Is empathy the missing link in tech integration for hybrid?

Building the hybrid workplace requires technology integrators to pay more attention than ever to human behaviour. Canada’s ET Group is using the principles of design thinking to make empathy central to the development process.

In a world where technology is always evolving, it’s so easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles, and forget about what actually matters: the user. 

This is a huge problem, especially when it comes to creating hybrid workplaces, because when human behaviour is not taken into account, there will be more problems created rather than solved. 

However, we are able to avoid this problem by using design thinking. And a crucial element of design thinking is empathy. Empathy allows us to focus on the human experience, and really understand the true needs and desires of the user; even some they weren’t aware they had. Through walking in their shoes, we see the problem from as many perspectives as possible.  We are able to identify all of the gaps and explore many different approaches to finding the long-term hybrid workplace solution.

That’s not to say that it’s always an easy process. The idea of a deep discovery phase can be off-putting for some clients. They assume that it’s going to be too time consuming. But that’s actually not the case. By taking the time to listen to an organization’s story, we get to the best solution much faster than if we had simply installed whatever tech is new or trendy. Plus inviting clients to be so involved allows for deeper and more trusting relationships, because they feel truly seen and understood.

Discover more reasons why empathy matters every step of the way when using design thinking, and how it opens the door for more creative and inclusive solutions by reading our latest interview with WORKTECH Academy here.


ET Group
 is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy. This article is the third in a series on the role of design thinking in technology integration for the hybrid workplace. Read the first two articles here and here.


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How can technology and design collaborate on hybrid?

Technology integrators and interior designers need to work closely to create the hybrid workplace, but too often there is a divide. ET Group is using the principles of design thinking to build bridges – is this a blueprint for collaboration?

Where designing hybrid workspaces is concerned, technology is to design as music is to dancing. You can’t have one without the other. Sure, you can separate them, but paired together they’re just so much better. 

Include technology early in the design process

In order to create successful hybrid strategies, companies need to think about space and technology collaboratively, not as separate design phases with different desired outcomes. Too often, organizations are leaving technology decisions to be made at the end of the design process, and they are missing out on opportunities to optimize these choices to suit all of their employees’ needs. By taking a human-centered approach, Design Thinking creates the right foundation for the ultimate partnership between interior designers and technology integrators.

Lead as co-experts

This is why it’s important to think of designers and technology integrators as co-experts, and give them the opportunities to collaborate with each other as early as possible. Design Thinking allows for a process that allows both parties to collaborate and build on each others different areas of expertise where best suited, in order to co-create the ideal hybrid workspace for the client. As our CEO Dirk Propfe explained to WORKTECH Academy, “We need to jump into each other’s swim lanes to learn together”.

5 key principles to a succesful relationship

At ET Group there are 5 big things we often think about when working with designers in order to guarantee a successful outcome: 

1. Define what success looks like.
2. Agree on the process.
3. Focus on experience, not just appearance.
4. Prototype together early and often.
5. Keep it simple.

You can read about these 5 big things in more detail, as well as the rest of our interview with WORKTECH Academy here, and understand why we believe Design Thinking will help achieve better collaboration between design and technology.

ET Group is a Corporate Member of WORKTECH Academy. This article is the second in a series on the role of design thinking in technology integration for the hybrid workplace. Read the first article here.


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Can design thinking unlock technology integration for hybrid?

When it comes to the topic of moving to a hybrid workplace, it’s clear that the key to making it happen is through technology. One of the biggest challenges companies experience today is how to integrate technology successfully into their current systems and processes. Is design thinking the answer?

As companies look to quickly adopt new solutions to enable their hybrid workforce, organizations are struggling to find harmony between the technology tools themselves and the people driving the organization forward. Without a people-centric perspective, companies lack the right balance that is needed to find success to the hybrid workplace.

Could it be that a new approach is required to unlock technology integration in the hybrid workplace?

For the last several years we have been pioneering an approach known as Design Thinking with our global clients and experiencing huge success. Design Thinking is a human-centric approach that seeks to put people at the center of the solution they are creating for and develop solutions with the user in mind. Design thinking really hones in on the process of discovering and defining every aspect of your business, and looking at it all from every possible perspective. We want to know who your people are, what they do, and why they do it.

We sat down with WORKTECH Academy and explained our approach on the principles of Design Thinking and why it helps integrate technology successfully in the hybrid workplace. 

Check out our full interview with WORKTECH Academy to learn all about Design Thinking, and how it can help bring your technology to the next level.


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ET Group was recognized for transforming our ways of working. Here’s how we did it.

Everyone wants to work at a place where they feel valued. Where you have the freedom and power to make real change. Where you feel like you have a voice and a purpose. At ET Group, these are only a few of the reasons why our employees love coming to work everyday, and are the driving force behind one of our greatest achievements.

By Ciara Williams, ET Group

In December, 2021, ET Group President and CEO Dirk Propfe traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Inaugural Tony Hsieh Award gathering, and accepted the Tony Hsieh Award on behalf of our organization. The award, presented by the Greenlight Giving Foundation & Keith Ferrazzi, honors the life of the late Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh and the ways that he continues to inspire organizations to be innovative, authentic, and create better ways of fostering connection. Tony believed that there was always room for improvement and that above all else, people come first.

For ET Group, it is an extreme honor to receive this award, and to be seen for all of the hard work and dedication that was put into transforming our ways of working to be more empowering, inclusive and ultimately life-giving. 

While accepting the award, Dirk gave an emotional and eye-opening talk about all of the ways ET Group stands out, and why our way of working is not only different, but essential to our success. 

You can watch his talk here:

Dirk begins by telling a personal story about the two life changing experiences that inspired him to transform ET Group into what it is today.

A stark awakening in the Galapagos Islands

The first experience details his time visiting the Galapagos Islands, where he witnessed a lot of awe and beauty, being surrounded by so much life. But there was also a lot of ugliness. At the time, he was developing a deep interest in topics such as sustainability and climate change, and while in the Galapagos Islands, he couldn’t help but notice the litter and environmental abuse that could only have been caused by us as human beings. 

He became painfully aware that the world is all interconnected, and that we need to pay attention to how we as a species are affecting the broader ecosystem that others call home, too.

However, rather than letting the ugliness bring him down, he chose to find inspiration in its place. Instead of wallowing in despair at the destruction of this beautiful ecosystem, he asked himself  “how can I best contribute to creating a more life-giving world?”

This one question led him down a path of introspection and discovery. and he found himself soon embarking on another adventure: Sweden

Schooled in sustainability

Dirk enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability at the Blekinge Tekniska Högskola school in Sweden, with the intention of discovering how to create more viable ways of working and living. While attending this program, he was able to learn and unlearn many things about himself and others as human beings. He cherishes the opportunities he had to learn about and experience different ways of being and working that “truly energized and amazed [him].” 

For example, while visiting a company in London during his thesis research, instead of simply observing them like he had planned, he was warmly invited to participate and collaborate in a strategy session. He felt seen and heard, like his voice mattered. He truly valued the opportunity to learn something that was never taught in business school, or any other organization that he had been to before, which is that:

 “We can all come together, co-create and be part owners of what we’re going to bring out in the world.”

This was the feeling that he held onto when he returned to ET Group and began laying the foundation to create what is now a life-giving environment that our team thrives in.

Dirk Propfe Sweden Program
Source: ET Group/Dirk Propfe

But what was the reason?

In 2016, Dirk saw ET Group as what could only be called a toxic workplace. We were your typical corporation that harvested an unhealthy and unsustainable working environment. There was in-fighting, debt and extreme egos everywhere. Decisions were made in a hierarchical fashion and for many of our employees, working at ET Group was just a job. A job that was losing people rapidly. 

Dirk knew things had to change fundamentally, or else see ET Group disappear. 

When he came back to work, he was ready to make those changes. And it started with asking one very important question: 

“How can we create a more life-giving organization?”

After getting to experience a taste of what a life-giving organization could be, Dirk proposed a major shift in the ways that ET Group operated. In order to create a more healthy and innovative environment, he introduced new company structures inspired by his studies of Teal Organizations and Holacracy. ET Group implemented a self-organized approach to team management, self-set salaries and a promise to create safe spaces for everyone

This means that everyone on our team is self-managed, as well as credited and compensated for their hard work, not just the leadership roles.

Because there are no “leadership roles”. That was made very clear by Dirk, who, even though he has the title of CEO, made sure that this fundamental shift in the company was supported by everyone, using what became ET Group’s Generative Decision-Making Process

ET Group Workshop Session
Source: ET Group

These examples are only a small snippet of the long list of key practices that ET Group has committed to, in order to keep ourselves in line with our human-centric way of life. You can find the rest of our organization’s cultural practices, toolkits and values in our handbook.

ET Group developed 3 fundamental practices to create a more life giving organization: self-organizing around purpose, self-set salaries and distributed ownership and safe space practices.

1. Self-organizing around purpose

Dirk’s first move was to get rid of the traditional hierarchy model. Having owners, managers, or “senior” staff creates inequality, making people feel like their opinions don’t matter. 

Now at ET Group, we have self-organizing and self-managing teams (or circles). Our teams are created and organized around how they each contribute to ET Group’s overall purpose: to bring Harmony to Work and Workplace with Technology. In line with Holacracy, each team makes our own decisions regarding how we are best able to meet this purpose, without having to wait for C-Suite approval. Every team member has equal say in what goes, and has equal opportunity to share ideas or concerns.

This freedom allows us to spend less time competing with each other, so we can be more productive and collaborative while ensuring that our clients are getting everything they need and more, because that’s why we’re here.

ET Group Self-Managed Team
Source: ETG Way Handbook

2. Self-set salaries and distributed ownership

One of the most unique aspects of working at ET Group is our self-set salaries and distributed ownership.  In the past, ET Group was owned and governed by only 3 individuals. Today, the company is owned by 70% of our team members. 

But owner or not, who is anyone else but you to say how much you and your contributions are worth? When compensation is directly tied to the value and contributions an individual makes to an organization, you begin to see a drastic evolution in the responsibility and ownership that they feel towards the company. As Dirk says, “you have agency for your own life, and we respect that.” This is why we have implemented self-set salaries to encourage personal growth among our employees and let them know that we do see that value in them. 

We take pride in the things that we own, and there is an abundance of pride at ET Group; in ourselves as individuals, in each other and in our work. 

3. Creating safe spaces for everyone

At ET Group, we don’t hire roles, we hire people.

For this reason, we encourage our team members to bring their whole selves to work, not just their work selves. We don’t believe in hanging up your uniform (metaphorically or otherwise) at the end of the day. When you leave behind parts of who you are under the guise of “professionalism”, you leave behind creative ideas, lack energy and miss out on opportunities to make real connections, which is already challenging in an increasingly hybrid world. 

We recognize that everyone is unique, and it’s because of all of the different personalities, perspectives and talents within our team that we are able to thrive at what we do. Sometimes that means that some of our people hold more than one role, because we don’t believe in restricting ourselves.

DIrk Propfe, Tony Hsieh Award
Source: smugmug.com

When we say that our people are our greatest asset, we mean it. Which means taking care of each other. For example, our human-centered way of life means checking in with each other – really checking in with each other ­– at the beginning and end of every meeting. If someone is having an off day, we want to know so we can empathize and proceed accordingly. We don’t move on until everyone gets to say how they feel, or what they need. 

Our Team Connects allow everyone to take part in companywide decisions, and anyone can bring anything to the table. No secrets or hidden agendas.

Too good to be true?

It probably sounds that way, but it really works! Our Employee Net Promoter Score is always over 50 points, and our retention rate is 95%. At ET Group, our team members want to work, so it makes sense that today, our profitability is 2.5x the industry standard, allowing us to have 4x the growth we had in 2016. 

The results speak for themselves. As Dirk says: 

“This story we’ve been telling ourselves on what it means to be human wants to be retold; life is not about how I can succeed or be better than others. It is about seeing and appreciating each other as wonderful beings with different gifts, talents, and dreams. It is about being in service of each other, and life itself to create beautiful things together. As a collective, it is imperative we shift the narrative and realize what makes us truly happy and fulfilled is to be in service of each other and the planet as a whole.” 

There is always more to the story

Becoming who we are today was a necessary and conscious change, and not an easy one at that. It required – and still requires – being always open to trying new things. Sometimes those things fail, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve failed, it just means that we’ve learned, and only become better for it.

“Every day, we put conscious effort into challenging ourselves to make systematic, consistent change. That requires effort every day. Every day requires navigation towards what you feel is the right thing to do, versus our cultural autopilot. It requires steeping yourself in the practice of evolution.”

All of this is just a sneak peak of what it’s  like to work at ET Group. To hear the full story, check out Dirk’s full speech for more details about why we love our organization!

We also encourage you to visit our ETG Way Handbook and learn about more of ET Group’s innovative and forward-thinking practices.

And before you go, ask yourself:

How can YOU create more life-giving ways of working?


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ET Group is Pexip’s Most Agile Partner of the Year

Pexip, a leading provider of flexible and scalable video conferencing solutions, named ET Group as the “Most Agile Partner of the Year” at the Pexip 2021 Americas Partner Leadership Summit.

“ET Group has earned the award for Pexip’s Most Agile Partner of the Year. They have shown Pexip their ongoing commitment to being quick, flexible, and agile when it comes to getting the customer exactly what they need.”

The winners of this year’s 2021 Pexip Partner awards fell into one of the following categories:

  • Highest Retention Rate Partner
  • Agile Partner of the Year
  • Social Media Partner of the Year
  • Engineering Partner of the Year
  • Partner of the Year – Federal
  • Partner of the Year – Healthcare
  • Partner of the Year – Commercial
  • Partner of the Year – LATAM

Pexip simplifies complex video conferencing to empower organizations to meet, regardless of location or technology. Our scalable, cloud-based platform helps companies integrate traditional video systems, Microsoft, Cisco, and Google collaboration solutions, and business-grade video meeting and calling solutions that work with any device. Customers can deploy Pexip on their own privately-hosted servers, in their cloud of choice (Azure, Google Cloud or AWS), as a hybrid, or as a service. This makes Pexip the leading provider for large enterprises and public sector organizations.

About ET Group

Enterprise organizations are moving to a hybrid workplace model that support teams both in-the office and at the home. ET Group is helping those organizations to build next-generation hybrid collaboration infrastructure that integrates their cloud and on-premises technology seamlessly. For more information about ET Group, please visit etgroup.ca/hybridx

Finding and Onboarding Talent in a Hybrid World

Helping you attract and on-board new team members while working remotely.

By T. Smitten

It is safe to say we’ve all just had a year of unprecedented change. The who, what, why and where we work has changed for so many of us across the globe. The changes we’ve seen, moving away from the traditional workplace also translate to changes in the hiring and onboarding processes

The nature of workplace roles, expectations and responsibilities has changed for both employers and their team members. Employers and staff are finding an increased need for agility, understanding, flexibility and adaptability from each other. The location of the office has moved into virtual home-based spaces or hybrid work environments.

Companies today may also select candidates who are more tech savvy and self-starters over another candidate that they may have traditionally chosen for a role. This is simply based on the fact the individual will be working in a virtual work environment.

Every business, organization, recruiter, and job seeker has had to find new and creative new ways of connecting “in-person”. ET Group’s HR Generalist Mark Bystrek is all too familiar with this new world. Luckily, he and the ET Group team have had nearly a decade of practice interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and fostering the growth of new team members remotely. Mark recommends that every Human Resources professional should be aware of the creative tools and technology solutions available to them for recruitment, interviewing, assessment, and on-boarding

Finding the Right Talent

When searching for the right team member ET Group has relied on the instinct of the company CEO and talent attractor Dirk Propfe.  “Dirk has done a great job going with different sources, like using head-hunters, referrals from people like from employees and using like minded organizations that can attract talent,” says Mark. But when it comes to finding talent, somethings have stayed the same. Using a talent recruitment agency, a head-hunter, or posting a job on your company or a job posting website still works today. Even colleague referrals can still get talent connected to the right role.

Linkedin is a powerful tool to find and attract individuals to join your team. Promoting your virtual culture on this platform is a great strategy to attract top talent that want a company that thrives in a flexible environment.

Interviewing Remote Candidates

Hiring can seem tricky when meeting in-person is not an option. Like many organizations, ET Group uses video conference platforms to hold “in-person” interviews. The interviews are conducted with various team members across the organization. Online interviews make scheduling easier for both the hiring committee and the potential candidate. ET Group also offers candidates the opportunity to partake in online personality assessments to help identify their strengths and, compatibility for the role. The candidates are invited to share their personality assessments and skills tests with the hiring team. Offering online self assessment tools allows both the individual and the organization to gain further insight into an individual’s spirit and suitability for a role. Both you and the candidate will learn more about each other.

How to Onboard New Talent

ET Group not only has a method for hiring remotely but the team has found creative ways to foster new talent outside of the traditional training methods. Once hired, Mark has a four-step approach to onboarding and fostering the growth of a new hire. Mark says:

1. Invite them into the “office” 

Traditionally new hires would be invited to the office to pick up equipment, take a tour of the office and meet a few team members in person. In the ET Group virtual office, new team members are mailed their equipment, they are provided a virtual tour of the physical office space and are introduced to the company via a WebEx channel post. The post allows for team members company wide to welcome and engage the new hire in discussion.

2. Provide them with a Onboarding Buddy

Mark will provide new hires with an onboarding buddy for the first three months of work. The onboarding buddy is assigned to help provide context, set expectations, and give a deeper understanding of the role. The onboarding buddy can also help foster working relationships between colleagues, helping to integrate new talent into the organization.

3. Prioritize Video Meetings

Mark will arrange a series of brief one-to-one video conference intro sessions so new hires can become acquainted with the larger team. Mark creates a schedule of videoconference meetings for the new team member to meet with various roles within the company. This also helps to build relationships between team members and reinforces the understanding of business operations.

4. Provide a Digital Handbook

We provide an online resource that team members can easily reference our processes, practices, and approaches. For a self-managed company like ET Group, this portal is critical to help employees understand the different ways in which we work. Continuous referencing guides employees throughout their on-boarding journey. Employees looking to practice or brush up on our decentralized decision making process can use this quick reference guide to help.

The Right Technology Makes a Difference

Technology and more specifically HR Tech (Human Resources Technology) is a growing industry of software and equipment that will help automate some human resources functions. Some of the useful tools  include employee payroll programs, workforce analytics and performance management software. But even without the latest trends in HR Tech, Technology has provided us with ability to connect and collaborate in various ways,  via phone, messenger, video conference, screen sharing and recordings. Virtual hiring and onboarding can be made easy with the right technology tools and a clear outlined approach.

ET Group can equip your company with the technology tools and experience needed to support the attraction and on-boarding of virtual employees. Reach out to us today and we will set-up a complimentary conversation to get you started!

Building a Virtual Culture in 2021

How do you maintain and build a strong virtual culture in a pandemic?

By T. Smitten

Creating a Culture That Thrives

Over the last year a vast majority of organizations have transitioned to some form of a hybrid workspace, where team members have the flexibility to work remotely for most, if not all of the time.

Mark Bystrek is the head of ET Group’s People Development. He works to maintain an enriched company culture of human connection, co-creation and collaboration while using virtual technology. Through our expertise in virtual technology, ET Group has built an effective hybrid work environment and developed a company culture that thrives in it.

The Importance of Company Culture

Mark admits maintaining company culture isn’t easy, but he highlights the importance of it , “It’s going to be a challenge for all organizations, how do you connect and keep that team spirit together? Remotely? It’s something we can never let go of.  We always have to keep that in paramount, no matter how busy we are. “

Mark and the ET Group leadership team have worked to find the right balance of technology, and collaboration to create a well-connected agile work environment for team members within virtual space. But how did ET Group do this?

Mark has has found the keys to successfully maintaining company culture are:

  • Definition
  • Sharing Your Culture
  • Open Communication

Define Your Team Culture

At ET Group Mark and the leadership team have outlined the ET Group way, this is a document that is posted with the details of the company’s values, code of conduct and best practices. You want to make sure your company values are clearly outlined and easily accessible.

Share Your Team Culture

Post, post, post! Mark post videos, links, and announcements in the company’s web messenger channels for all staff to easily access. You want to make sure you are continuously sharing items the highlight, support and outline your company culture.

Open Communication is the Foundation

Communication is the foundation of a successful virtual team. Company culture should encourage communication and welcome feedback. ET Group has found using web messenger channels for announcements, surveys and to share info has been an effective for team members to share their ideas, reactions, and responses easily and openly. You want to create and allow for dialogue around your company culture posts and messages.

Ideas for Staying Connected

Communicating workplace culture in a virtual environment can seem a daunting task but it can be done using the technology we have today. It can take a little strategizing and some tech savvy but once that work is done, organizations can easily maintain organizational culture and real human connection amongst their members. Mark often will use WebEx (A web conference and message application) to share company updates. ET Group schedules company wide video conference meetings for all to attend. As part of the company culture the team is encouraged to use “video first” to hold  “face to face” conversations to help maintain connection.  

Mark is continually finding ways to develop virtual teams. He’s found the company to be far ahead of other companies working virtually in 2020 citing the various creative ways they have brought the team together. “We did weekly townhall meetings, we have a water cooler chat, – we were far ahead of a lot of organizations as such and that was keeping us connected.”

Mark also schedules virtual Team building events for the team such as:

  • Virtual Team Lunches
  • Virtual Escape Rooms/ Games Nights
  • Virtual Company Townhalls / Team Connect Meetings
  • Company Message Boards/ Communications Channels

Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.

Mental Health Matters to Your Business

It’s important that we pay extra attention to mental health issues in our companies in 2021.

By T. Smitten

It’s 2021 and you’re settling into your “new normal” or so you thought. But things keep changing and you’re finding this pandemic requires more than simply meeting recommended protocols.

Now you’re thinking about mental health. The call for social distancing, increased workplace safety requirements and various lockdown measures have employers delving into new territory. And while employers are adjusting their business models, the individuals that make up their organizations are still adjusting also. Employers have quickly become educated on PPE, consumed with space measurements and many were compelled to transition their work environment to a virtual workspace.

Although employers are addressing the physical challenges of the pandemic to meet an increased responsibility for the physical health of their teams, studies show employers can and should help to maintain the mental health of their staff. This idea may beg the question:

How can employers, organizations, and leaders help with mental health matters at work?

Life has Completely Changed at Work

The global pandemic has changed and unified the experiences of people worldwide including how we work. With many working remotely, the workplace has now come into the home. The lifestyle of the everyday staffer and their workplace dynamics has changed. In today’s workplace an employer is closer to home than ever before.

At ET Group, HR Generalist Mark Bystrek is working on creative solutions for the Workplace Health & Safety challenges posed by the global pandemic. ET Group has operated successfully for 44 years and spent nearly the last decade working in a hybrid workspace. The company’s transition into a fully virtual work environment to  protect the health of their employees was seamless.  As a company that focuses on a human centric workplace and putting people first, ET Group is aware that additional health and safety considerations such as the mental health of the team are as equally important to the overall health of the organization and business operations. 

Mark views mental health awareness and support resources as part of leadership in any strong organization. He notes that organizations can play a role in offering help.  “An additional responsibility is dealing with people’s mental health. we all crave, being back to normal we’re all going through a change now, societal change, and it’s also workplace change. So that’s caused a lot of stress on a lot of people mentally. It takes a toll. So, it about being there to help.”

Critical to Foster a Company Culture that:

  • Provides a safe environment where employees can discuss mental wellness in confidence without stigma
  • Encourage a work/life balance (Even more during difficult times)
  • Communicating Health & Wellness
  • Offer Support to team members

Exceed Workplace Health & Safety Standards

You run an exceptional business with exceptional staff? Continue to be exceptional. Ensure you have not only met but exceeded all the workplace healthy and safety requirements for your business. A study conducted by Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers; sites poor workplace precautions take more of a toll on the mental health of staff than job loss. The study found workers with inadequate safety measures in place reported increased numbers of anxiety and depression. People want to feel safe at work and also want their employers to want their safety too.

As a leader in ET Group’s Health & Safety program, Mark has noted “Part of it is very much dealing with the safety of employees and when it comes to the health and safety it’s also under the HR side of it. Making sure that people are working safe. That is very much at the forefront of having a great work environment so that if people come into the work and want to work here in the office, that they feel comfortable to be able to do so. “ Some of the steps ET Group has taken to exceed workplace health & safety standards are:

  • Daily Health Questionnaire for those who will be in the office
  • Mandatory Masks in the office
  • Enhanced Office Clearance – prebooking or scheduling time in the office
  • A robust COIVD – 19 protocol when an employee is suspected or has tested positive
  • Signage and markings to ensure that everyone maintains social distancing
  • Skeleton staff – Only essential employees working in the office.

Keep Your Teams Talking

Since the start of the pandemic Canadians have reported an increase in mental health issues. Two in Five Canadians say they have had a mental health decrease in the last year according to a study commissioned by CTV news. With working from home becoming more common, employers now have a unique opportunity to connect with their teams in a more personable way. Communication is key to not only maintain company culture but to syncing up and checking in with the people in your organization.

Mark’s created a Covid Communication channel within a web messenger where he communicates with the entire team.  “ We provide a daily COVID updates bases on the PHAC and Government of Ontario Website, COVID-19 news highlights from various media sources and provide updates when there are any status changes by any government agencies” says Mark. To help with morale Mark also posts uplifting current events.

Create an Open Door for Mental Health Resources

Encouraging your team to make use of the health resources associated with their benefits is step in the right direction. Offering an open-door policy even if virtual will help create a safe space for those struggling with a mental health matter. Offer additional help if it is not offered in the company’s benefit  package.  According to CAMH ( Centre for Addiction and Mental Health)  Canadians that struggle with Mental Health during the pandemic are experiencing a normal reaction to a global social, economic and major health crisis. It is to be expected. CAMH has found health resources and support can help those who struggle with mental health in these times find ways to cope. As ET Group is a company based out of  Ontario Mark also recommends:

  • Offering resources to help support employees
  • Employee assistance plan
  • Job protected unpaid leave of absence
  • Long Term Disability

Our goal is to ensure that our workplace is as safe as possible for all our employees” says Mark, and that includes mental health.  When it comes to mental health and your organization just remember, we are all in this together and your organization will thrive when your members do.

Please see our company handbook where we share open information about how our company works together. This includes unique approaches, processes, and practices such as self-set salaries and decentralized decision making.

ARTICLE: The Workplace is Going Hybrid

Exploring the new reality of a hybrid workplace. One which allows the flexibility of employees working between home, office, and remote locations.

By T. Smitten

When asked how he would describe 2020, David Kerr, ET Group’s Unified Communications and Collaboration Specialist replies “exceptional and unprecedented.”

On any given workday in 2019, David would be designing and implementing Unified Communications solutions for a variety of large Canadian organizations. Fast forward to present day and his workday remains fairly unchanged. While most organizations found the requirements of social distancing a major challenge to their continued daily operations, ET Group did not. In his five years with the company, David has been a part of the ET Group team that works on designing, integrating, and optimizing clients unified communications and collaboration environments. The kind of hybrid environments that allow working from anywhere, whether at home, in the office, or completely remote.

Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.

Hybrid is the Future Workspace

Organizations have mobilized work from home infrastructure and policies that have forever shaped the way we approach work. Now that the dust has begun to settle, they are collectively looking to the future once again. As companies explore shifting their workers back to the office. They are also envisioning what a flexible workplace might mean to their long-term workplace strategies.

  • How will our workplace strategies and technology strategies need to change?
  • How will our office evolve to integrate and include the remote workers?
  • What technologies will support flexible working between the office, home, and remote locations?
  • How will we enable our people to convene for group work?

David is part of the HybridX innovation team at ET Group. He has witnessed and assisted in the architecture of workplace communications firsthand. He is proud to share that, “We’re not afraid of doing remote work and using remote technologies. We’ve been demonstrating it for years. It works, I mean, we’re thriving.”

Workplace and Tech Strategies are Changing

Having worked with many clients to implement their technology strategies to transition to an integrated modern-day workspace. David reflects on the success in leading others to their ideal connected and collaborative work environment, both physically and virtually. “We’re (ET Group) currently experiencing what we’ve been already living for the past few years. Covid has forced us (society) to put it into place now to some degree. By living it, it gives us great advantages in terms of being able to share the experience with others and see what the potential could be.”

“73% of employees want their company to embrace flexibility (working both remotely and in office) post COVID-19.”

Mckinsey Report – June 2020

David has noted the required changes that companies have begun making to their workplace strategies:

  • Increased prioritization of workplace technology within business. Organizations need to have a technology strategy that can evolve for the future.
  • Intuitive tools; Organizations should be able to define their desired user experience with the technology they are choosing.
  • Reliable and user-friendly video communications. Organizations are now in a video first culture that requires high quality audio and visual performance along with an easy to use platform.
Stay Home Stay Safe – Remote Working in 2020

Prioritizing Flexible, Collaborative Technology

David has also witnessed some setbacks for companies who did not prioritize flexible and collaborative technology tools within their operations. He remarks at the number of companies who were unprepared to work remotely this year. “It was really quite surprising to me but it’s not all that uncommon. It seems that some companies are still kind of slow to change and Covid has really exposed that.”

David listed some fundamentals items every organization will need for a hybrid workspace:

  • Laptops – Companies should ensure their teams have laptops for mobility vs. desktops. HD built in cameras are critical.
  • Webcams – Companies should ensure team members have working high resolution video tools for home offies.
  • Secure Communications – Companies should invest in secure software and platforms to maintain privacy.
  • Remote work connections like a VPN – Companies should invest in a virtual private network.
  • Headsets or Audio Boxes – Quality sound and audio for meetings. Forget the basic headphones.
  • Data Sovereignty   -Companies should be familiar with the location of their servers and data and be aware of any privacy laws relating to the storage of their information.

Challenges of a Going to a Hybrid Workplace

As part of ET Group’s HybridX innovation team, David works on identifying and resolving the human challenges of collaboration, communication, and connection using technology.  “There were a lot of users that weren’t ready for this. From the standpoint of some users – technology kind of makes them afraid.” Increasing team adoption, training, and comfort levels with technology is critical to overall success when transitioning to working flexible between the office and at home.

When implementing new technology into a hybrid environment, David notes some things to consider are:

  • Get feedback from your team on their desired user experience and ease of use. What do they need from the technology to get their work done?
  • Ensure you fully understand what the technology will allow you to do and not do. Research your options and assess reliability.
  • Find a good consultant to work with your leadership team and determine the technology roadmap that works for your business. ET Group offers a human-centric approach to visioning, strategizing, designing, implementing, and evolving your technology roadmap as part of our HybridX offering.

David offers his take on additional challenges he has seen this year, “What I think is happening is a couple of things, one, sometimes whoever is making the decision makes it a challenge. It could be making the decision on the technology platform that we should move forward with, but there was really no consultation with the users in terms of what we really need. Which can definitely be a challenge and wreck user adoption or hinder user adoption. The other element is personal bias at times that gets in the way. So, it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m a Microsoft guy’ and that’s all I want to deal with’. I don’t really care about whatever else is out there, even if there are better tools. Other challenges are a lack of information around what technology you need to work better, which is what we’ve been trying to do at ET Group, share that info. “

Preparing your Company for the Transition

David shares valuable words of wisdom when it comes to integrating new technology into your business. “Organizations must lose the fear of failure”. This can cripple the ability to discover new things. He recommends keeping an open mind when it comes to trying new technology and stresses the need to consider your users when implementing new technology.

“I had the opportunity to work with my church, for example. There’s a lot of users there that just aren’t into this remote working space at all,” says David. “A proper understanding of the users (i.e. accessibility requirements, sights impaired vs hearing impaired, etc.) is crucial to seamless user adoption within an organization.”

Many businesses are still unprepared to implement work from home programs although we are at a time in history when technology makes it more possible than ever. With companies starting to reintroduce their teams back into the physical workspace amidst and post-pandemic, they are experiencing unique operational challenges within their industries. “ET Group is really taking the time to hone in on what we have not only experienced but kind of referring back to what we’ve heard from our customers.”

Work isn’t About Where, it’s About What

HybridX (Hybrid Workplace Experience) makes it possible and beneficial to every team, organization or business that thrives on communicating, collaborating, and connecting anywhere in the world.

Work is no longer about where you do it, it’s about what you do and how it gets done.

ET Group has invested years into studying and fine tuning the design for the workplace of the future. ET Group’s strategies for collaborative work environments have kept people together even when apart. “What HybridX is really saying is there’s a new work experience, we want to hone in on what that experience is for you and what makes the best sense,” says David.

ET Group takes a strategic approach to designing innovative hybrid workspaces solutions. By applying human-centric design processes, we create seamless and powerful connections between the office, the home, and the remote worker.

Transitioning your organization to a hybrid work environment can seem overwhelming and costly. With the right tools and design process, your organization can experience a new level of communication, collaboration and connection while increasing your ROI (Return on investment) in the long term.

BLOG: How to Maximize Your Virtual Collaboration Experience

If your team is looking for new ways to supercharge your virtual collaboration experience, here are some key insights to maximize their potential.

By T. Smitten

Article based on the Supercharging Your Virtual Collaboration Experience webinar. Download the webinar.

In these unprecedented time, organizations are working to identify and resolve challenges in remote working environments. We spoke to our partners and found they are facing challenges beyond selecting technology tools.  Organizations are now faced with improving communication and productivity in the virtual workspace for team members and clients alike. The question is, how do we work together remotely in a way that is enhances our experience?

4 years working as a distributed team

At ET Group we have spent the last four years working as a distributed team. We have faced various challenges and uncovered some creative solutions. We have built successful remote workspaces for our team and clients all over the world.

We’ve identified and experienced so many different work styles and tools that contribute to productivity. We have found success by focusing on a more collaborative workspace. Maintaining connection, enhancing teamwork and preserving organisational culture in our hybrid workspace environments.

Now more then ever organizations are realizing this present-day global issue is an invitation to try new things and innovate as they go. We have found that yes, technology can be uncomfortable. Yes, teams are finding themselves in a new territory but fear not. Success can be achieved! Organizations need to properly assess their remote working challenges and hold open discussions within their organizations to find ideal solutions.

Here are some quick tips for supercharging your virtual team collaboration:

1. Be Kind and be Bold!

Start your virtual collaboration sessions with an attitude of “learning as you go”. Try new things and find what works for you. Don’t be afraid to try multiple collaboration tools and technologies to find the right mix.

2. Re-Discover Your People

Encourage open communication and idea sharing between your team members. Find the hidden talents within your team. This will help maintain connection and jump start innovations for your organization.

3. Leverage Hidden Strengths

Leverage the strengths of your team and show appreciation for individual talents. In this new era, you will find “hidden” strengths and technical “know how” within your team that will help enhance your virtual collaboration. You never know who will have experienced working with Zoom, WebEx or Nureva tools that you had not called on before.  

4.  Be Agile

Take incremental steps, take quick wins, repeat the good and do not hold onto “norms”. Create new ones!

Supercharging your virtual collaboration will not only present key challenges but it will give your organization opportunities. Need help with assessing and implementing your collaboration tools? Our team is always here to help! Contact us for more details on how to better your remote work environment.