Brave new hybrid work world

With hybrid work arrangements growing in popularity, what tools, technologies and policies are needed to ensure that remote and in-office teams can work together seamlessly?
Joanne Carew
By Joanne Carew, ITWeb Cape-based contributor.
Johannesburg, 18 Apr 2024
Kirsty Phaal, Dimension Data
Kirsty Phaal, Dimension Data

The working world still seems a little unsure about what is best – fully remote, fully in-office, or a mix of the two. While each business has to come up with policies that suit its environment and that are based on its unique needs, research shows that hybrid is fast becoming a favoured approach. Offering employees flexibility around when and where they work, some of the big benefits of hybrid work include improved work-life balance, better use of time and reduced operating costs. At the beginning of 2023, Gartner forecast that around 39% of global knowledge workers would be offered hybrid work arrangements by the end of the year. And, according to Gallup, hybrid work is en route to becoming the most prevalent work arrangement in most offices.

E4’s HR and transformation executive, Phylla Jele, agrees. During the attraction and recruitment process, candidates are increasingly asking about the business’ working model because they want to get a sense of what the employee experience will be like before they sign an offer of employment, she says. Hybrid has moved from being a perk to being an employee expectation. But this isn’t a negative for modern businesses. Hybrid working arrangements have become a competitive advantage because they allow businesses to expand their talent pool as they are no longer limited to hiring candidates that live in a certain area.

Hybrid work can work, but only if there is a clear understanding of what hybrid means for your business. For many, this entails having anchor days when teams have to be in the office, and then letting employees decide if they want to go into the office or work remotely on the remaining days. For Ricoh South Africa, a successful hybrid business model is about having a healthy balance between the formal and the flexible. Its work-from-home arrangements are agreed upon mutually between employees and managers and there is no inherent right to work from home. For those with approved hybrid working setups, their official base remains the Ricoh office and employees are expected to spend at least 60% of their time there. The company’s working-from-home policy includes a predetermined routine with fixed days for in-office work. Any ad-hoc requests to work remotely must be made at least 48 hours in advance. Teresa Badenhorst, HR director at Ricoh South Africa, says effective leadership is important to hybrid work success. Leaders have to have regular check-ins with their teams, keep a close eye on productivity and project progress, as well as their mental health to make sure that hybrid work arrangements are bearing fruit.

We don’t care about how and when the work gets done and where our employees choose to work isn’t important, as long they are consistently achieving their required outcomes.

Teresa Badenhorst, Ricoh South Africa

CRS Technologies, a provider of solutions and services for the human capital management industry, has embraced a more relaxed approach. Without any hard and fast rules in place, employees can work from home or at the office when they choose. “Our focus is on outcomes,” says Nicol Myburgh, the company’s HCM Business Unit head. “We don’t care about how and when the work gets done. Where our employees choose to work isn’t important, as long they are consistently achieving their required outcomes.”

Right tools, right job

Some companies have demanded that their employees come back to the office fulltime. Companies like Meta. And Salesforce. And Zoom. And Investec. The bank has implemented a fully in-office policy, which Nicola Tager, Investec’s head of careers and employee experience, explains is because they place great value on human interaction and face-to-face engagement as part of the business’ broader culture. Investec, she says, is at its best when everyone is working together, in-person with one another.

Despite this rigidity, Tager says they do give their teams high levels of flexibility to support both their work and personal life. During the pandemic, when everyone was working remotely, businesses got a pretty good sense of what their teams needed to work effectively no matter where they were. In a hybrid work environment, companies can use these lessons to make sure that employees have the right tools and support in place. It’s equally important to offering training to your teams so that they understand how to use the tools that make hybrid work possible. This training is also important so that people know what not to do while working remotely, like sharing sensitive information or connecting to the network via public WiFi. In order for hybrid work to be effective, it must be seamless. Users need to feel as engaged, as capable and as productive no matter where they are. This is where reliable technologies are vital.


From hybrid work and the four-day work week to job sharing – there are many new ways of working. With organisations looking for new and creative ways to attract talent during a global skills shortage, offering employees the opportunity to work on differing schedules and times could become standard. The concept of chronoworking aims to fit an employee’s work schedule around their circadian rhythm so that you can tap into their optimum productivity window, rather than expecting them to work the traditional nine to five. The theory is that by looking more closely at our body clocks and natural dips and rises in energy, we can totally redefine our working day. This concept is particularly relevant given the rise in virtual work where individuals are working with people across different time zones. Perhaps that regular workday siesta is closer than you think?

When teams are working in different places, VoIP and video conferencing solutions like Teams and Euphoria and instant messaging platforms like Slack and Discord are essential. Interactive whiteboards and screen sharing functionality are also important to make collaboration and brainstorming possible. And because people are moving in and out of the office with less formality, the use of office spaces will change. With office space management software, it’s simple for employees to book available desks and meeting rooms so that they have what they need when they’re in the office.

The data generated from these systems can be used to inform facilities management, enabling businesses to better optimise space and make more informed decisions around workplace needs because they have a clearer picture of how the office is being used. Data protection and security must also be factored in. When people are working remotely, managed document services enable secure document printing, scanning and sharing, and network management solutions guarantee reliable and secure connectivity across hybrid workspaces.

Ultimately, the viability of hybrid comes down to the type of job you’re doing, says Yesh Surjoodeen, the MD of Southern Africa at HP. Some functions and jobs are well suited to remote work while others are not.

Hybrid has moved from being a perk to being an employee expectation.

Phylla Jele, E4

But, in saying this, Surjoodeen notes that hybrid work strategies have to evolve and must adapt to shifts in the market. Business leaders need to closely monitor how their hybrid workers are performing so that they can adjust their policies when something isn’t going according to plan. For example, when using collaboration tools, people often think that they can multitask. Because they are not fully present in the meeting, they may miss important information or fail to ask an important question. In scenarios where managers notice that this is happening regularly, they should insist that employees keep their cameras on during important meetings so that workers are more fully engaged.

“Leaders must realise that flexibility is not a fad,” says Dimension Data MEA’s senior VP for HR, Kirsty Phaal. While there is no blueprint for how to offer this flexibility, she describes having separate employee handbooks for those who work in the office and those who work from home is now “antiquated in the extreme”. We need to remember that we are dealing with people. People who have different preferences, different strengths and weaknesses and who enjoy different ways of working. And people who see what others are doing and what privileges they enjoy. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to have regular check-ins so that you can adjust the technologies you use and the policies you have in place so that it’s possible to create the perfect environment for everyone to get the job done.

What needs to be remembered is that people have different preferences, strengths and weaknesses and have different ways of working. Regular check-ins are essential to the success of hybrid work. These conversations will help businesses to adjust their technologies and policies so that they can create an environment that will motivate people to get the job done


As part of the hybrid work revolution, our workspaces have undergone a transformation. For some businesses, the goal is to provide employees with a workplace that rivals the comfort of their homes and entices them to spend more time at the office. Today, hybrid-friendly office spaces need to include spaces where teams can collaborate and share ideas, but also where those needing to focus can find some quiet time to complete a task. The goal is to promote corporate culture, while also enabling productive, face-to-face interactions.

With the rise of hybrid work, businesses are making changes to their technology environment – embracing things like cloud computing and virtual reality to make collaboration and training possible from any location – and their building infrastructure.

With teams now spending less time in the office than they did in the past, facilities managers have the freedom to experiment with different office setups to ensure that they get the most out of the space they have, says Andile Mgudlwa, MD of facilities management at Empact Group. This entails creating spaces that are more flexible and adaptable. Think technologies and furniture that can easily be moved around depending on how and when they are needed, for example. Here, technologies like CAFM (Computer Aided Facilities Management) and IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management Systems) empower facilities managers to better understand how the office is being used. This allows them to enhance the workplace experience based on insights and better cater to the changing requirements of the workforce. 


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