As my company’s technical and technology writer, I often come across interesting articles about technology trends, or they land in my Inbox. Today, I explored one from Microsoft called The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?1 The article was inspired by Microsoft’s inaugural Work Trend Index 2021, which was based on a study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and of trillions of productivity and labor indicators across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn.
I was immediately intrigued, because there has been much discussion about how workplace models have shifted during the pandemic — and recent updates about what business owners plan to do next. Some of the key takeaways in this piece were telling, but likely not a surprise for most business professionals.
They included an assertion that leaders are out of touch with employees and a suggestion that the high productivity touted as a benefit of remote working is actually a sign workers are exhausted from their “no boundaries” remote efforts. (Here at Michael Mackenzie Communications, we have gathered supporting evidence for both of these assertions. As part of our effort helping clients promote their remote productivity tools, we have developed blogs and solution sheets focused on how technology can alleviate these issues.)
However, the main trend that struck me, from a marketing perspective, was this one:
Shrinking networks are endangering innovation. When companies and their teams lose connections, firms tend to stop innovating. There are no new ideas getting in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility.
Our firm and its leadership have always believed in the value of building and maintaining connections, helping clients develop and maintain social media networks, assisting them with joint vendor and customer events and identifying industry trade shows and other networking opportunities. A lot of people may not even envision networking as a marketing activity – yet one of our clients told me it was one of the most valuable things we had encouraged them to do. According to Microsoft’s report, it is also pivotal to innovation.
In reality, networking has had a virtual component ever since LinkedIn launched in 2002. As the world moves out of virtual workplaces and back to IRL mode (IRL is tech jargon for “in real life”), many business leaders and their teams are looking forward to rebooting their networking efforts. We firmly believe that they should not leave virtual networking behind. In fact, if they haven’t engaged in much virtual networking so far, whether through hosting an event on LinkedIn or making a sales presentation over Microsoft Teams, they are missing out on a great opportunity.
Our research shows that many firms are planning to implement a hybrid work model when they reopen their offices rather than going back to 100% in-person workplaces. In contrast to the worker fatigue cited by the Microsoft study, other studies indicate workers want to remain at least partially remote. In our view, a hybrid (e.g. blended) work model will also provide more opportunities for firms to promote their companies through networking.
For example, using Zoom or Microsoft Teams, an organization can host a conference, product launch or other event and have all their key personnel at the event, regardless of location. Neither the prospect nor the organization will incur travel expenses or lose the time involved in travelling.
Everyone knows there is no substitute for speaking with a prospect face to face, and we all look forward to returning to those activities. Nevertheless, we predict that business meetings, sales pitches and promotional activities will continue to be conducted virtually, as well. They can even be conducted over social media, from LinkedIn to You Tube.
If your organization went into “retreat” or “hibernation” mode during the pandemic, due to cash flow issues, health and safety concerns, or both, now is the time to make a bold statement that you are back. Start reconnecting with clients, vendors and others through virtual social, events and other promotional opportunities. You will be perfectly poised to follow up with networking in person.
This post is courtesy of MMC Content Manager Jennifer Farwell