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Despite the early-stage support of consistent hybrid work practices and tools, an overwhelming 84% of organizations believe modern unified communications are vital to driving business growth and facilitating robust internal employee and external customer experiences, according to a new report from Techaisle and Mitel.

As hybrid work becomes the new norm, some 69% of organizations surveyed want to invest in multi-purpose communication and collaboration technology rather than single-purpose, dedicated devices. According to survey respondents, the right UC solutions allow for flexibility, include a breadth of features and integrate well with other technology solutions such as office suites, project management and CRM solutions, making them ideally suited for a hybrid work environment.

SEE: Hybrid work policy (TechRepublic Premium)

The research also revealed employee and employer expectations diverge sharply when it comes to hybrid work-life balance, Techaisle said.

“Hybrid work is no longer a question of choice for many organizations,’’ the report noted, as 78% of respondent employees said that better communication and collaboration tools help them do their job more effectively. At the same time, only 34% of organizations believe they have mature remote work practices with advanced communications and collaboration tools.

The report data indicates that 20% of full-time employees will work from home exclusively, and 43% will likely work from home three to four days a week.

The risks of not modernizing communications

Modern communications offerings can help the business grow (73%), while increasing profitability (27%). Although most industries believe they have adequate technology to support remote work, many are still in the process of modernizing their communications tools, the report said.

For example, in hospitality/travel/entertainment/leisure, 30% of businesses cited a lack of adequate technology as adversely impacting their employees’ ability to work remotely. Manufacturing follows slightly behind at 26% of organizations, according to the report.

“Insufficient investment in hybrid and remote work tools and resources risks furthering an organizational environment where collaboration, productivity and employee engagement suffers,’’ the report stated. “These same inhibitors likely impact organizational success and growth.’’

Another issue is that it can be hard to replicate “serendipitous hallway conversations” in a remote or hybrid setting, especially if organizations have inadequate communications technologies.

The research found that 34% of employees are concerned with loneliness while working remotely, while only 27% of employers are worried about the same. Organizations must ensure a commitment to employee mental health and wellness, the report said.

SEE: Wellness at work: How to support your team’s mental health (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Leaders should alleviate the frustration and fatigue from management misunderstandings and communication failures.

“In addition to providing the right technology solutions, employers must also listen to and value their employees’ priorities,” the report recommended. “This commitment can be made through consistent evaluations and validations of employee concerns and implementing appropriate business practices and collaboration tools that address these concerns.”

Approximately half of respondent organizations have a continuous feedback/assessment process to check employee expectations, but 26% do not, “which in our view reflects a concerning lack of employee engagement,’’ the report said.

Wanted: multi-purpose, agile team collaboration solutions

UC is central to organizational modernization and is the underpinning of a healthy, hybrid work environment, the report maintained. Team collaboration solutions are the top priority for 54% of organizations, and organizations clearly prefer solutions that are multi-use and agile.

Organizations also want convenient ways to purchase modern UC solutions. When it comes to on-prem UC specifically, 40% of organizations prefer to purchase UC solutions as a capital expenditure, while 33% prefer an operational expenditure model.

“UC providers who offer flexible purchase models, including services by subscription, are better positioned to attract organizations wanting to modernize their communications,” the report said.

SEE: Best digital collaboration tools (TechRepublic)

In addition, the report found that 60% of organizations prefer the availability of a range of the latest functionalities as business requirements continue to change and markets evolve.

The barriers to modernization and the role UC systems play

While there is still much more organizations can do to close the gap between employee and employer perceptions, Techaisle’s research suggests that “increased investments in modern UC solutions can be a catalyst for more efficient work and seamless connections between employees, employers, and co-workers and help alleviate stress and fuel engagement.”

At the same time, the research found that this is not happening.

“Organizations are not investing sufficiently in hybrid and remote work tools and resources to effectively meet the needs of a rapidly evolving hybrid-first business environment,” said Anurag Agrawal, founder and chief global analyst of Techaisle, in a statement. “The complexities of choice and deployment, economic uncertainties, and the need to quickly adapt to changing conditions present enormous challenges for organizations seeking to modernize and equally enormous opportunities for unified communications providers to support customers in that process.”

Providers need to offer comprehensive customer lifecycle management designed to evolve as their clients’ needs evolve, Agrawal said.

Lack of operational agility, fear of security breaches, and an inability to migrate applications/systems to the cloud are critical barriers to UC modernization across all countries surveyed, according to the report. It also suggested that “the barriers to modernization can be overcome with the right partner.” The report advised that organizations select a “beacon who is both an expert in hybrid work efficiency and can provide solutions that make decisions easier.”

Techaisle said the Mitel-sponsored survey included 1,361 organizations in the U.S., U.K., Australia, France and Germany.

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