You wake up, get dressed, grab coffee, shuffle to your workspace and fire up your laptop to start the workday. You spend eight-plus hours connecting with colleagues and customers all over the country — maybe even the world — via video chats, phone calls and emails. You smile at cameos from barking dogs and needy kids.

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Sound familiar? For the tens of millions of Americans who have been working from home full- or part-time since March 2020, this is our normal. We’ve adjusted to the ways of working and the technology. We’re comforted by the fact that the majority of our teammates are also settled into a home office, navigating the same challenges. But a “next” normal is on the horizon: hybrid work models.

As areas continue to lift restrictions following the pandemic, businesses are evaluating longer-term strategies to support the new future of work, and many find themselves gravitating toward both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, remote work has boosted productivity and granted flexibility for working parents and caregivers. On the other hand, some have argued that the lack of face-to-face collaboration has stifled workplace relationship building and brainstorming the next big idea.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that flexibility will remain key for many day-to-day employees across all industries (and many employees demand it). Perhaps that’s why some tech leaders outlined new hybrid workplace plans, touting employee needs as well as an opportunity to tap into broader talent pools. And many companies, big and small, are following suit.

Hybrid models are great for employees, but what about employers? After adjusting to the current remote environment, how do companies maintain productivity and efficiency? It all comes down to the right tech and integrated solutions to allow for success. For office technology dealers, this new chapter presents a ripe opportunity to strengthen customer relationships by directing businesses to great solutions that best meet their needs for a seamless hybrid work environment.

Below are solutions that some companies have adopted over the past year to help meet the needs of employees as they adjust to the new working norm.

Workflow management tools for dispersed teams

In a recent report by Zoom, 65% of surveyed U.S. companies said they were considering a flexible remote working model. After over a year of remote work, most companies have managed to implement a workflow setup that accommodates people working from a variety of locations. But what happens when some employees are in the office logged into the network, and other people are working from home? What does collaboration and content management look like?

As the implementation of reliable, efficient office technology becomes even more important as organizations transition to increased presence in physical office locations, organizations need solutions that can support employees’ print and scan needs as they return to the office, as well as solutions that can bridge the gap between “home” and “office” so that no one is left behind in a hybrid work setting. Office technology providers can also point organizations to centralized tools that enable and encourage remote productivity.

Bundled services to help drive efficiencies for dealers and end-users

One major benefit of a year of remote work has been cost savings for employers on physical overhead. Businesses will only want to continue to save costs — especially on smaller, recurring essential items. According to a recent Verizon survey, nearly three-quarters of businesses said they would need support from partners to offer new products and services to adapt to changing consumer needs as a result of the pandemic.

Bundled services often offer value and cost savings to businesses of various sizes, but especially to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Subscription models aim to create a predictable monthly printing cost, designed to limit guesswork or budget fluctuations. And in a hybrid work setup, they can also provide teams with the tools they need regardless of physical location. Lastly, bundles that include OEM or dealer support as a “product” can help to reduce the burden on IT resources, which may be limited for a smaller organization.

For dealers, technology bundles can be an enticing offering for a number of reasons. First, they offer an efficient sales process. Rather than having customers choose from a wide variety of items and services, dealers can allow customers to choose between a few different bundled packages. This is much more convenient for both parties, as it can help save a great deal of time and relieve pressure on customers to make a decision. Second, bundling products can help customers understand the products better. They are able to review each product or set of products, weigh the benefits and features of each, and ultimately choose what makes the most sense for their business. When customers direct their own shopping experience, it can boost the likelihood of a sale and a return visit for future needs — a win-win for all.

Enhanced cloud services for great connection and security features

Many people have joked about wishing they had the foresight to invest in certain technology platforms, like video conferencing, ahead of the pandemic, but video conferencing is not the only technology that boomed over the past year. Cloud services have exploded: a recent report noted 90% of IT decision-makers said that their cloud usage exceeded projections following COVID-19. Of course, this isn’t surprising as the cloud’s space, time and organization benefits were invaluable to organizations in a year of disparate work forces.

Many businesses are now using more than one cloud provider to bridge between platforms. Specifically, Flexera’s 2021 State of the Cloud Report found 92% of enterprises reported having a multi-cloud strategy, and 82% are taking a hybrid approach combining the use of both public and private clouds. Expect the trend to grow as multi-clouds benefit not only individuals, but organizations that need to share data or work closely with other organizations that use different platforms.

But with more adoption and a hybrid work environment, it is important not to lose sight of security. Businesses should look toward cloud offerings that are designed to help provide security around confidential business and customer information.

Be on the lookout for emerging tech challenges stemming from the hybrid model

The above technology trends are rooted in customer conversations and market observations from the past year. But if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that maybe the business world isn’t as predictable as we had thought. As enterprises fully embrace the hybrid model in the coming months, OEMs and dealers alike should stay close to customers to understand what challenges may arise from this new model. The level of complexity will only increase. It may reveal cracks in existing technology infrastructures or workplace setups, but it may also unlock new ways to partner with businesses to help future-proof their operations.

Until then, the best we can do is apply the learnings from this past year to anticipate the needs of a new era of working. Office technology dealerships have the opportunity to strengthen relationships with customers by helping them to leverage technology solutions that can connect their workforces, drive productivity, save costs and protect data.

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Katsuhiro “Jerry” Matsufuji is vice president and general manager, Canon U.S.A.

Katsuhiro "Jerry" Matsufuji

Katsuhiro “Jerry” Matsufuji is vice president and general manager, Canon U.S.A.