The global pandemic has driven an unplanned experiment with hybrid work models, most specifically with remote working. It could change the way we work forever.
As business leaders contemplate the future, they must decide whether working from home will continue to feature in their business model.
Employees have benefitted from better work-life balance, no long commutes, savings on travel and have been able to focus on tasks without the interruptions that come from working in a busy office. Employers have been pleasantly surprised by the productivity gains.
Add in the fact that the pandemic isn’t over. As employees return to the workplace, employee safety will be high on the agenda, with social distancing an important consideration. In the return-to-work plan, the needs of employees will need to be delicately balanced with broader business objectives.
The hybrid working model ticks a lot of boxes on both sides.
Will hybrid remote work models become the new norm?
The evidence certainly points to a significant increase in businesses offering a hybrid work model.
The following two survey examples are typical of findings across the board.
A survey by McKinsey found that nine out of ten organisations are likely to combine remote and on-site working post pandemic.
A study of 2,000 UK workers by management consultancy firm, BCG, found that 67% of employees who worked remotely during the pandemic believe a hybrid model of work is ideal for them. Employees are keen to retain some of the benefits of working remotely.
What is a hybrid model?
Hybrid working is a type of flexible working where employees work partly from home (or at another remote location) and partly in the workplace. While this isn’t a new phenomenon, it is new at scale.
Prior to the pandemic, most companies dealt with flexible working requests on an individual basis. It is only now (since the pandemic) that more companies are contemplating the introduction of policies that support new hybrid work from home and office practices for all.
At first glance, it appears a quite straightforward switch, but as some roles can’t be carried out remotely or are less suitable for this kind of flexibility, it could result in a mish mash of conflicting policies across different departments. There are lots of other practicalities to consider.
It’s clear that the hybrid workplace model isn’t one single thing. There are lots of computations depending on a wide variety of factors. The idea that workers come into the office for a few days a week and do the rest of their work at home is, in fact, a hugely simplistic overview. Hybrid work model examples might include:
- Remote first with occasional on-site/client meetings
- A minimum number of days in the office and the remainder at home (this could be flexible or set days, with different parameters set for different roles)
- Mainly working in the office, with occasional remote days allowed
- Alternating set teams in the office each week
- A core team working exclusively in the office with certain people or positions working remotely (often the set-up for companies that use a lot of freelancers)
Implementing a hybrid work from home model
There’s been lots of talk about the new way of working, but very few companies have thrashed out the detail. According to McKinsey’s research, most leaders don’t yet have a detailed vision of what their future hybrid working model will look like; only one in ten organisations have begun communicating and piloting a hybrid working model.
Nearly all managers acknowledge that supporting employees remotely differs from managing people on-site. And during the year of enforced home working, we have been able to learn many lessons. Communication planning is key.
Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index studied the impact of remote work on more than 150,000 employees and came to the conclusion that to improve team connection, especially during the uncertainties of the shift to hybrid work, managers matter more than ever.
Microsoft’s head of people analytics, Dawn Klinghoffer, said, “When managers stepped in to help teams prioritise, feel productive, and maintain work life balance, employees felt more connected to one another.”
Of these, Klinghoffer, pinpointed helping team members prioritise, as critical.
“Employees are feeling more and more like the weight of the world is on their shoulders. There’s so much coming at them,” Klinghoffer said. “When managers step in to help set priorities, they create a climate not only conducive to wellbeing, but a more connected team.”
Some companies have certainly enjoyed higher productivity during the pandemic. According to the McKinsey survey, this has occurred most in the businesses that support small connections between colleagues, such as providing opportunities to discuss projects, share ideas, network, mentor, and coach.
As businesses look to sustain these productivity gains with a hybrid work model, they will need to develop the right spaces to ensure these small interactions continue to take place. It will require the right tools that can support employees wherever they are located (at home, in the workplace or in another remote location or hub).
That’s where We Thrive can help. Our employee experience platform is designed to support employees and keep teams connected. Employees get instant personalised feedback, action plans, tools and the resources they need to thrive.
The lessons from the big home working experiment can be carried forward onto the great hybrid evolution. And make no mistake, there is a huge appetite for a new way of working.
Is it sustainable?
From an employee’s perspective, not all people want the same thing, but having more flexibility over work location could become a major factor for selecting job applications in the future. While employers have the final say over how business operates in the future, completely ignoring a workforce who favour hybrid working could act as a talent drain in the future.
As for employers, the longevity of the hybrid work model will depend on business success. The effective management of people working both in the workplace and remotely – each known to require different management styles – will likely dictate the hybrid model’s success or failure.
But in the short term, employers may have limited choices. The re-awakening of the economy has revealed a distinct skills shortage, and recruiters are reporting that vacancies are difficult to fill. Any employer that doesn’t offer a flexible or a remote hybrid working model, may find themselves struggling to find the talent they need to prosper.
There’s never been a more critical time to find out how your employees are feeling. Why not ask them? See how easy it is with We Thrive – you can even try us for free.
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