What makes a great hybrid workplace?


10 minute read
Jo Morrison

Jo Morrison

Director of Digital Innovation & Research

Digital Insights

pexels marc mueller 380769

Since the pandemic, it’s safe to say that the world of work for many people has changed dramatically. There has been a fundamental shift in how people think about the spaces that make up ‘the workplace’ and the ways that people live their lives in relation to these workplaces. This is certainly true at Calvium.

Widespread internet connectivity and access to digital technologies have transformed people’s experience of work throughout the lockdowns and allowed many businesses to keep trading. Digital platforms and services have enabled mass adoption of remote working and ever novel technologies assist and optimise every kind of interaction.

As the UK ‘opens-up’ there is a general expectation that many businesses and employees will wish to maintain a level of dispersed working, rather than head back to the office and the oft associated commute. This #newnormal positions the workplace as a mix of physical and digital spaces that foster a culture of hybrid working.

a person is seen having a virtual meeting with the person on the screen wearing a face mask and glasses. The meeting is on a laptop that is on a wooden table and there are notebooks and a mug of coffee on the table.
Image: Ivan Samkov pexels.com

Calvium has already adopted a fully hybrid model as a result of our experience across the past year. This article takes a look at some ways to answer the question ‘What makes a great hybrid workplace?’ – using our team’s experience to provide some examples.

Innovate using digital tech

As a company with digital technologies at our core, we use tech to create a shared workplace as well as develop original software that achieves the business aims of our clients. Experimentation is key. Whether creating a collaborative team environment or developing a new platform for a client, it’s vital to remain open to new and creative approaches to performing every challenge.

Photo of a blue mug on a desk next to a macbook where a virtual group meeting is taking place
Image: Chris Montgomery unsplash.com

Digital technologies can help to foster positive workplaces and it’s important to find the right ones for your organisation. Zoom fatigue aside, video communications platforms and internal messenger systems have been instrumental in allowing many of us to communicate effectively with each other and externally with our clients, ensuring operations can run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Teams, Zoom, Meet, Hopin, Mighty Networks, Slack, Trello, Yammer, Miro, Menti Jamboard, Figma: these services have all become a part of our digital work lives and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

While Calvium was well-positioned to run a dispersed team, with colleagues already working in Spain and Portugal, we have certainly ramped up our use of digital tools for communication of all kinds. For instance, our ‘Discovery Workshops’ with clients are now 100% online and we have adopted a raft of digital tools to support creative collaboration amongst ourselves and with clients.

Two visitors to We The Curious are using a large touch screen to map out a constellation and ask a question. They are both male, white, with brown hair and are wearing face masks.
Project What If exhibition at We The Curious.   Image: Lisa Whiting Photography
Calvium’s project with Bristol’s pioneering science centre, We The Curious (WTC), really put some of these new ways of working to the test last year. This collaboration on the innovative Project What If exhibition started before the pandemic and saw the Calvium team deliver 25 bespoke interactive digital exhibits. Much of our original research and design approach was built on physicality and on-site user testing. Of course, this all changed when the country went into its first lockdown.

Access to digital technologies enabled us to progress Project What If, conducting all of our collaborative activities online. This proved essential for productivity and innovation, but the connection also maintained everyone’s morale and motivation, which would have been such a shame to lose after all the hard work we had put in prior to the lockdown.

User research was a key component to inform the design of each digital exhibit. Much of the user testing that influenced the design of the digital interfaces and their content was successfully transferred online. The close collaboration between the engagement team at WTC and Calvium meant that we managed to gather a host of insights to support the design and development of each exhibit. As a result of this experience, digital methods for user research have become an essential part of our research toolbox. 

We have even developed a hybrid research model for future projects and provided a ‘sneak-peak’ at a recent Museums Computer Group conference. We look forward to sharing the framework with the wider industry in due course.

Employee agency in work patterns

Many of us have seen the benefits of remote working over the past 12 months. The general expectation is that many employers will harness the opportunities afforded by dispersed working and develop workplaces that foster a mix of office and home working. 

Certain activities will suit certain environments and the lockdowns have made us find out first-hand which are which. For instance, those activities that call for multidisciplinary creative exploration favour in-person communication whereas tasks that require individual analysis and contemplation are better undertaken in quieter locations in the home (assuming there are such spaces available). However, many activities are equally effective in either digital or physical settings, e.g. sales reporting, project management team planning and introductory meetings with potential clients.

For those activities that can be performed well irrespective of the workplace, we should be constructing hybrid environments that enable colleagues to flourish within the ‘expanded office’ setting. As offices start to reopen, providing employees with agency to determine their weekly working patterns and work locations can only be a positive move. Ensuring clear lines of communication between colleagues combined with considerate and open planning of activities will be key to making a successful transition to the hybrid workplace.

Digital tools afford us the opportunity to be flexible and we should seek to use technology creatively and thoughtfully, to make our lives easier and happier. 

According to recent research there is a conclusive link between happiness and productivity in the workplace; positively impacting productivity, efficiency, absenteeism and even client satisfaction. Therefore, enabling colleagues to have a voice in determining where and when they work will very likely lead to greater employee satisfaction which will, in turn, translate into optimised business performance.

Calvium won the UK Dev Agency of the Year (Medium) in the UK Dev Awards 2021 and our new Place Experience Platform was a Finalist for Platform of the Year. These accolades demonstrate how well we performed when working remotely. In turn, feedback from our clients across the past year has been excellent and we have delivered an amazing array of projects, from digital placemaking to asset management and platform innovation. In addition, the staff team really values the opportunities that hybrid working affords. 

For all these reasons we are committed to continuing to build our new hybrid workplace. Colleagues can use our open-plan physical office in the heart of Bristol’s waterfront, when they wish or when certain activities necessitate, e.g. creative client workshops. And we are developing our evolving digital workplace to be an equally friendly, collaborative and productive place to spend the day.

Calvium's technical director, Ben Clayton, is photographed working on some code on a screen. The screen itself is blurred and Ben is holding a pen in thought
Image: Tim Gander (2015)

The impacts upon our towns, cities and rural areas could be massive over the next few years as people settle in different parts of the country as a result of this change in working environment. It could also have a real impact on the need for large physical infrastructure projects, such as HS2, if we find that ‘localism’ is a more attractive proposition than daily commuting by train…but this is a topic for another day…

Attract the ‘unusual suspects’ and celebrate difference

The most interesting places to work are surely those that attract, welcome and embrace different imaginations and skill sets. At the same time, multidisciplinary and collaborative working is central to 21st century innovation and a must for successful revenue generating businesses. It’s a win-win.

Having a mix of people working together whose perspectives, approaches and backgrounds influence new products and services can only make those solutions more relevant for the consumer. 

A massive benefit of hybrid working is the opportunity to expand the diversity of the team. A company can now hire employees who ordinarily would be unavailable to them for a raft of reasons. The expanded workplace means an increased talentpool and the resulting opportunity to build a diverse and inclusive team.

Diversity is something we value greatly at Calvium. Between us, we are researchers, project managers, designers, marketers, sales, engineers and developers of all ages and backgrounds. Some of us can fix a software glitch with a tiny piece of code, others are better at thinking creatively about the visual design of an interface or providing strategic insights to clients.

In 2020 we would not have been able to turn around the PPE Hive platform as quickly as we did if it weren’t for the mix of our team working across three European countries. The need for speed was great, given this project was in response to the global shortage of PPE towards the start of the pandemic.

Supported by all the digital technologies we had in place to enable remote working, our multidisciplinary team developed the system architecture, front end design and back end development and initiated a marketing campaign in just three weeks. It was a great example of how collaboration and co-creation results in meaningful innovation.

The Calvium team's profile images have been collaged together to form a group image.
Team Calvium

High performance culture

The best places to work maintain a future-focused attitude, part of which means investing in employees to ensure they have a clear career roadmap and encouraging a learning culture. 

In turn, businesses will be rewarded with a highly-skilled, motivated and involved workforce that shares the same values and thrives on a unifying high performance culture. 

As we move to a hybrid working environment it is important to design systems that enable the physical and digital spaces to be equal parts of the whole and to find ways that enable staff to flourish in both environments. That’s an ongoing and exciting challenge. 

At Calvium, our employees uphold the same values and each plays a vital role in ensuring the success of the business. By setting that standard for ourselves, inspiration to deliver first-rate work is valued throughout the company.

Calvium’s values underpin the experience of our clients and their customers. We aim to: 

  • create value for the customers who use our services and the people who use the resulting mobile solutions; 
  • maintain a reputation for excellence in our products, services and practices;
  • operate with integrity – acting fairly, responsibly, inclusively and in an atmosphere of mutual trust.

Having an inclusive and high performance culture not only helps to retain stellar talent, but also goes a long way in attracting new colleagues as well. 

With this in mind, it is so important that we – as employers, as industries, as people who care about the future of the sector we work in – make a concerted effort to foster and nurture emerging talent.

This is why Calvium works closely with the University of Bristol’s Computer Science department. Full of new ideas, perspectives and ways of working, the students we employ as interns can really help to bring a renewed sense of energy to the workplace. Indeed, our most recent intern is now our most recent employee!

Final thoughts

We can’t know exactly how things will change when the pandemic is over but it is safe to say that many people will see their experience of working life changed from now on.

Our new experience of remote working has shone a light on the opportunities for future hybrid working. We need to design our new hybrid workplaces in ways that maximise employee health and wellbeing, creativity, productivity and efficiency. Hopefully, this reflection on the Calvium experience has helped you to think about what makes a great hybrid workplace for you.

Interested in working for or with Calvium? Get in touch through hello@calvium.com

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