Today’s workplace is undergoing a profound transformation. As employers continue to grapple with the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of them are looking for alternatives to the traditional “in-person” office arrangement. In fact, a recent CNBC survey of US executives found that 45 percent of companies have implemented a hybrid work model. As employees continue to look for greater flexibility in a tight labor market, organizations need to prioritize building a digital-first tech stack that supports the hybrid employee experience.

What is the hybrid workplace?

A hybrid workplace is a unique arrangement that combines on-site employees working from an office location with remote employees who engage with their teams virtually. It’s a flexible arrangement that can take many different forms. In some cases, certain employees only work remotely while others are required to be in the office every day. Flexible hybrid work environments have become more common in recent years, however, with employees frequently shifting between in-person and virtual on a regular basis.

This new approach to organizing the workplace is a poor fit for traditional office tech stacks that rely on on-premises infrastructure and location-based network access. Companies have traditionally handled remote work by setting up VPNs that allow off-site employees to connect to their systems, but the bandwidth, latency, and security concerns make this a difficult solution to scale in ways that are cost effective.

Reimagining the employee experience to build a better hybrid workplace culture

Setting aside the cost concerns for a moment, these arrangements also don’t provide a very good employee experience for anyone. Remote employees have to deal with the hassle of connecting to systems that were never intended to accommodate distributed access, while in-person employees have to take extra steps to make sure virtual team members are up-to-speed on the latest changes and developments. This makes it difficult to collaborate effectively, which undermines productivity and stifles innovation.

Photos in DAM library show approved and expired statuses

When organizations adopt a hybrid workplace model, they need to consider how that transition will impact the employee experience. After all, hybrid arrangements are supposed to make life easier for people by giving them the flexibility to work from anywhere. If existing technology systems are unable to support that arrangement, it will be difficult to deliver an employee experience that lives up to the promise and potential of the hybrid workplace.

Taking a digital-first approach to technology

One of the key elements of building a hybrid workplace is taking a digital-first approach to technology tools. Digital transformation is more than just a buzzword that looks good in a press release; it’s a business mindset that prioritizes efficiency and optimization to produce enhanced outcomes. There’s a tendency among companies to focus on what technology they need to support “going digital,” but this misses the point. The primary focus of any digital transformation effort should always be what that technology will allow people to do. For a hybrid workplace, a digital-first approach means breaking down barriers between employees and making it easier for ideas and creativity to flow through the organization. Every moment someone spends banging their head against a process or software tool is time that could be spent collaborating with team members to produce innovative results that advance business goals.

Here are just a few ways that taking a digital-first approach can enhance the hybrid workplace experience:

1. Improved engagement

Organizations don’t always do enough to ensure remote employees stay engaged in the hybrid workplace. This is especially true for people who work virtually on a full-time basis and may not even reside in the same city, state, or even country as on-site team members. If their primary interactions with the organization take place through cumbersome software tools, they have every incentive to avoid those interactions whenever possible. Over time, this creates a disconnect that can leave virtual employees feeling like they’re not fully invested in the team.

Hybrid and remote employees discuss photo of cathedral in DAM platform comments.

By creating a digital-first tech stack, organizations can ensure they’re removing the barriers that so often undermine engagement. When team members can easily access the resources they need and communicate effectively, they’re more likely to feel like they’re truly part of the team no matter where they’re located. Since creative teams need engaged specialists in every role to be successful, implementing digital-first strategies to support their efforts is essential.

2. Increased productivity

Far from being a minor inconvenience or simply a neutral factor, having the wrong technology tools in place can actively undermine productivity and make it more difficult for people to do their jobs. Many organizations have found that the tech-stack they have in place to support physical workplaces relies heavily upon manual processes and ad hoc workarounds employees have been using for years. Trying to incorporate remote employees into a hybrid workplace quickly reveals these inefficiencies and where productivity gains can be made.

Implementing digital-first technology can quickly brush these outdated systems and processes aside so people can get back to focusing on high-value work instead of burdensome toil that could be easily automated. For instance, a recent study found that a third of marketing teams spend about three weeks each year searching for digital files in their outdated content management systems. By transitioning to digital-first solutions that streamline content management, organizations could realize substantial productivity gains.

Photos of Sofia, Bulgaria appear as search result in digital asset management library.

3. Better collaboration

When clunky work processes and outdated technology make it difficult for remote employees to interact with their teams, effective hybrid collaboration is almost impossible. Inefficient communication tends to push people into working in isolation rather than as part of team. Lack of interaction quickly creates confusion over objectives and, at worst, a loss of trust and accountability. This challenge is even greater for remote employees, who often don’t have the opportunity to interact with their teams outside of the organization’s software tools.

A digital-first technology strategy that prioritizes collaboration can remove many of the barriers that make it difficult for team members to communicate ideas and share their work. Rather than juggling multiple platforms and processes to accomplish a task, employees can quickly and easily interact with one another to usher innovative projects to completion. For example, when people can locate, edit, and share content assets all within a single, easy to access platform, they can significantly reduce the risk of version confusion and keep everyone up-to-speed on the latest developments with a project.

Digital asset management tool shows version history after cover image update.

Take a step toward a digital-first hybrid experience with Canto DAM

With hybrid work environments becoming more commonplace, organizations need to implement digital-first solutions to support their creative teams. They can start by taking a closer look at digital asset management (DAM) platforms that create a single source of truth for digital content. For marketing and creative brand teams that need to access and share assets both internally and externally, having a streamlined, intuitive system in place that makes it easy to collaborate is essential for success in a fast-paced digital world. Canto’s innovative DAM software allows organizations to collect, manage, and share digital content across multiple channels through a single, intuitive platform. Find the assets you need quickly and engage in true collaboration by seamlessly sharing content with multiple stakeholders. To learn more about how Canto can help your hybrid team begin its digital-first journey, sign up today for a free trial.