After two years of life during a global pandemic, it’s pretty clear that the hybrid workplace is here to stay. According to a Gensler 2020 study, 52% of Americans prefer hybrid work and an additional 19% would prefer to work fully from home. Many have even moved out of the city, invested in home offices, or taken other steps to adjust to more time spent working remotely.

The problem is many infrastructure and tech decisions to support a remote workforce were cobbled together out of haste. According to an Adobe survey, nearly half of respondents said they’re likely to leave their current job due to dissatisfaction with workplace tech. 

And workplaces are responding. On a global scale, enterprises have already committed to raising their IT budgets by 5.5% from 2021 to 2022 — to a total of $4.5 trillion — to tackle the needs of the hybrid workforce. 

However, rolling in more touchpoints isn’t the answer to remote work — in fact, the sheer number of digital workplace apps and systems is leading to information overload, low employee satisfaction and burnout. 

Instead, the answer is unified search.

Burnout & Context Switching: Enemies of Hybrid Productivity

In March 2020, many employers folded new technology into their digital workplaces in an attempt to maintain connections between employees across a suddenly homebound workforce. 

For some hybrid teams, this meant shifting to cloud-based storage systems or new software like Slack or Teams. Other organizations might have avoided adjusting their technology altogether, leaning on existing intranets or knowledge hubs.

Unfortunately, this Band-Aid approach to information and collaboration isn’t much of a long-term solution. According to a 2021 Salesforce study, 38% of remote employees say they waste significant time searching for the information they need to do their job. And based on our own research, that can add up to a whopping 2.5 hours a day! 

The 2021 State of Work: How COVID-19 changed digital work

Just think about it. How many times a day do employees switch back and forth between tabs, browsers, screens, emails, and applications? Combine this with everyday distractions like doorbells, kids, pets, and other interruptions, and you can see why it’s hard to maintain employee engagement, let alone job satisfaction. 

Aside from the emotional drag, context switching also has a tangible effect on our ability to work quickly, accurately, and proficiently; each added touchpoint or activity causes a 20% loss in productivity

So what do you do?

Keep Employees in the Flow of Work

To resolve this issue, scrap any idea of having to overhaul your existing tech stack. You can keep your apps and systems — after all, these are what your employees are already used to. 

Instead, use a relevance platform that unifies these disparate systems, centralizes information, and incorporates artificial intelligence (AI) to effectively streamline your hybrid workplace. 

It sounds like a big undertaking, and it is. To help you strategies what unified search would look like for your company, here are the steps involved to make the transition.

1. Centralize Enterprise Knowledge

You probably have a treasure trove of existing information within your organization, but it doesn’t do any good if your employees can’t find what they need. Most medium and large organizations struggle with data management issues like multiple document versions, lack of naming conventions, storage of documents on personal computers, and disparate methods of file sharing like Dropbox, Google Drive, or WeTransfer. 

Connecting content repositories to a central location using a relevance platform breaks down location-based or department-based silos, making all of that information accessible to employees anywhere, any time. 

Another benefit of unifying enterprise knowledge is the possibility and potential of the Intelligent Swarming℠ framework*. It’s a framework for an extremely integrated form of organization-wide collaboration that crosses teams and departments, allowing employees to search for and find the person most likely to be able to resolve their request or provide the information they need.

The ability to index conversations is critical as hybrid workforces move from collaborating in meeting rooms and over cubicle walls to digital messaging services. Traditional search makes this difficult, however, because of the way conversations are structured — often peppered with short responses, emojis, links, and attachments. One message on its own rarely provides any value.

Unified enterprise search is a great way to foster intelligent swarming because it allows the inclusion of chat messages through the indexing of collaboration tools like Slack or Jira. This presents a whole new type of searchable content where employees can understand the context of more informal discussions and obtain the information they need. 

2. Leveraging AI to Improve Discovery

Once all of your enterprise knowledge is accessible from one place, give employees an information boost with in-session personalization. Because they’re inside apps and systems they use daily, your employees are already authenticated users. They reveal preferences and habits when moving from one piece of information to another. 

By taking into account every action an authenticated user performs on a site, the AI learns what works and what doesn’t in relation to different queries and searchers. The goal is to figure out the user’s intent quickly and guide them to their desired results as smoothly as possible. 

A system that simply spits out a list of all the tickets from the last six months in response to the query “customer issues,” forcing the team member to narrow down hundreds of results, doesn’t provide a positive (or useful) employee experience. But with predictive text, discovery tags, and user clusters, workers could be presented with relevant answers in seconds.

For example, if an employee works in product testing and then types “customer feedback” into a query box, the system already knows they are likely looking for recent error tickets. A sales agent who types in an identical query might be presented with reports from the business development team.

3. Implementing Continual Improvement with Analytics

Employees are constantly adapting, learning, and changing behavior. Smart analysis tools like Coveo Usage Analytics capture and store data about every query, question, and click, providing a roadmap for improvement in line with the needs of your hybrid team. This data also feeds AI algorithms to provide a more intuitive and personalized work experience.

For example, one of the biggest challenges of transitioning to remote and hybrid work has been the loss of the human experience: being able to drop by a coworker’s desk to ask a question, or get a group together to go out for lunch.

Onboarding, in particular, is a sensitive stage of the employee journey that is tougher to accomplish well for a distributed company. A workplace search solution with powerful analytics allows you to learn what your employees need most and incorporate those insights into your onboarding, upskilling, and training strategies. 

You also learn to identify the ‘moments that matter’ for your employees, and can create more human experiences around those.

Build the Connected, Hybrid Workplace of the Future

Ultimately, many enterprises might find that their tech stack needs to be better connected — rather than expanded — to accommodate an increasingly hybrid workforce. 

With a unified approach, you can empower your employees to do their best work, no matter if they’re in the office or at home. You can even bring the search experience directly into their daily apps and systems with a solution like Coveo In-Product Experiences.

After all, even though a workforce is spread across the country or even the world, connectivity is what keeps everyone working toward the same goal. 

Dig Deeper

Now that you know unified search is an option for connecting your workforce, find out how you should evaluate options on the market with our How to Choose the Best Enterprise Search Solution.

*Intelligent Swarming℠ is a service mark of the Consortium for Service Innovation™.

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About Valerie Chong

Valerie Chong is a communicator and digital marketer. She loves making tech more accessible through her words. When not working on an article, you'll find Valerie online keeping an eye on the latest digital tricks and trends and checking in on her favorite influencers.

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