IDG Tech Talk influencers: Hybrid Work Demands a Balance of Tech and People Skills

Mar 10, 20227 mins
Business Operations

Making the case for context, empathy, and better tools and processes

Credit: Shutterstock/GaudiLab

Now that many organizations are welcoming some employees back to the office, “hybrid work” is officially upon us. But companies are still feeling their way around this dynamic landscape, and figuring out just how technology and people skills can work together to safely maintain productivity and employee well-being.

According to a group of IDG/Foundry tech influencers, hybrid work has entered a new stage — the true hybrid era. And key for IT leaders: Put people first.

“A2: Focus on the people first. Go overboard on transparency and explaining the why. Use tech to enable what the people need to do for their unit, their customer. Look for blockers and relentlessly pursue lower friction.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Wayne Anderson @DigitalSecArch

This new paradigm is calling on IT leaders to become adept at not just things like security and ROI for tech investments, but also on things like grace and empathy.

“People over tech right now! This has already been said but it’s so important. Remote and hybrid work is still ‘new’ — grace and empathy is important right now.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Clare Brown (@ClareBrownIDG)

Homing in on empathy, in this context it means things like imbuing work with meaning, and human interaction.

“Yes. People need #empathy. They need information and connectivity with how what they do matters. They need a balance of human interaction. They need stimulation and growth. What are you doing intentionally in these spaces for #hybrid?” #IDGTECHtalk
— Wayne Anderson (@DigitalSecArch)

Providing an empathetic environment is easier said than done however, as organizations have to find that balance between people and technology in what @benrothke calls a new environment.

“A2: It comes down to balance & communications. Firms must realize that a hybrid work environment is a new expectation. Once they accept that, they must clearly articulate expectations. If done effectively, there will be an excellent employer/employee relationship.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Ben Rothke (@benrothke)

And IT’s role should be carefully calibrated.

“IT teams respond to requests from managers/directors and are not directly responsible for employee wellbeing. But IT teams can provide the necessary tools for managers/directors to be successful. Tools may vary.”  #IDGTECHtalk
— Arsalan Khan (@ArsalanAKhan)

Some influencers noted employee frustration over aging corporate tools that are sluggish and complex. A seamless & secure software-as-a-service and cloud infrastructure that empowers people to work from anywhere was cited as an “incredible contribution” to employee well-being. Technology needs to work for employees, they asserted, urging that in no case should employees work for the technology.

Influencers also singled out management as an impediment that can sometimes hold back hybrid work success — an issue they said is more important than security.

“A1) Security is the easy answer. However, I’m going to say middle management, team collaboration & communications become issues because management by butts in seats is gone.” ##IDGTECHtalk
— Will Kelly (@willkelly)

Innovative and “new” management styles are so important too, especially recognizing the difference between being a manager and a leader. “Companies suffering from ‘management overhead’ have to sober up and see they have too many chiefs who’ve become obstacles to work vs. leaders who remove obstacles for their teams,” noted one influencer.

Understanding hybrid work

In this hybrid world, organizations must understand how people work, an area that’s been a blind spot for some. Noting that only 23%of employees say they’re very happy working for their current employer, the participants in this Twitter Chat sponsored by NTT Global had some specific guidance:

  • Being aware of camera fatigue
  • Not overdoing it with ‘new tech’
  • Not using collaboration tools to micromanage
  • Taking a “less is more” approach to tech

Give employees tools and technology, but do not overlook their mental health.

“There is nothing more important than happy employees. Mental health is at an all-time low (and for good reason). Use tech but don’t forget to ‘human’ while you’re at it.” #IDGTECHtalk
— (@CIOonline)

Burnout is real, and must be addressed by giving employees standing to have input on decisions that impact them.

“The other thing that sometimes people are afraid to talk about – the #hybrid burnout is real. People don’t want to seem uncommitted but sometimes have to FIGHT to get local business hours respected.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Wayne Anderson (@DigitalSecArch)

“Burnout is a serious issue, especially in IT, work leading transformation programs, and driving innovation. And you can be happy, but still burnout. It’s a big challenge for employers that want to hire and retain talent.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Isaac Sacolick (@nyike)

“A3: Burnout, physical/emotional exhaustion is a huge issue. Compliance leader #burnout & every position, people must have a say in decisions affecting their work to avoid burnout. Happy employees are paramount, must be a corporate priority.”

— Ben Rothke (@benrothke)

But again, balance and discretion are essential.

“A3) Tech can have a huge impact on employee happiness, but IMHO, the 23.1% that aren’t happy with their employers probably have bigger issues with leadership, mission, and management.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Isaac Sacolick (@nyike)

“A3: Firms need to understand what their workers want. Once they get a handle on that, they can work to improve employee satisfaction. But also realize that perhaps 10% or more of employees will never be happy, anywhere. So don’t attempt to make everyone happy.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Ben Rothke (@benrothke)

Said one influencer, “When we were all in an office we worked hard. Now with hybrid work let’s push to work smart. This means valuing and prioritizing employee mental health and happiness.”

The future of work is hybrid, not doubt, influencers agreed.

“Plus I would add – #hybrid isn’t going away any time soon. Even if the pendulum swings back to office centric culture, that’s a decade evolution, not 2 months after you reopen the place. How does that change your sustainability equation?” #IDGTECHtalk
— Wayne Anderson (@DigitalSecArch)

In this new normal, everything is at risk, said one contributor. Citing “The Great Resignation,” there is a fear that organizations may not be able to do enough succession planning and life-cycle management to cope with the fallout from these kinds of failures. Some gaps can never be filled.

Ultimately, the hybrid work world depends on trust.

“1. Trust that people will do their job from any location.
2. Trust that processes are smooth enough to work from any location.
3. Trust that technology is reliable and secure enough to work from anywhere.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Arsalan Khan (@ArsalanAKhan)

And of technology’s role?

“Technology should support a frictionless culture. But technology alone can’t do this. This is a organization-wide effort and technology can play a good role here.” #IDGTECHtalk
— Arsalan Khan (@ArsalanAKhan)