Sometimes it takes a large scale event for us to change the way we think about things. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a facilitator for many businesses and their approach to the modern workplace. As we look towards the future and look back at the lessons we’ve learnt, it’s time to ask:
“Is hybrid-working the new normal?”
The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way in which we view the workplace, and as we slowly start to return to our post-pandemic offices there’s the expectation that our workplaces should look a little different to how we left them.
It’s a given that the weekly meetings with employees crammed into every available space, in an ever-so-slightly too small meeting room are gone and those firm handshakes with a prospective supplier are exchanged for a polite nod. Instead, our desks are socially distanced, working bubbles and rota systems are in place for our teams.
And it’s not just physically that work has changed. With a huge amount of us having worked remotely for over 6 months, priorities and expectations around work-life balance have changed. There is no doubt that for some of us the return to the office is welcomed with open arms and for others, this may no longer be as inviting as it once was.
Previously, I, like many of my peers, worked from an office 5 days a week. It was deemed necessary to my role within a creative team and therefore my normal. When the pandemic hit and we were forced into remote working our team did not fall apart, our productivity did not drop and most importantly our collaboration did not stop. If anything we collaborated more, talked more and pulled together more.
But whilst many organisations are touting remote working as the new normal, would a hybrid approach not bring better results?
We are at a point now where we are actively encouraged back to our COVID-secure workplaces, not only to support our employers and organisations but also to support those businesses that rely on us; your local coffee shop, the mobile food van and the office contract cleaners.
However, there is absolutely no doubt that the positives for remote working have become apparent. A better work-life balance, flexibility of working hours and the eco aspects of a reduction in people commuting all cannot go unnoticed. Then there come the wider business benefits of a remote workforce such as an increased talent pool for recruitment when you are not under geographical constraints.
So how do we merge these two seemingly opposing views on the modern-day workplace? This is where a hybrid work model comes in to play. Combining the best of both worlds.
For most of us, who are not governed by a job that needs a fixed location this hybrid approach makes complete sense. Part remote working, part office-based. Giving us the flexibility that has made remote working so popular and the office-based interactions we’ve so often missed during lockdown.
It would be easy to assume that Hybrid-working is simply flexible working under a new name but the distinctions between the two are quite clear. Hybrid working gives people the autonomy to decide where, when and how they work best, balancing work and life around their needs.
Hybrid-working also allows employers to set clear boundaries and expectations and also makes managing the workplace an easier task, particularly in those workplaces that can no longer support the pre-pandemic number of employees. The combination of remote and office-based work is an effective solution to the changing context of the workplace.
Moving to a hybrid-working model focuses more on output, delivery and value rather than presenteeism and whilst some employees see the need for the office “hub” as a place to remain connected to their team it is also centred around the need to be seen to be busy.
Getting the balance right
Striking the right solution will be unique to each organisation and is about finding a balance between the needs of the business and those of employees. Mutual trust and communication will be critical to businesses of all sizes to make hybrid-working successful.
Collaboration and communication will be integral to implementing this approach successfully. It’s crucial to performance that employees feel trusted and part of a team in order to deliver the results expected of them. Clear objectives and processes need to be in place to foster this. Manager’s, in particular, will be a key part of implementing this new approach. Linking employees to the business they will be a cornerstone for driving autonomy, trust and motivation within teams. It will also be their job to make remote workers and their office colleagues feel part of a cohesive team.
We also need to consider the technologies that will be required to support this new approach to working. From integrated CRMs to Microsoft Teams, UC is going to more integral to businesses than ever before. And just like its human counterparts, this technology needs to adapt as the digital landscape continues to evolve. More than ever we will see needs for new compliance regulatory software that bridges that gap between the relative security of the office to the unknown vistas of remote working.