Hybrid Workplace
Hybrid workplaces are becoming the norm as business embrace new technologies.

Digital transformation is not new, but it certainly accelerated with COVID-19. Every industry went contactless for business and operating digitally from home became the norm. In this blog, part of our 2020 Hindsight Series, we sat down to talk with PDI CTO Chris Berry about how COVID-19 impacted the use of technology during lockdowns and working from home, and Chris’ predictions about what will stick.

What was one of the biggest changes we experienced in our homes due to COVID-19?

One of the biggest changes we experienced is that we suddenly found ourselves using all this technology in our homes to conduct everyday tasks and work. We’ve had to learn new things like getting comfortable with the fact that we’re on camera in our homes — which might be hard for people in smaller places or those who are dealing with other family members at home. We might be juggling childcare or now sitting in a bedroom taking a call. We have all had to learn Zoom meeting etiquette and are now very familiar with these catchphrases in every virtual meeting, “Can you hear me” and “You’re on mute.” With all of the available technologies we have at home, I feel like we’ve been pretty effective and productive over the past year. But I think the question becomes, is it sustainable?

How do we make sure we’re driving a high level of engagement with our employees and customers as many of us continue to work from home?

With this new normal, leaders need to set expectations on how we expect employees to conduct themselves when working remotely.

Do you think that we will go back into the office?

I think we might see many companies change the way they work. Take Dropbox as an example. The company announced that they are going to use their office space for employee collaboration only and allow all employees to work from home permanently. In addition, the company plans to convert its existing offices into co-working spaces to aid in team building and collaboration. They fundamentally want to redesign how the company works. Apple CEO Tim Cook also announced that the hybrid model is here to stay, but they will continue to value in-person collaboration. I think this will become normal for many companies because we have realized during this global pandemic that we can work from home, still be connected, and still innovate together.

At PDI, we began accelerating our digital transformation and business continuity strategies years ago, and that allowed us to transition our workforce to work from home in mere days when we were faced with lockdown last March. We have continued to work remotely and, we’ve been able to accomplish big things this past year.

Do you think workers will ever commute to an office again, and what will be the impact of grab-and-go foodservice or the morning coffee routine?

I read an article about how some workers are creating “pretend commutes” in the morning. They will leave their home office in the morning, walk or drive to the corner coffee shop or c-store, and grab a coffee and bagel. It still allows them to have that morning routine and ease into the workday. Because we all carry mobile devices, the lines between home and work began to blur many years ago, but COVID-19 certainly accelerated it. We will all need to find balance by creating that transition time between home and work. Grabbing a morning coffee at your favorite spot will help.

Has technology changed the way we work forever?

My gut is we will find ourselves in this hybrid environment from now on. If you need to work on a project that might require brainstorming and whiteboarding, you might come together in a physical space — but then you’ll go back to your home office and work remotely to create the project. Technology will continue coming into our homes — and COVID-19 forced that to happen like never before. I think we’re going to start seeing a whole lot more hybrid work environments, where you come in for a couple days a week and then work from home or someplace else the remainder of the time. It’ll be interesting to watch as we start to open things back up, lift mask orders, and as more people get vaccinated.

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