How to Nurture Office Culture in the New Hybrid World
By: AshLea Allberry
Since the pandemic hit, many accounting and advisory firms have had to rapidly pivot to a new way of working. Let’s be clear, firm professionals want to work from home (WFH). 1 in 3 remote workers say they would seek new employment if they were required to return to the office.
While there was ample skepticism at first, and a short transition period to get used to a new mode of operating, firms and employees made remote work successful. Financial services executives said that 95% or more of their office workers switched to working from home during the crisis and, by and large, they maintained or improved productivity. Similarly, 79% of the employers surveyed had at least 60% of their employees working from home, and employers were satisfied with the results of their forced telework experiment. More than 70% of employers said they found the work-from-home experience to be successful or very successful.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the recent PWC US Remote Work Survey also showed employees indicate they embrace this shift. An overwhelming majority (86%) said they support the idea of working from home at least one day a week, with a whopping 35% wanting remote work as a full-time option. What went well? The results clearly show that accounting and advisory executives are committed to making remote work more manageable for their employees and that these arrangements can be productive.
But--there is a downside.
Many of the executives surveyed reported that work remained productive but coaching and collaboration remained a struggle. In fact, of the 22% of employees surveyed who said they were less productive, the top-three reasons were choosing to work less (41%), difficulties collaborating (30%) and difficulties getting the information they needed (30%). 
Firms need to nurture office culture in a new way to ensure their professionals will gain the benefits of collaborating and connecting with their colleagues during their ‘in-office’ time if the hybrid experiment is going to be successful.
Technology to the Rescue!
Hybrid work means learning to do things very differently. This technology is built for you to solve the hybrid challenges of firms that help you self-determine your WFO/WFH strategies. The good news is, WFH triggered changes to not just where professionals work, but how. Firm leaders upskilled their technical facility and comfort, especially technology that helps firm professionals achieve what they want – which is a hybrid schedule that optimizes the best of both worlds: WFH and WFO.
It is important to be clear in this equation that firm professionals also want in-office time. They want the time to network and collaborate with their peers. It isn’t just firm leaders pushing from the top down. There simply was not an efficient way to help drive these outcomes—and so, the default action was the rather antiquated idea that WFO time had to be mandated top-down. Rather, with the right technology, WFO could be a bottom-up approach that supports the firm professionals themselves to determine their own collaboration and networking goals.
At the most basic level, firm professionals need an app that helps them reserve a desk or conference room. There are a variety of each of these software solutions that exist – so how can firms choose the one that is best? Clearly, the key differentiator is that it should be built uniquely for firms—and that really whittles down the field. One reason this is important, for instance, is understanding the purpose of in-office time.
Not all “room booking” programs are built to help firm professionals achieve networking and collaboration goals. Maptician is. We help firm professionals make decisions that help them achieve their collaboration, networking, and mentoring goals.
Here’s how it works. We start with seating strategy discussions with our firms. We learn about the various needs of the firm and help devise a seating strategy that works for that culture. Maptician naturally builds collaboration and networking modalities that are so important to the dynamism of WFO time.
Taken to another level, Maptician helps firm professionals “see” where other firm professionals are in the office. Maptician’s Presence feature delivers simple visibility into employees in-office presence through a software automation to determine who is in the office and who is working remotely without the need to install any hardware devices. Presence produces highly accurate location data that provides not only general attendance but specific seat locations within a particular office.
That’s the technology part on the back end. On the front end? A green dot (in office) or blue dot (scheduled in office). Simple.
Presence helps firm professionals make decisions and take action about whom they want to work near—or not. On top of this, they may also be less familiar with their office space especially as the firm’s spaces are constantly evolving. With Presence, at the touch of a button on a mobile phone, employee A can see where employee B is working for the week – what city, what floor, what desk—and make decisions.
In essence, Maptician helps organizations maximize their WFO because it delivers a simple visual experience of their office in the palm of their hands, one where they can easily see where their peers are, understand how and when they can network with peers, have immediate access to changing floor plans, and do anything they need to do in a frictionless manner – from reserving a seat, to reserving conference rooms, to posting a bulletin about a holiday office party, to seeing the new location of the MFDs.
No one would have predicted hybrid operations – but hybrid is here to stay. Firms have a lot to gain in terms of creating a new culture that employees love and achieving that new culture will be built on flexibility and dynamism only technology can manage.