The expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid digital transformation. And because of that, companies are in need of solutions suitable for a hybrid work environment.
As companies went to work from home, many had difficulties to adapt and had a tougher time to stay connected. However, because lockdowns are long over, employers are facing challenges trying to manage the hybrid workforce.
For this reason, to learn about the best hybrid work environment practices and solutions, Cybernews invited Yoshihisa Naganuma, the CEO of ACALL – a company that provides a hybrid work platform, WorkstyleOS.
How did the idea of WorkstyleOS come to life? What has the journey been like?
The concept of WorkstyleOS came from the need to transform how we work. As computers have operating systems, our ways of work need to be driven by an integrated system.
Work styles have two elements – time and place. The combination of time and place at work used to be very limited, such as having to work from 9 to 5 and at the office. However, the work environment is getting more flexible and it’s becoming more important for workers to have the choice on how to work.
There are effective combinations of time and place for specific jobs and occasions. For example, sometimes it is better to discuss certain matters in person, but employees feel more focused when working at the comfort of their own home.
However, many companies decide on their work styles without referring to any data.
So, we thought that visualizing the possible time and place choices could help companies and individuals schedule productive workdays. We started developing and providing WorkstyleOS, the integrated system that stores time and place data via worker's check-in experience.
Can you introduce us to your Hybrid Work Platform? What are its key features?
WorkstyleOS is a hybrid work platform that connects people and places via a check-in experience.
The key features are the desk check-ins (often called hoteling or hot desking), visitor and employee check-ins integrated with office gates, meeting room check-ins, and remote working check-ins.
Users will be able to experience these check-ins on different apps on their smartphones, iPads, web-based apps, etc. As an integrated operating system of these apps, WorkstyleOS collects and visualizes the data regarding when and where employees work.
There are three phases when understanding the way WorkstyleOS works:
- The first is to input the data by check-ins, environmental information (temperature, lighting, noise level, etc.), and user evaluation of the time and place.
- The second phase is to analyze the input data.
- Finally, as the third step, WorkstyleOS automates, facilitates, and recommends a productive work environment.
What are the most common issues organizations run into nowadays when managing their workforce?
Many companies struggle with the diminished quality of communication. Because many people are now used to working from home, the way of communication has changed.
Even though some companies prepare attractive facilities to lure employees back to offices for communication, it is not the problem solely in the physical office.
We believe WorkstyleOS can encourage communication by showing who is working where. For example, employees can check who will be in the office tomorrow and decide if they will also go in to see their team members.
In the near future, we'd like to have WorkstyleOS recommend one employee talk to another to create spontaneous conversations in an office.
How do you think the recent global events have affected the way people perceive work?
As many people began working remotely, they had to adopt certain work technologies that were new to them. Web conferencing and other contact/touch-less gadgets that people encounter in their daily and work life don't just indicate a technological improvement but a new custom and culture.
It is natural to be afraid of new technology, but the changes in the work environment could be considered the readiness to move on to the next phase of innovation.
In work and workplace technology, old systems tend to linger because of the difficulty and the cost of replacement. However, there’s now a chance to drive the digital transformation of work.
We always had the future vision to somehow apply the concept of WorkstyleOS in a virtual workplace, and we think it would be interesting to do something with metaverse. Above all, perhaps the most significant difference is that those concepts have become more acceptable to many people.
Recently, maintaining creativity and productivity has been a serious struggle for some organizations. How can companies foster creativity and innovation when the majority of employees are working remotely?
We believe working with leeway is necessary for creativity and innovation because they won't occur as scheduled or as desired.
The margin of freedom in work time and emotional states will encourage chit-chat and informal connections. When everyone was working in offices, this happened naturally. However, that's not the case when working remotely. How a company tries to encourage spontaneous conversations is where the company's identity will show.
When and where it takes place depends on a company's culture. For example, the companies that go fully remote could adopt metaverse. Or some companies would offer occasional on-site meetups.
In a way, choosing a workplace technology is a matter of corporate strategy that could result in company culture and business performance.
What threats do you think companies of all sizes should be prepared to tackle in the upcoming years?
As mentioned in the previous question, a company's identity will be the center of the challenge.
When everyone was working in offices, part of the identity of each company was shaped by the physical office. Now, many people are working from home. Many new employees have probably never visited their offices, or some companies have even gotten rid of their physical offices.
Thus, one company could be losing its identity due to the loss of physical office and culture anchored to the place.
Companies of all sizes need to reconfirm their identity and recreate the organization around the identity.
Depending on how they desire to be, the choice of workplaces will be different. For example, some companies will keep iconic headquarters buildings, some will reside in co-working spaces in multiple cities, and some will work fully remote.
In your opinion, what cybersecurity measures are going to become essential in combating these new threats?
Since the shape of a company will vary depending on the identity, the cybersecurity requirements also vary.
We believe the two keywords are accessibility and privacy. When people worked at offices only, security standards were often physical – for instance, employee ID requirement to enter the facility, not allowing taking a work laptop home, etc.
This is an example of low accessibility and high privacy.
Now, the situation is more complex. Companies need to facilitate more accessible digital workplaces to allow people to work remotely. High levels of accessibility and privacy should be essential parts for the future of work.
In addition, there are more active collaborations among companies, and there are more options for employment, such as gig work, side jobs, etc. It may become essential to have high levels of accessibility and privacy not only on an organization level but to an individual level, too.
What do you think the average workplace is going to look like in the next few years?
Within a few years, the concept of "Average" may fade away. It is because the office will become one of the places where a company will show its identity.
It is often said that we live in an age of diversity, which may be true for companies. We believe that a place needs to be flexible according to a company's identity. An office often has two roles: internal and external communication. A company's characteristics will also appear in the division of these uses and the allocation of areas.
The flexibility of office spaces, such as the ease of changing the office layout and the space, is also essential when considering organizational and work style flexibility.
Depending on the company's choices, it is possible to imagine an office with a casual, coffee-shop-like atmosphere, a campus-like office, or an office that can easily accommodate people for events, etc. In extreme cases, one option is to have no physical office, or conversely, a company could specialize in localization and consist only of employees who live near the office.
Would you like to share what’s next for WorkstyleOS?
When a company's identity becomes distinct, the people attracted to the vision will also have a strong sense of individual identity and what they want to achieve in work. People will start choosing companies and organizations that fit their life vision and interests well.
As this happens, a way of working that is not tied to one company will become more popular. Even now, some people work for multiple companies or work for a company full-time while also running their own business.
Considering this, we believe that WorkstyleOS should also evolve so that one can design the work experience regardless of location and organization.
We want WorkstyleOS to be a platform that supports a comfortable and productive work experience from the worker's perspective rather than a tool for companies to manage employees and facilities.
Our goal is to create a WorkstyleOS that enables worker-centered work styles beyond location or company.