Hybrid workplace

Hybrid workplace technology: 7 essential tools and 5 challenges (with solutions)

Emily Byrne
November 3rd, 2022

There’s no doubt that hybrid is the future of work for most organizations, and that hybrid workplace technology is the way to get there. 

Yes, this technology includes the usual suspects, like Zoom, good wifi, and better webcams for your hybrid meetings

But facility managers (FMs) and decision makers are also wise to source robust workplace management software and other hybrid tools to assist with better workplace and facility planning. These tech solutions are often the means to improving employee experience and creating a more cost-effective and productive flexible work environment, too. 

In this article, we explore hybrid workplace technology, focusing on the essential tools for managing distributed work and creating a more efficient hybrid office

We’ll also explore hybrid workplace strategies at a high level, along with how the right tech can help overcome many of the challenges of hybrid working.   

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What is a hybrid workplace strategy?

By now, we’re all familiar with hybrid work. It blends some amount of in-office work with some amount of remote work. With an almost unlimited amount of arrangements possible, hybrid employees will typically work from home a few days a week, and work from the office a few others.

When determining the hybrid work schedule that is best for their hybrid teams, management typically bases their strategy on two key factors:

  1. Real estate, factoring growth or finance considerations into their real estate portfolio management
  2. Employee experience, factoring in how best to balance employee needs against business goals (noting, of course, that the two are intimately linked)

Of course these two factors are definitely not ‘either-or.’

When your hybrid strategy is backed up with the right tools, data, and technology, it’s possible to make a much more cost effective space and to provide employees with the flexibility that supports their well-being and own preferences. 

For many organizations, hybrid work started as an ad hoc response to global shutdowns. 

And many of those organizations found that their employees were happier, healthier, and even more productive when given the ability to work from home. 

Today, these same organizations have the opportunity to take the lessons learned from this hybrid experiment, to create a more purposeful and data-driven hybrid workplace strategy.

When managed properly (and updated as necessary), expect these strategies to solidify and cement the many benefits of hybrid work, while sidestepping any of the pitfalls. 

Companies now understand the need to reestablish their overall business strategies beyond temporary measures in response to the pandemic, as long-term changes are taking place in the business environment.

Hyun Young Cho and Hak-June Lee, BCRP

What are the challenges of hybrid work?

As we’ve seen during the pandemic, implementing a hybrid work model often leads to both happier and healthier employees and profits. Given current employee demands, adopting hybrid work is essential for both talent attraction and retention

That said, when trying to create a workplace transformation that supports hybrid, you’re sure to bump up against some hybrid working challenges

These challenges typically have to do with implementation. Either not starting with the right approach, or not backing that approach up with the right workplace data

And the root of these challenges is often not having the right new technology in the workplace.

According to Qualtrics research, employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years when they are supported by good hybrid workplace technology. 

Meanwhile, almost 50% of respondents in an Adobe survey who were unhappy with their workplace technology said they were likely to leave. 

Adopting your business to accommodate long-term distributed work requires a suite of technology and tools that ‘play nice’ with each other. Without these tools in place, any attempts to transform the workplace will likely be thwarted.  

Finally, like Nate Dvorak stresses in Gallup Workplace, “the biggest mistake leaders can make when crafting a hybrid work strategy is to select a standard approach.”

In other words, having cutting-edge hybrid workplace technology is not enough. 

You need the right hybrid workplace technology that works with your culture, existing infrastructure, and employee workflows. 

We’ll explore how to overcome many of the specific challenges of hybrid below. We’ll also review tools and strategies that can help overcome them. 

First, let’s cover the essential hybrid work technology. Technology that should be on the radar of every facility manager (FM), space planner, and business leader. 

“Our CEO was adamant, if we’re going to change the workplace, let’s do it now so that when we come back we come back to something new. Rather than have people coming back to old habits, we want to try and create new habits.”

Jamie Kinch, Vice President of Real Estate and Workplace Experience, Rapid7

What is hybrid work technology?

Hybrid work technology is any technology that supports hybrid work, and therefore hybrid employees. When leveraged properly, it’s one of the main contributors to workplace agility and an improved workplace experience overall.  

This technology is usually (and ideally) a combination of cloud-based software and physical equipment to help employees do their jobs better. Plus: software that helps managers and FMs create a more productive and cost-effective hybrid workplace

Specifically, companies need proper software (and maybe IoT sensors) to help them collect advanced analytics. They can use analytics to optimize their hybrid workplace model, along with their physical and digital workspaces

Prior to the pandemic, think-pieces on the future of workplace technology often primarily focused on automation and industry 4.0.

Today, more and more companies are coming to realize that their technology needs are more nuanced. Therefore, their solutions need to be more customized and data-driven.  

Additionally, it’s only when companies work with employees to determine the right mix of new technology that hybrid really works. 

The office remains a cornerstone of operations. But identifying and adopting the right technologies so employees can seamlessly work in the office, at home, or elsewhere is essential to the success of the hybrid work model.

Sharad Rastogi, President, JLL Technologies, as quoted in Yahoo!Finance

Must-have technology for a hybrid workplace: 7 essential tools

Before we get into the ‘must-haves’ of hybrid technology, there’s also a ‘must-be.’

Namely, any hybrid work technology needs to be purpose-driven and carefully chosen. 

 “What I’m seeing in the literature is more and more evidence of how important it is to be intentional and deliberate about the way we’re using technology,” neuroscientist Emiliana Simon-Thomas tells the New York Times

Ultimately, if the desired endpoint is a happier, more productive workspace, then companies need to carefully choose what they need to get there.  

That said, while each company will have an individualized approach, they will likely need hybrid tech solutions in the following seven key areas.  

1. Workplace planning tools

Adobe Acrobat and endless Excel spreadsheets have their place. But they’re no longer enough to manage complex flexible seating or hybrid arrangements! 

Say you want to introduce an office hoteling seating strategy, so you can reduce the amount of desks you need per employee. 

But what ratio of desks to employees do you need? Are certain departments or workers more likely to use the office? Are certain days more popular? What types of workspaces do you need to provide? 

Yes… You might be able to run a few employee surveys, walk the floor, and guesstimate the answers to these questions. 

But given that revamping the office today can cost up to $290 per square foot, there’s definitely a big risk to getting that guestimate wrong.  

Thankfully, there’s an alternative to risky guesstimations. Using data pulled from real-time workplace reports and analytics to make better-informed decisions. And then continuously collecting more real-time data to see what’s working and what’s not. 

Collecting data, testing, and reiterating in this way is a continual loop that leads to an exceptionally more productive and future-proof office. 

Specifically, to better manage office space for hybrid working and create an adaptable workplace management plan, companies need the following hybrid workplace technology:

Ideally, all these different workplace technology tools will be well-integrated in one easy-to-manage platform. It should manage and optimize all areas of facility planning and management. This includes project, asset, and lease management, as well as space planning, headcount planning, and workplace analytics.

This often comes in the form of an Integrated Workplace Management System, or IWMS.   

“Bringing a globalized workplace tool into the company was game-changing for us. My facilities team gets all of the tools it needs to manage every part of the workplace. And employees get intuitive software that they can use to connect with anything and everyone in the workplace. The platform is so user friendly that our people get the hang of OfficeSpace in minutes.”

Jason Saham, Director of Executive Operations, Malwarebytes

2. Collaboration tools

Collaboration in the workplace has always been important. 

Of course, collaboration is much more challenging when your colleagues are working in different offices. Or different time zones, or even different countries. 

But take heart: 80% of employees who were forced to work remotely due to the pandemic report that they collaborate as well now as they did when in the office full-time. 70% even say their workplace culture has changed for the better. 

No doubt, beyond being supported by leadership and FMs, this success is largely due to the collaboration tech adopted to support the hybrid workforce. This is all the technology that helps hybrid and remote employees to collaborate and track progress on shared projects. As well as to share ideas, resources, and, critically, files. 

Indeed, document management is critical to collaboration, since 38% of workers report struggling to find the information they need. 

Finally, one of the biggest challenges to hybrid collaboration centers around how team members use the physical office. 

When hybrid employees come into the office, it’s often because they’re looking for the type of in-person collaboration that just doesn’t quite happen over Zoom. 

However, if there is no set hybrid schedule (i.e.: if employees are able to choose their own days to work in-office), then it can be challenging for employees to know when to come in.

Without visibility into the office—specifically visibility into the calendars of their colleagues—then coming into the office to collaborate is incredibly more challenging. 

Therefore, an often overlooked yet still critical collaboration tool for a hybrid office is a  visual directory that shows employees where their colleagues are. Including when they’ll be in the office.

With this type of tool, employees can maintain the autonomy to set their own schedules. They can also align their own schedules to coincide with those of their co-workers. 

Office neighborhood software (and the right neighborhood strategy) can also help support hybrid collaboration. This is by ensuring team members who are using the office can always do so close to each other (and to the resources they need). 

Examples: Google Docs, Dropbox, Asana, Guru, Microsoft Teams, Who’s In, Office Neighborhoods 

How employees communicate, collaborate, and connect are fundamental qualities of the employee experience, and it’s critical that employers get it right when it comes to how they facilitate these interactions with technology.

Brian Anderson and Seth Patton, Harvard Business Review

3. Communication tools

When everyone was on-site, face-to-face communication kept things simple. Employees could jump into a meeting room when they needed to communicate about a specific project, or they could congregate around the water cooler to go over the day’s plans (and gossip). 

Today of course, remote workers need a way to communicate with each other, both in real time and asynchronously. 

Thankfully, companies now have a host of options to choose from to enable better communication between their people. When these tools are introduced (along with guidelines on how to use them), the result can be a much more connected workplace, even among a distributed workforce

Examples: Slack, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Loom 

4. Request management tools

Similarly, request management is often a lot simpler in a more traditional office. Employees can literally walk to their FM or IT department and lay bare their issues, right on the spot. 

But distributed teams need centralized request management that helps to streamline facility requests.

Specifically, request management software can dramatically improve this process. This is by simplifying and tracking requests from employees, facilities, and external contractors alike. This is especially true if everyone can submit requests (and even photos) via a mobile app and if those requests are then tied to a location on the company floor plan. 

5. Wayfinding tools

Many hybrid workplaces—especially ones that are very large or used very sporadically—may find traditional wayfinding technology isn’t enough anymore. Workers who don’t use the physical office much can easily get turned around. 

For this reason, many companies are now introducing tech options like wayfinding kiosks. Also, digital wayfinding signage that integrates with their visual directory. While these tools might seem simple, they’re critical. Especially given that office workers can spend up to 60 minutes a week looking for desks, conference rooms, and colleagues. 

6. Physical tools

Of course, there is a great variety of physical technology—both hardware and other supplies—that support hybrid work. For example, hybrid meetings tend to work better when supported with good video conferencing tools. And it’s easier for hybrid workers to work from home when they’ve got good laptops. 

Many companies are now also experimenting with new office design. Like huddle rooms, to enable better hybrid meetings and better hybrid work in general. 

And don’t forget the home office. 

According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, 42% of employees don’t have all the office supplies they need at home. And 10% don’t have an adequate internet connection. This is unsustainable for any company planning to rely on any amount of remote work.  

Currently, only 46% of companies help employees with remote work expenses. Expect that number to rise as more offices realize that having the right tools, wherever you are, is critical to employee productivity.

Examples: digital whiteboards, laptops and headsets for all employees, improved meeting room technology like better webcams and audio equipment

7. Data and reporting tools

Saving perhaps the most important for last, companies need both hardware and software to collect the right data in the hybrid office. Companies will need to determine the KPI facility management metrics that are most essential for their unique needs and goals. And then use advanced analytics to help them get there. 

Like we’ve covered, this often includes IoT sensors, along with workplace management software to collect and synthesize data about actual office use.  


What are the challenges to implementing hybrid work technology? And how can you overcome them?

Like any tool or technology, hybrid technology is not without its challenges. 

Thankfully, with the right messaging and approach, most of these hybrid working challenges will be easy to overcome. 

Challenge #1: It’s not implemented! 

Thankfully, one of the biggest tech challenges is also one of the easiest to overcome. 

According to JLL research, companies have ambitious plans to adopt hybrid workplace technology. But there’s a gap between these plans and actual implementation today. 

Specifically, they found that companies have only adopted about 25% of the anchor technologies needed to actualize the benefits of hybrid work. 

Solution: At a high level, the answer to this challenge is to simply implement the right hybrid work technology. 

Of course, to do this, you need to know what that  ‘right’ hybrid work technology actually is. 

FM teams should therefore collaborate closely with HR and IT. The two teams are well positioned to figure out a plan for both selecting and implementing any new technology. 

Employee surveys can also be an invaluable resource here. They can help highlight what employees themselves think they need to do a better job. 

Challenge #2: Tech sprawl 

There’s an opposite challenge to not implementing hybrid workplace technology. 

Namely, implementing too much technology, all from disparate sources and without a cohesive plan, can lead to more problems that it solves. When employees are overloaded with too many options, they can easily spend more time trying to access and navigate their tools than actually using them. 

Solution: To solve this problem, FMs, IT, and department managers need to work closely together to come up with technology solutions that are in line with both their company culture, and, critically, that integrate as much as possible with existing tools. 

Having a data-driven strategy is critical here. As is selecting new software with robust integrations. Where possible, it’s preferable to integrate and connect with any existing technology employees are already using.

For example, workplace Slack and Teams integration available through OfficeSpace Software allows employees to manage their own desk and room bookings on the same platforms they’re already using for collaboration.  

Ultimately, when implementing any new technology, think about the ‘customer experience’ your employees will have. And work to make it as seamless as possible. 

Challenge #3: More security risks

Like we’ve covered, a hybrid approach can lead to a more productive and future-proof office. 

That said, it can also lead to one that is also more vulnerable to security risks. 

In fact, 43% of CISOs say they have never been more concerned about their ability to manage cyber threats. 

Solution: FMs should collaborate with IT to create both strict guidelines and policies regarding accessing company data in the home office. 

These policies need to be continuously updated, and staff should be regularly updated about the importance of cyber security. 

These teams (FM and IT) should also collaborate to shore up security in their building automation systems, to help protect data in the physical office, too.  

Challenge #4: Data silos

Like we’ve covered, hybrid offices should be collecting a wide variety of data. This includes data from badges and occupancy sensors, floor plans, desk and room bookings, calendars, and floor plans. 

But collecting this data isn’t enough; it needs to be used and synthesized, too. But in more traditional offices, companies may technically collect good data—only to let it sit untouched.  

Solution: “My advice to companies is that you can’t rely on just one source of data. Unstructured data won’t cut it anymore,” says Luke Anderson, VP of Product Strategy for OfficeSpace. “You need to bring your large datasets together to truly solve business problems.” 

In a hybrid setting, data silos are about as useful as having no data at all. Complex offices require complex solutions, and therefore more complex data sets, too.

Challenge #5: Eroding employee experience

Remember that one of the reasons for pivoting to long-term hybrid work is the positive impact it can have on employee experience. But an improved employee experience is not a given. 

This is especially true when remote/hybrid employees feel what the Microsoft WIT Pulse Report coins ‘productivity paranoia.’ Essentially, companies may say they trust their employees, but then give too many signals otherwise. This leads to ‘productivity theater,’ where stressed out hybrid employees are working longer and having more meetings. Just to prove their worth. 

“Many leaders are sending mixed messages, officially encouraging flexible, remote work while informally signaling that those who stick closest to the old 9-to-5 will get ahead,” Jessica Stillman writes for Inc.com.  “The result is the worst of both worlds–the work-life blur and “quick” midnight email checks of remote work without the benefits of autonomy and control over your time. That’s a recipe for burnout and annoyed talent.” 

Solution: Maintaining company culture and employee experience through workforce transformation needs to be a deliberate choice. This is where good hybrid leadership and clear communication from the top is essential. 

Leadership and managers should develop clear guidelines and rules for how they expect hybrid employees (and their managers) to operate. These guidelines need to be front and center, including in onboarding efforts. 

Companies may also want to consider training managers in best practices for managing remote teams. 

And finally, leaders and managers need to understand that improving the hybrid workplace experience starts with trust. 

“Trust has to be the foundation for the workplace strategy,” says Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield. “If there’s still an issue around trust, it’s usually rooted in the culture. Most people do the right thing. The labor market is too competitive now to not be doing what you love.”

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