By Patricia B. Mirasol

The hybrid work model is here to stay, found a study by digital research and advisory platform Ecosystm. Companies must rethink their digital priorities to ensure effective communication and collaboration can continue amid this reality. 

Below are insights from the study commissioned by Poly, a global communications company:

The hybrid or blended work model is here to stay

Working from home will become the norm for organizations planning to reduce their spending on commercial office space. Forty percent surveyed expected to continue using virtual meetings, and almost half (47%) expect increased use of collaborative tools and platforms, even after COVID-19. 

In Australia, several large organizations have announced that working from home will be common and will continue even after the pandemic. In the Philippines and India, business process outsourcing (BPO) providers are piloting different models by having some employees work from home and others in the office. Organizations are still experimenting to find the right model that caters to their needs. 

Working from home does not suit everyone, said Pierre-Jean Châlon, Poly’s senior vice-president for the Asia Pacific. “Over time there will be a threshold for this. It is hard to tell when.”

Workplaces will be fitted out based on collaboration needs

To facilitate remote work during the lockdown, more than a third (36%) of organizations provided laptops for employees. A higher percentage (41%) deployed collaborative software, whereas 29% provided funding/ equipment for home office environments

Basic connectivity is an issue in emerging economies. Unstable network connectivity required immediate investments in devices to improve Internet speed, which may not have been part of the IT budget. The unplanned spending was deemed necessary since a bad Internet connection hampered back-end processing functions as well as the quality of communications.

Videoconferencing will drive workplace engagement 

Organizations invested in conferencing technologies and video became the de-facto standard for meetings. Sixty-three percent in the Asia Pacific increased investments in conferencing devices and headsets to address the COVID-19 collaboration challenges. This trend is expected to continue as video banking, teleconsultations, and online learning become mainstream. It has also facilitated engagement between supervisors and agents in the customer care sector

Cloud video adoption is also expected to continue to grow, as 33% of organizations increased their investments in cloud video and collaboration solutions. Demand is expected to continue over the next year, as companies scale their technology capabilities to meet remote workforce needs.

Samir Sayed, Poly’s managing director for ASEAN and Korea, said that solutions for the next normal include experience-driven audio innovations such as Poly’s NoiseBlockAI and Acoustic Fence technologies. The former is designed to keep non-human noises such as keyboard typing and paper shuffling from impacting your meetings. The latter captures only the voices within a defined zone in open spaces; all other noises are canceled out. “Audio solutions are designed for the last mile of experience. If your collaborators can’t hear you, if you can’t hear them, engagement goes down and productivity suffers.” 

Data security protocols remain crucial

Organizations doubled down on cybersecurity as governments have detected persistent and increasing cyber-attacks on businesses. Forty-seven percent re-evaluated cybersecurity risks and measures; the leading measure in the Asia Pacific to enable remote working was implementing Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. Forty-four percent implemented or boosted their VPN infrastructure to allow employees access to internal tools and confidential data. Previously, VPN usage was “insignificant” and deployed only for remote employees. A slightly lesser number (43%) made changes to data protection and compliance policies. 

Ecosystem said data security protocols remain crucial because customers want to know they are accessing a secure system and that their data is safe. 

The data cited is from the ongoing “Ecosystm Digital Priorities in the New Normal” study that evaluates the business and technological impact of COVID-19. It has over 800 responses from technology leaders in the Asia Pacific to date and continues to receive feedback.