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Videoconferencing for Long-Term Hybrid Work

For some people, the benefits of hybrid work might seem ambiguous. Yes, it helps people achieve work-life balance, but does this come at the expense of mission, culture and camaraderie? How can this work in the context of a government agency?

Stephen Ellis with Zoom believes that an optimized hybrid work model can serve both employee preferences and organizational priorities. With effective long-term software, hardware and policies in place, organizations can thrive in the hybrid-optimized future.

Parity. “Two years ago, we just had to find a way to check the boxes. Could we physically, technically perform a task with someone in one place and someone else in another?” Ellis said. “Okay, so at a base level, we reached rote compliance with that minimum norm. Now we can move forward. We can move past deploying the tools that are easiest for IT purchasing and pivot more thoughtfully to tools judged by metrics such as: what do employees prefer, what offers greater credibility with the public, what consumes fewer help-desk hours, etc.”

Think about the small webcam and microphone on your laptop. They probably were good enough for video meetings early on. But long term, with poor tools and procedures, remote employees can feel disconnected and less confident. There must be more parity between off-site and on-site participants, Ellis said.

Collaboration. Other IT solutions, such as whiteboards, promote collaboration as well. And the very nature of videoconferencing breaks down barriers.

“Now, the mission partner in a different office is just one video call away, just like the person on your team,” Ellis said. “And that’s made people very comfortable with reaching out across agencies and doing that type of collaboration.” It’s helped people build relationships and knowledge networks and move beyond the notion of agency silos.

Human-centered. All of this leads to a more fulfilled workforce. “We’ve come to this understanding that a great part of employee satisfaction comes from giving people the lifestyle that they’ve wished to live, so that when it’s time to work they really can bring their best self to that work,” Ellis said. “And we’ve seen the results: Zoom can add up to 52 minutes of productivity per employee per week.”

Obviously, some government jobs must be performed in person, but Ellis believes that agencies still can offer flexibility in these career areas. “Consider administrative meetings or training: To the extent possible, and particularly with roles that have an in-person component, if we can move training to virtual, we’re going to realize a lot of work-life balance,” Ellis explained. “We’re going to give in-person workers some flexibility over their workweek.”

This becomes absolutely imperative as agencies seek to encourage diversity — becoming welcome places for minorities, the disabled, the elderly and single caregivers, among other groups that benefit from a hybrid work approach.

“The people are the point,” and with this human-centered model, the tools and policies that agencies drive forward support recruiting, retaining and motivating employees, Ellis said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s guide Solving Your Hybrid Workforce Problems.”

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