Hybrid working as a solution for the new world of work?
Are hybrid work models the answer to the challenges of the new world of work?
An interview with Klaus Konrad, Managing Director at CREARO consulting
We already discussed hybrid work models in the context of New Work in our blog post Resource Optimization with Desk Sharing. Klaus Konrad, Managing Director of CREARO consulting AG, has also recognized that this change in our working world is not just a fashion trend, but a long-term transformation process. In an interview, he talks about who can benefit from the hybrid way of working and how it is possible to implement the changes efficiently.
As a consulting company, how do you perceive the current situation in companies, especially with regard to recent events?
The approach towards work “on the road” had already been taken by several companies before Corona. In principle, the topic has been fueled by cloud solutions. We ourselves switched to an IT structure almost four years ago that allows us to access data from anywhere and work wherever is the most feasible – for the project and the customer.
Corona has certainly taught us that essential work results can also be achieved when you are not physically present in the office. There’s no black or white here, though. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Each company, each area has to make its own decision on an individual basis.
A change is currently taking place in society, especially among Generation Z. Life takes precedence over work. To implement this, home office and hybrid work models are taking on an important role. The younger generation is making demands that it can enforce as long as demand is greater than supply. There are major societal global political upheavals ahead, and 2023 will be decisive in determining whether we can maintain our location and standard of living.
The energy crisis will further drive the issue forward. When I personally look in my professional rearview mirror, I see many kilometers I have driven and flown that are no longer necessary today. The environment is winning, and that’s a good thing.
New Work is a long-term transformation process
In your opinion, are the developments we are observing only temporary – as a reaction to the current crises? Or is the topic of New Work catching on, and is it influencing the future of our working world?
New Work is a trend and, contrary to a fad, from today’s perspective a long-term process of change. However, a robust and resilient infrastructure is important for this. That’s what we have to keep in mind. It won’t work without electricity, WLAN and the Internet.
What are the most important questions or problems that companies are currently facing? And when does it make sense to call in a consulting firm?
Companies that have recognized that this is an internal, significant transformation process that needs to be planned and managed with foresight call us in for project planning and management. A lot is changing for the employees in the company. You have to meet people where they are, prepare them for the journey and accompany them.
A major challenge lies in proper communication. Often a barrier is constructed when managers talk about reducing workplaces. But what is meant is removing desks that are hardly used or not used at all, instead of reporting on the advantages that a flexible and modern working environment brings for the employees. The communication plan is an important part of the overall project.
The fear of change has to be taken away from the employees, especially from middle management. The leadership role is changing from a supervisor who gives instructions to a coach. This change in leadership is the greatest challenge in the task.
Desk sharing is only a preliminary stage of New Work. How we collaborate and business processes necessary to do so are not the same as in the old working world. It is our task to help redesign corporate worlds and implement stable and digitized business processes. People must not be ignored in the process.
Transparency as a prerequisite for successful implementation.
What were the biggest challenges for you as a consulting company in this project? And how did you meet them?
There are basically two areas for which persuasion is needed. In a change process of this kind, management must accept that it is necessary to invest first in order to achieve a return. Workshops and meetings with the employees need to be held, a lighthouse project must be initiated and the communication channel must be established. The employees must be treated with maximum transparency and openness. They need to know what is in store for them and feel that their needs are being taken into account.
Figures, data and facts are necessary to convince and inspire employees. We recommend robust records. This can be the presence of heads in the plant, which can be recorded via a turnstile, or the anonymous recording of log-in data, i.e. how many people have logged into the system from outside per day, how many at a workstation. Of course, it also gives management a sense of security – that they are making the right decision.
How can companies and employees benefit from work models like desk sharing?
The process requires management control. In companies that are strongly oriented towards project implementation, this means the opportunity for phase-related collaboration in one room. Collaboration has been proven to make projects more efficient and to increase the fun and enjoyment of work..
Employees have a say in deciding when it’s best for them to contribute on-site or when it’s most effective in a quieter home office environment. For those who are unable to work at home, there is always an on-site solution.
The gains made in freed-up office space should not be underestimated. This can be repurposed for value-added activities, or the rental space can simply be reduced.
You conducted the project from November 2021 to July 2022. With the explosive nature of the energy crisis, there are now also quite different advantages when we think about costs…
Naturally, companies avoid costs. The necessary office space is reduced, and rental, electricity and heating costs are lower. Or value creation can be brought in-house. We know companies that produce prototypes or test technical processes in the freed-up space. In addition, a positive financial balance can also be drawn from the benefits for the employees. Travel costs are reduced and the time saved by not commuting can be invested productively in the company’s own four walls. Or even in their own free time.
How math can help create optimal desk sharing plans
How does mathematical optimization help implement work models like desk sharing?
With the help of mathematical optimization, as used by planning software such as OPTANO, both the individual desk-sharing quota and optimal occupancy plans can be determined. The prerequisite for this is qualified data.
For the data collection, we asked employees about their wishes and preferences regarding attendance times. Further specifications, such as the joint office presence of a team or the special equipment of workstations (e.g. special monitors or desks) are included in the data basis.
A distinction is made between hard and soft constraints. In order for software such as OPTANO to be able to work, with soft constraints such as attendance preferences, a quantification of employee satisfaction is carried out together with the client. Satisfaction is weighed against cost.
To determine the desk-sharing ratio and create optimal occupancy plans, OPTANO uses the data we create and analyzes it using advanced mathematical techniques such as predictive and prescriptive analytics in the shortest possible time. Sophisticated and complex algorithms and powerful solvers are used to create the mathematical model.
With the help of OPTANO, the desk-sharing ratio is therefore not based purely on experience or average values, but is scientifically proven. Likewise, robust occupancy plans, in which all restrictions are taken into account, are created quickly and easily.
Expert support for a managed transformation process
What challenges do companies face for which desk sharing is an ideal solution?
Not every company or every functional part of a company is predestined for desk sharing. The most suitable areas are those in which the proportion of office workstations predominates and the necessary communication is guaranteed by technical equipment. Staffing a production line, where the human-machine relationship is relevant, cannot of course be included in a desk sharing concept.
For some companies that are spatially limited at their location, desk sharing offers the possibility to achieve growth without having to generate additional office space. Especially in times of generally rising costs, it makes sense to keep the fixed portion at a low level through growth.
Management is required to evaluate where and to what extent remote work makes sense and is affordable. It is also the task of the management to convince the employees to undertake it. For us as a service provider, it is important to make our clients’ employees participants and not victims.
We offer our support to all companies that are ready to initiate a guided transformation process and to involve their employees as driving forces in the project.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to OPTANO.
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Dr. Sven Flake
Analytics Senior Consultant