After a year of working in our sweats, lots of us can’t imagine heading back to the office full-time. Although home-working has been a challenge, it is still a welcome change from commuting and lunchtime supermarket meal deals.
That being said, the office is not dead. Research suggests the majority of UK employees want a mix of office-based and remote working post-pandemic. According to a survey of 1,000 workers by The Adecco Group UK and Ireland, 77% of UK employees say a “hybrid” model of working would be ideal, with 79% adding that more flexibility is important.
“A hybrid working model is where people split their time between the office and home. They may also make use of a co-working space, cafe or members club. We’re hearing a lot about various styles of hybrid working at the moment,” says Victoria McLean, founder & CEO of City CV, a career consultancy and outplacement services firm.
“That’s because during the pandemic we’ve all been told to work from home if possible,” she adds. “But, preliminary findings from employee research, suggests that (when it’s safe) some would prefer some kind of combined home/office working pattern.
“In practice, that’s likely to mean two to three days a week in the office and two to three days a week working at home, but those patterns will vary depending on the employer, the job role and geography.”
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Alongside prompting the workforce to question where they want to work, the pandemic has also given rise to a strong sense that the traditional 9-5 is outdated. Instead of being tied to our office desks, we can work in a way that suits us - which can boost our job satisfaction, productivity and morale.
“Many believe hybrid working is the way forward because it combines the best of both worlds,” McLean says. “People have enjoyed many aspects of working from home over the last year. It’s given them more flexibility and, as they’ve been freed from the grind of the daily commute, they’ve had more time for family, exercise, hobbies and sleep. Many have also reported that they’re more productive at home.”
That being said, not everyone has enjoyed the transition to home-working. Some people have found it difficult to juggle home life with the demands of their job, while others have felt isolated and unable to switch off from work.
“With hybrid working the idea is that people will be hyper-productive at home and hyper- collaborative in the office,” says McLean. However, shifting to a hybrid working can take a lot of planning.
“Facilities management, HR and line managers all need to coordinate well. There are also some concerns that it will create a two-tier workplace with an ‘in-crowd’ and an ‘at-home’ crowd that could be divisive,” she adds.
So how can employers make hybrid working a success?
“Choosing the right technology and flexi office space will help to optimise communications, productivity and collaboration. But, the most important factor is getting the culture right,” explains McLean. “Presenteeism is out of the window. Managers need to trust their teams to design their own workday and focus on output and achievements.
“Avoiding an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality is critical and teams will need to bond through frequent communications – both formal reviews and informal conversations.”
Alan Price, HR expert and CEO at the HR software and employment law advice service, BrightHR, says it’s also important to maintain communication with all employees.
“This can be achieved by holding regular weekly/daily meetings with them either in person or remotely. Most importantly, to determine the arrangement's effectiveness, staff should be given clear targets to work towards, which can be evaluated during these regular meetings,” he says.
“Employers have a duty of care towards their staff and must ensure that the working environment is safe while they are in the office,” Price adds. “This should remain a priority for hybrid staff, as is it for staff fully situated in the workplace and ensuring that they are given support for any mental health issues they may be facing. This support should be accessible both in the workplace and at home.”
In addition, policies and procedures will need to be well-documented and transparent. You can’t just assume people can find out what they need to know by asking a colleague down the corridor.
“Companies will also need to invest time and resources in onboarding and integrating new employees and developing and mentoring all employees – wherever they happen to be working from,” says McLean. “However, the benefits from improved productivity, team morale and employee mental health can make hybrid working worthwhile for many organisations.”