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Hybrid working- the best of both worlds

From The Wealth Mosaic's Swiss WealthTech Landscape Report (2021)

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by ti&m
| 25/02/2022 06:00:00

Thomas Wüst, CEO of Swiss IT firm ti&m, explains why new talent will be more important than office space in the future, and how a crafts enterprise can run more efficiently once properly digitalized.

Is the office a thing of the past?
The Covid-19 crisis has certainly paved the way for flexible and hybrid workplace models. The office will no longer hold the same meaning as it has to date.

What can digital tools do better than people—and vice versa?
Digital tools are great for managing and documenting collaborative work processes, for self-service solutions, and above all for handling large amounts of data or processes. But people also take inspiration from each other; they are associative and innovative. They can solve problems creatively and in customized ways.

Combine this with a Covid-accelerated demand to work flexibly and we end up with a hybrid model. Launched at the start of July, ti&m’s software solution Places supports hybrid workplace organization.

How exactly does it work?
From the employee’s point of view, Places is a building block used by individuals and entire teams to organize their own work. Reserving workspaces, meeting rooms, car parks, vehicles and other work tools is easy and intuitive. Places integrates seamlessly into Microsoft Office 365; you don’t need an extra log-in or an app. And the tool runs on the desktop, as a web-based or mobile solution.

What advantages does it offer for companies?
Premises can be managed transparently in real-time, which simplifies organization and improves long-term office planning—particularly during a crisis like the one we’ve just experienced: With Places, you can quickly implement a home-office strategy

Our workplace-management system enables firms to establish a fluid way of working together. In turn, this is a key factor in attracting new talent that is looking for flexibility and a sensible work-life balance.

Is reserving workspaces simply an organizational matter, or is it a psychological one as well?
It’s both. Employees and teams can block-book their workspaces for one long period—or they can do it as and when, depending on the occasion. This means they can manage their own project rooms, leading to a greater degree of freedom and usually a greater feeling of satisfaction too.

What arguments are there against fixed workplaces, which also offer a personal touch as well as a kind of security?
A fixed workplace is often like a second home that you set up. This still exists, but isn’t always meaningful. After all, a fixed workplace can actually also be located in your own home, while in a modern working environment you still go to the actual office for meetings or project days.

What about the preconception that flexible workplaces cause disruption?
Studies show that it isn’t the fixed workplace that gives employees a sense of security, but that control is important when it comes to deciding what, when, and where. Incidentally, the desire for flexible work environments has increased substantially.

How is your own company organized? What do you value in your structure?
We practice what we preach. At the moment, we’re working under a ‘relaxed Covid-19 regime’: Anyone can come to the office, but doesn’t have to. We’ve capped occupancy at 40 per cent, and we manage this using Places. We also have our home-office concept. It’s a system that offers a great deal of freedom, managed by the respective project teams. They decide how they want to work together. Creative processes can take place in shared rooms, for example, or in hybrid meetings, where some of the people are physically present, while others take part via video conferencing. That said, where possible we do want to hold events and celebrations with people physically present.

How do you motivate employees when they’re not onsite?
With the eerily empty offices during the Covid-19 period, we had to improvise a few things to make sure people stayed motivated, team spirit remained strong, and new employees could be successfully brought on board. We continue to grow by 15 to 20% per year, so these are key factors for us.

But you can also do all of that working from home. You just need clear processes and shared team rituals for exchanging ideas and for social interaction.

And how do you do this digitally?
For me, having all employees transparently available— regardless of hierarchical level—is vital. The means of communication you choose doesn’t matter here. Our team leaders also hold weekly meetings with all employees. In 2020, we held all kinds of events digitally, even our company’s 15th anniversary.

What constitutes a well-set-up digital workplace?
First and foremost, a high degree of autonomy for yourself and for every team. In terms of equipment, a nice Mac or PC is important—at ti&m, employees choose their own devices. You need standing desks with space for ‘creative chaos’, ergonomic office chairs, docking stations for large screens, and finally a headphone with microphone for video conferences.

What makes a well-set-up digitalized company attractive?
The digital workplace can be anywhere in the world; what’s important is ergonomics, and that employees feel fit and comfortable. And if you’re in the office, you need infrastructure that gives people a chance to rest, retreat, and stimulate their creativity. For this, you need areas where you can chat, share, and eat and drink.

Spending some time in these places, exchanging tips with colleagues, or coming up with the next big idea— that should be the goal of a modern digital workplace.

Hybrid working, as you describe it, requires less office space, which reduces companies' rental costs. Where will this path lead, do you think?Every unused office space incurs costs; lots of companies can potentially make huge savings on rent. They can reinvest some of this money by positioning themselves better in recruiting new talent and creating more exciting time models and more interesting ways of working.

In short, what is a realistic potential saving?
We work on the basis that workplace costs will fall by 25 to 30% over the long term—without IT applications. But digitalization is happening regardless, and many companies will have to reckon on these costs.

Do you personally have anything that you could have digitalized a long time ago, but prefer to keep analog?
I still jot down meeting notes on paper rather than use a mobile phone or iPad, so I can give the other person my undivided attention. For creative tasks such as brainstorming, discussions or feedback sessions, I prefer to write on a flip chart. Over the last few months, I inevitably had to switch to shared digital documents. But it was fun, and it spawned some great solutions.

Places: A modern workplace-management system for Microsoft Teams from ti&m.

Figure 1: Places: A modern workplace-management system for Microsoft Teams from ti&m.

This article was part of The Wealth Mosaic's Swiss WealthTech Landscape Report (2021). Access the full report here.