. 

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Going into a meeting with data-driven insights can keep teams focused on key priorities and make decisions faster. Knowing which deals will move the needle, or narrowing down what next-steps will have the biggest impact on a prospect, can help speed along discussions and decision-making.

Coach your teams from anywhere

It’s notable that 62% of salespeople say they did not receive training on virtual sales over the course of the past year. Education and coaching tools can ensure teams feel prepared for new challenges and are upskilling to meet new market demands, in turn preventing burnout and stress, and likely increasing retention. 

While there’s a benefit to learning from proximity—sitting near your colleagues as they lead a meeting or call a customer—it’s time to take a more proactive and personalized approach to career development. 

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Thanks to conversational intelligence, managers don’t have to walk the halls to hear what’s happening on sales or service calls. Technology solutions can now analyze calls and provide a breakdown of topics or keywords that come up most frequently, and then get a recap of the call moments that are most important to dig into further. Managers can then use those insights to guide formal team training on complex products or features, as well as provide more personalized 1-on-1 coaching.

Of course, this is by no means limited to salespeople. Employees in all fields can benefit from work-related learning opportunities.

Build a healthy company culture and community

As company culture adapts to the new, flexible workplace, make it a collaborative effort with employees. Transparency is critical to drive trust, especially during tough times, so solicit feedback and share how you’ve come to make decisions. Make sure you’re aware of what your employees actually want, miss, or could do without in this new hybrid workforce. 

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When it comes to building communities, tools like Donut have become popular for fostering those spontaneous chats with employees in other regions or teams. Employee Resource Groups have time and time again proven their importance as they continued hosting discussions and events to bring communities together amidst painful global health and racial crises. These events no longer need to be office-based, and can now truly be global. 

Make the return to office safe and comfortable

Bringing everyone back to the office will require the ultimate level of trust from employees. They need to know that their employer is looking out for their health and safety. 

Customized apps can track who is in the office and if they have had any symptoms or have been vaccinated, as well as manage staggered arrival times to ensure elevators and stairwells don’t become congested. This can also help track how your customers are returning to the office and what their safety protocols are, to resume in-person customer meetings safely. 

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Whatever your experience with working from home, hybrid workforces — offering flexibility so that employees can choose to work from the office or remotely — are here to stay. At Salesforce, for example, we are giving employees choices; most employees will come into the office one to three days per week for team collaboration and customer meetings. 

As we approach a world where digital experiences are the default, not the afterthought, we have the chance to redefine how society works.

By building trust with employees, remedying the burnout and overscheduled meetings, and providing a better overall experience at work, we will all help give hybrid workforces a real chance at long term success.

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Bill Patterson is executive vice president and general manager of CRM Applications at Salesforce, where he leads product innovation, growth and customer success for Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Salesforce Essentials.