Once considered a term for the next generation of cars, the use of 'hybrid' is now more popularly used to describe the new way of working. The hybrid working model has become favoured by employees who are fed up with long, gruelling commutes to the office.
Our own research showed that 83% of UK office workers agree that flexible working is here to stay, with many now expecting to be able to work wherever and whenever suits them best - from kitchen tables to family villas.
For many businesses, this means coming to terms with the death of the traditional 9-to-5 working day - and even the five-day working week. But as we enter into the next evolution of work and a combination of remote, office and hybrid employees, the practicalities of deploying a highly flexible workforce have yet to be ironed out.
Benefits Of Hybrid Working
Flexible workers are using their time better and have the freedom to choose to work where and when they feel most productive.
Employees have proven that they could be trusted to remain productive working remotely and out-of-sight, with 82% of business leaders thinking their business has at least maintained the same level of productivity as before the pandemic struck, according to insight from Microsoft.
There have also been significant cost savings. Office space in London, for example, is the most expensive in the world, coming in at around 500 pounds per square foot per year for a prime location, and many are now choosing to put full-time home working in place or hire short-term rented office spaces.
But the crux of the new working environment is that workers are generally the happiest they’ve ever been. And when colleagues are happy, they tend to do their best work. Employees who worked remotely reported feeling happier than their colleagues who remained working in the office, according to a SurveyMonkey study.
And why shouldn't they? From taking better control of their work schedules to simply having their beloved pet by their side as they work. Being able to concentrate on work when it suits them while still being able to prioritise their personal lives is a win-win situation.
Implementing hybrid work
While this hybrid model may sound like employees can have their cake and eat it, offering workplace flexibility doesn’t come without organisational risk. Supporting a highly fluid workforce represents a set of new challenges never seen before, and there are certain factors that need to be put into place before going ahead with the model:
1. Establishing Flexibility
Creating a hard line between work/home is tough. As an employer, you need to clearly define what hybrid working and flexibility mean for your team. They need to know exactly what is expected of them in regard to flexible working, including, the core hours they are expected to work, and even what they should wear - at least while on video!
It’s very important that remote workers are supported to define a start and end to their workday and try to keep in the same routine - this will help set important boundaries and ensure they aren’t living at work. It is imperative that every employee is on the same page, perhaps creating a simple staff handbook could help ensure clear communication.
2. Cultivating inclusivity
As employees return to the office and in-person mingling returns, those working remotely may miss out on the impromptu ‘watercooler’ moments and post-work drinks that their colleagues in the office can enjoy and may become further isolated from their peers.
This may dent their ability to effectively collaborate as they miss opportunities to contribute informally and weakens the connection. Encouraging informal catch-ups between employees, perhaps virtual book clubs or coffee-break groups can help bring everyone together on a human level.
Technology plays a big part here, as ensuring your staff feel supported and equipped with the right tools will help bring them together.
3. Remote Tech Support
Increased reliance on technology is the standout challenge of the new remote-working world. When every employee needs a functioning laptop and steady internet connection to connect with their peers and fulfil the bare minimum of their duties, they’re one technological hiccup away from grinding to an unproductive, radio-silent halt.
Thankfully, remote IT solutions exist that enable businesses to provide IT equipment to employees at all hours of the day.
Ultimately, digital innovations are only going to get more important when it comes to unlocking productivity gains and helping businesses to operate efficiently and resiliently in response to the challenges they may face. It is down to those responsible for IT infrastructure to stay on top of the emerging technologies and alert to their own organisation’s effectiveness.
With change comes opportunity
The hybrid working model has already been embraced by a number of successful companies of varying sizes, all looking to reap the benefits of early adoption.
Spotify has acknowledged the competitive advantages that a flexible approach can have on talent recruitment and retainment, while PwC has offered all of its employees the option to take up flexible working. Such changes in working conditions are a direct response to employees. Variety is the spice of life, and we’re now craving a mixture of home, remote and office spaces to help us remain productive.
When planned carefully and strategically, the hybrid work model has the potential to take your organisation to a new level of productivity.