Much has been made over the last year about the death of the traditional office. For technology companies, the future is not so simple. Though purely remote work may have advantages—among them, cost savings and productivity gains for some types of tasks—not all of the work of tech companies can be done from employees’ homes. From hardware and software production to sales presentations, many critical functions still tether workers to physical plants and offices.
But instead of considering remote work as an all-or-nothing proposition, many technology businesses are looking at a more nuanced model: hybrid hub and spoke workplaces. The concept is a hybrid work model built around regional hubs, creating a distributed network of physical office locations to anchor in-person tasks, while also maintaining the flexibility of remote work when possible.
As we examined in a recent in-depth dive into hybrid hub-and-spoke workplaces, there can be quite a few advantages to adopting such a model. But the complexity of connecting the full office network creates risks and challenges that must be addressed in order for the adoption of hybrid hub-and-spoke models to pay off.
Why UCaaS is necessary for hybrid hub and spoke to succeed
During the earliest coronavirus lockdowns, when most non-essential workers had to do their jobs from home, many reported challenges performing tasks that require communication and collaboration with colleagues. According to the Global Work-from-Home Experience Survey, conducted by the Global Workplace Analytics, workers reported a 26% decrease in satisfaction with such tasks when working from home compared to the office.
Hybrid hub-and-spoke has the potential to erode communication satisfaction and efficiency even further because the resulting workplace structures will be even more disjointed than in the days when everyone was forced to work from home.
The need to enable communications for geographically distributed plants and offices and to provision portable tools for work-from-anywhere employees has the potential to result in a patchwork of systems and processes that can make connecting complicated and costly—two enemies of streamlining.
But RingCentral’s cloud-based UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) platform supports the requirements of hybrid hub-and-spoke companies in ways on-premises and standalone solutions simply can’t.
Supporting expanded workplace networks
For organizations looking to build in the flexibility and resiliency of hybrid hub and spoke, the immediate challenge is enabling communications across their new networks. These are growing pains Mobica, a software services firm based in the U.K., had to overcome as it provisioned sites in the U.K., Poland, and the U.S.
“Due to the phenomenal rate at which Mobica has grown, the communications infrastructure at each of its sites tended to be localized, rather than centralized, so we had different communications hardware at each of our locations and lacked integration across the various solutions,” said Tony Healy, Mobica’s Chief Information Officer.
Relying on individual local solutions can slow the process of bringing new locations on board—due to the need to reinvent the wheel with each new provider—and also make hub and spoke more costly. But switching to RingCentral allowed Mobica to sidestep these pitfalls.
“Where we used to have to do the best we could with a variety of different platforms across our sites, with RingCentral, we now have the total package in a single solution,” said Healy. “The benefits we’re already seeing are enormous.”
“First, we’re saving money. RingCentral Office is helping us reduce our ISDN lines and our PSTN numbers, whilst empowering our staff to communicate and be reachable anywhere. And because we’re using RingCentral Meetings, we’ve been able to not only reduce costs but also enhance our video conferencing experience with improved quality and reliability,” Healy said.
“At the same time, Mobica now has enterprise-caliber business phone functionality—automated professional greetings, dial-by-name directory, extensions, advanced routing, etc.—to match our reputation as a global technology innovator.”
For hybrid hub-and-spoke workers, mobility is key
Even after new offices are up and running, an increasingly flexible work model requires employees to have anywhere, anytime access to the tools they need to work.
Consider Cross Company, an industrial solutions provider of automation, robotics, hydraulics, and other needs for aerospace, energy, and other industries. The company has dozens of plants and offices across the U.S. but was previously relying on old on-premises phone systems to connect its locations. This strained employees, preventing effective collaboration and stretching IT staff, who had to support remote locations and workers.
Deploying RingCentral’s all-in-one messaging, video, and phone proved an easy fix. “I’m seeing a lot of our employees on the RingCentral unified app all day long,” said Cross’s IT Support Specialist Nicholas Laws. “They’re using the phone, the video conferencing, and the team messaging to have chats and share files.”
This doesn’t only apply to employees working from one of Cross’s physical offices. “It’s great that our outside reps can take a work call or join an audio conference while they’re away from the office,” says Nicholas. “That’s definitely improving our productivity.”
Flexibility is the differentiator
As we move towards a post-COVID future, there’s no doubt flexibility will be a critical differentiator. And as tech companies build out new workplace networks to support future models, they’ll need to rethink old infrastructure and tools, ensuring that every employee and location is equipped to work together—regardless of where the work occurs.
The need to rethink old systems is twofold: first, organizations must consider how to quickly and effortlessly onboard remote locations, provisioning solutions that bring them into the fold fast. Next, they must ensure these tools will meet the needs of global employees, for whom work is no longer a 9 to 5 office-based job. Office life as we once knew it may never again return; but for tech organizations looking to build out flexible hybrid hub-and-spoke networks, RingCentral provides a solid backbone.