Why hybrid employees need tech that moves with them

For hybrid employees, tech that can make anywhere or any room a workspace is key.

By Deborah Lynn Blumberg — April 27, 2021

Working from home this past year, Kristin Boyd, communications director for the Reading School District in Pennsylvania, found herself searching for a quiet, well-lit space to focus. Some days she worked on the living room couch. Other times, when she logged in to meetings, she sought refuge in a bathroom to mask her children’s chatter, virtual classes, or her husband’s work calls.

“Everybody’s trying to find a space they feel most comfortable in, with the least distraction,” says Boyd.

Boyd recently bought herself a desk. She’s also purchased earbuds, noise-canceling headphones, and a lamp to backlight online meetings. She may invest in additional work-from-home tools if her district decides to give employees more flexibility to work remotely some days after they return to the office.

It’s a decision that many employers have already made — committing to a hybrid work model going forward, in which some employees work remotely all or part of the time. A survey by the Capgemini Research Institute shows that more than one-third of companies expect 70% or more of their employees to work remotely in the coming years. In a recent PwC survey, more than 60% of executives plan to increase spending on virtual collaboration tools and manager training to support remote work, and more than half of employees (55%) now want to be remote at least three days a week. 

Hybrid work is bringing changes to company policies, procedures, and culture, from meeting times to check-ins, and requires new tools and technology for workers who will be on the move, albeit very short distances. Pre-pandemic, the trend was mobility: being able to work wherever there was a decent Wi-Fi connection, be it on a plane or in a conference center. Now we’ve entered the age of “micromobility,” where workers need to move seamlessly from the home to the office and back again, and any spot in the home could become a workspace at a moment’s notice.

We’ve entered the age of “micromobility,” where any spot in the home could become a workspace at a moment’s notice.

Elena Xausa

We’ve entered the age of “micromobility,” where any spot in the home could become a workspace at a moment’s notice.

“The office space is becoming more about collaboration and building a sense of community, while the home will be a place for quiet, focused work,” says Loretta Li-Sevilla, head of future of work, collaboration, and business incubation at HP. 

Even when kids are back to school full-time, many working parents who are remote will still have to work with their kids in the house for part of their day, making the ability to move around or abate noise even more important.  

PCs and printers that are agile

Success in the hybrid model requires not only new ways of working, but also new tools to make work efficient and productive anywhere. “That means the equipment employees have at home needs to be just as effective as what they have in the office ecosystem,” says Li-Sevilla.

In a February HP survey of IT leaders in the US, UK, and Japan, 60% of respondents said their companies are providing a stipend — an average of about $1,400 a year — for employees to spend on home office tools such as PC accessories, monitors, and furniture. 

Employees regularly toting laptops between home and work will benefit from lighter, more secure machines with a slimmer design, longer battery life, and enhanced security features, such as HP’s EliteBook 840 Aero G8, the world’s lightest 14-inch business laptop.

The latest generation of HP EliteBooks includes a Tile lost-and-found tracker that can come in handy as employees shift from space to space, while the HP Tamper Lock feature locks a PC and notifies the owner if the device has been physically opened or compromised. The PCs can also recognize their location and make adjustments. For example, if a device is on your lap, thermal awareness technology automatically lowers its temperature.

Printing at home in the age of hybrid work will also take on a more prominent role, making simple, compact, and better-connected equipment essential. Workers can’t get stuck without ink when they need to print or spend hours troubleshooting errors.

During the pandemic, Boyd often ran out of ink with everyone printing from home and found she had more papers to scan. Last fall, she bought a new printer with scanning capabilities. “It reduced stress, because, now, we have a device that can handle multiple tasks,” she says. 

With HP’s new smart printing system, HP+, remote workers who buy an HP+ printer can set up their machine in just 10 minutes through the HP Smart app. They can also opt in to HP’s Instant Ink subscription service, which uses an algorithm to predict ink and toner levels, delivering new print cartridges to its 9 million subscribers well before they run out. The HP+ Print Anywhere feature lets workers print instantly from their living room or the coffee shop, or for extra security, make it a private pickup job. The printer is triggered by Bluetooth only when the worker is standing by the designated printer. 

Accessories for convenience, comfort, and efficiency

To work comfortably at home, hybrid employees may want to invest in items that make it easy to move work from one space to another quickly while prioritizing comfort.

A Wi-Fi mesh network system that connects your central router with satellites around the house can eliminate dead zones at home and open up more spaces for work, while a USB dock lets you add additional accessories to your setup. Replicate your office set-up with wireless mouse, such as HP’s 635 Multi Device Wireless Mouse, which can keep a charge for up to a year, has customizable buttons, and works on a variety of surfaces — even glass — and a wireless keyboard, like the Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

A hybrid work model employee working from home with distractions around him as he "commutes" to work.

Elena Xausa

Hybrid work is bringing changes to company policies, procedures, and culture, from meeting times to check-ins, and requires new tools and tech for workers on the move.

Apps that cut down on background noise like NoiseGator or the AI-powered Krisp can also help when the dog barks at the mail carrier, while noise-canceling ear buds like HP's Elite Wireless earbuds, Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, or noise canceling headphones are effective too. 

Other essential items include a good laptop stand like the Rain Design iLevel2 to curb hunching over your device, and a lap desk like the Lapgear Designer lap desk or a C-table to make working from the couch more comfortable. You can also create your own work area with a collapsible desk that can be moved around and put away when not in use, or a stand-up desk with a stand-up desk converter.

Tech to perfect video conferencing

With online meetings becoming the norm, video conferencing will remain a staple of the hybrid work environment. People will continue the now familiar shuffle from room to room looking for the tidiest, most professional looking background for their Zoom calls, and technology to improve how you look and sound on screen will be critical.

“Audio-visual quality is now a key factor in your personal brand,” says Li-Sevilla, noting that, according to HP data, more than 75% of people judge co-workers and colleagues based on their audio quality and 73% judge on video quality in online meetings.

“Everybody’s trying to find a space they feel most comfortable in with the least distraction.”

— Kristin Boyd, director of communications, Reading School District

As laptops have shrunk, one challenge has been incorporating powerful cameras into the ever-sleeker devices like the HP Elite Dragonfly Max with a built-in 5 megapixel camera that projects a crystal-clear image. Hybrid workers can also upgrade from an old webcam to a high-definition, wide-angle camera with an adjustable stand that allows for tilting and swiveling, like the Brio Ultra HD Pro. A good desk lamp, or a webcam light like Lume Cube, will improve visual clarity during calls.

Devices that enhance audio on video calls will also be crucial, such as the built-in HP Sound Calibration and HP Dynamic Audio feature that suppresses background noises like air conditioners or sirens wailing outside in the HP EliteBook 805 G8.

New company culture for the hybrid model

A distributed workforce requires more than new tech or equipment; it also requires a new way of thinking about office culture and engagement. HR teams will search for ways to make new remote employees feel like a part of the team, while managers may have more frequent informal check-ins with employees and kick off new traditions to build a cohesive hybrid team.

“Traditionally, a manager’s role has been supervising employees,” says Li-Sevilla. “In a distributed or hybrid work environment, the successful manager is the one who can connect their team to other teams and individuals to other individuals.”

Maryellen Stockton, a remote work coach and founder of Work Well Wherever, says that managers in this new normal will need to overcommunicate and lead by example. They’ll check in regularly with employees to ask them about their challenges, and design their own day in a way that models a healthy work/life balance.

Workers will have to be more responsible for managing their own time, too. “The onus will be on the employee to be more proactive, self-sufficient, and assertive when things aren’t working,” says Scott Dawson, a senior user experience architect at Intercontinental Exchange and author of the book The Art of Working Remotely: How to Thrive in a Distributed Workplace

Both Dawson and Stockton say that being successful in the new hybrid reality will require employers and employees to embrace new processes and behaviors, including planning meetings with different time zones in mind, making sure employees in the office and at home have equal access to professional development, and giving teams flexibility to define new ways of working together.

“Employers will need to be inclusive and empathetic to everyone participating in a distributed workforce,” Dawson says. 


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