Office? Home? Remote? The future is hybrid…
According to a BBC survey, 86% of the UK’s biggest employers are not planning on returning to full-time office working. A similar O2 survey found 76% of workers would prefer flexibility around where they work to continue post-pandemic This fits with the results of our own survey of HR and business professionals and earlier this year, in which 40% of respondents said working from home had been adopted as a permanent option.
If employers alike have learned anything over the last 12 months, it’s that while flexibility over working location is a potentially business-saving measure, there are also clear benefits from a team working together in one place.
On 6th August, we’re running a free webinar to work through the key issues in balancing a hybrid approach long-term. Consider this a taster of the type of discussion that will take place…
The benefits of hybrid working
Before COVID-19, before lockdowns and quarantines, those who worked from home were in the minority. But once social distancing became a key antivirus measure, all that changed, especially for knowledge workers who could – theoretically – work from anywhere. As theory became common practice, benefits emerged from the disruption, including improved work-life balance, opportunity to work with fewer distractions (though this may not have been the experience for parents juggling home working with home schooling!), and time and cost savings through not having to commute to work.
Employers had the opportunity to leverage savings on office/workspace costs and saw benefits in terms of reduced absence rates (sounds counterintuitive maybe, but when everyone is absent from the office, there can be greater rates of ‘presence at work’).
The challenges of hybrid working
Naturally, on the other side of the hybrid coin are the challenges it presents:
- Performance measurement – what constitutes ‘good’ performance in different working circumstances?
- Performance management – how do you manage performance from a distance? What methods and levels of supervision are appropriate?
- Setting expectations – what behaviours and modes of working do you consider desirable, and how do you role model them?
- Work-life balance – although this can benefit greatly from remote and home working, the exact opposite can also happen, with blurred boundaries between the two and employees regularly putting in extra hours.
- Communication – when you’re not all in the same room, a passing comment no longer counts as a team briefing, so how do your teams stay in the loop and keep in touch with each other when face-to-face conversations, post-it notes, and ‘see me in my office’ are no longer everyday options?
- Data security – when data is off-site, or accessed using non-company (and possibly insecure) devices, how do you ensure your cyber safety? A data protection impact assessment (DPIA) is a must to ensure not only that your data is secure but that it complies with relevant data storage legislation.
Every hybrid working approach is different
One thing is certain: a sheep-dip, one-size-fits-all policy is doomed to failure (or at the very least, unpopularity). Any workforce, however small, is diverse – different workers have different circumstances, and therefore different needs. Likewise, some roles on the company organisation chart can be done from home with little wider impact, others not so much.
The solution is an impact assessment exercise that seeks to identify what hybrid measures work, for which roles, and for who. You need to know which roles can work where, under what circumstances, how they will interact, and what support systems (technology, communication protocols, performance management, CRM, etc.) need to be in place and/or change to make your hybrid working arrangements successful.
In the O2 report mentioned above, 62% of people felt remote working should be the new default; and 32% went so far as to say they never wanted to work in an office again. For the vast majority of businesses, hybrid working is the future. How you decide to manage your hybrid working setup will influence your business for years to come.
If you’re interested in digging deeper, why not sign up for our free 6 August webinar which will explore:
- What hybrid working is and how it works
- What successful flexible working looks like
- Strategies to communicate effectively with a hybrid team
- Key considerations for creating and maintaining effective hybrid teams
- Levels of workforce motivation and engagement
If you’re interested in knowing how we can support you with hybrid working, or any aspect of ‘new normal’ business, give us a call on 01582 463460. We’re here to help.