Hybrid working - will it become the norm?
Blog //28-07-2021

Hybrid working - will it become the norm?

by Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced

As businesses look towards the future, hopeful of a return to some semblance of normality, they are also looking towards their long term working arrangements and exactly what form the new working world will take. Organisations such as Amazon have already taken proactive steps, along with Google and Facebook informally agreeing to a hybrid work model whereby employees will be encouraged to split their time between home and office working.

These are huge brands with a great deal of reach across all markets and to have them demonstrate a commitment to a long-term hybrid model will undoubtedly influence other organisations when they are looking at their own arrangements. Following this, according to research from Gartner, 47% of company leaders plan to allow employees to continue to work remotely all of the time. This marks a complete change in attitudes towards flexible working and allaysone of the major concerns of many C-suite execs of how to maintain a productive workforce outside of the office environment

The focus for all businesses moving forward will be how to make as strong a post-pandemic recovery as possible. Productivity is a factor closely interlinked with this goal and naturally, any long-term working structure plans considered by organisations will place productivity foremost. The pandemic has proven that overall, productivity has risen, which has gone some way towards dispelling older myths that home working is in some ways less productive. 

While there will still be businesses who view remote working as nothing more than an emergency expedience and still cling to older preconceptions based upon existing company culture, these organisations will find themselves falling behind their contemporaries who will be taking a more proactive approach in folding hybrid working into their work structure moving forward. Companies who cling to older prejudices around remote working will also find themselves falling out of step with their employees, many of whom will have come to appreciate the flexibility afforded to them by working from home. As we move out of the pandemic, employee expectations will have shifted, meaning inflexible organisations will find themselves faced with issues when it comes to future recruitment and the retention of their people.

In this piece, we will be taking a brief look at hybrid working, what it means for organisations and what the long term impact of this change is expected to be. Is Hybrid working set to be the future of the workforce, or is it just another trend?

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What is Hybrid Working?

Hybrid working meaning: As it stands currently, Hybrid working is still a loosely defined concept. As we have come to understand the term recently, Hybrid working is a structure which draws upon elements of traditional office based work and home working, striving for an effective balance and continuity between the two.

As lockdown restrictions are gradually eased across the country, hybrid working offers businesses the ability to slowly reintroduce workers back into the office space without the worry of mass disruption should measures be reimposed. Typically this would see employees splitting their time between the office and home-working, with two to three days being expected in the office.

Currently, there remains an appetite for continued work from home- A YouGov survey found that 81% of employees stated that they would prefer to continue working from home in some capacity, even when restrictions are lifted. HR Software plays a key role in supporting employees working remote or in the office.

Hybrid working represents an opportunity for organisations to craft a working structure which is mutually sympathetic to not only their long term business goals, but also the wellbeing and engagement of their employees. Businesses need to take into account the increased appetite for remote work and when looking at their new structure moving forward, they should avoid running roughshod over their employee’s requirements in an arbitrary rush to return to the traditional way of working. There are many benefits to a hybrid workforce and businesses who are proactive in enacting change, will undoubtedly find themselves reaping the benefits in the long run.

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Why do Hybrid Models work?

After more than a year of widespread work from home set ups, a number of distinct trends have emerged which make it plain to organisations across all sectors that remote work brings with it a number of key benefits.

Perhaps the most important is the degree of flexibility afforded by working from home. Naturally, moving your workspace into a home setting will find your professional life butting up against every day domestic concerns. At the height of the pandemic, many of us will have had to make adjustments, actively striving for an effective balance between work and home life. As things make a return to a semblance of normality, many people will feel that they developed a comfortable set up, one that draws specifically upon the flexibility offered by remote working.

Traditionally, doctor’s appointments, MOT check ups or even the school run have presented obstacles for employees when working within the rigid framework of 9-5 office life. Even taking a short time out of your day to meet these obligations can have a knock on effect on productivity as there is no way for people to effectively make up that lost time. A hybrid working model allows employees to shift their schedule to meet any disruptions, offering them the flexibility to start/finish earlier to make up for any shortfall.

Less of a reliance on a centralised hub for work also means that companies will save on utilities costs for lighting and heating office space. The role of the office is likely to undergo an evolution to meet the change in culture heralded by hybrid working. Office spaces are predicted to shift into social hubs- places for teams to meet up and touch base as well as offering a singular space for important meetings or hosting business clients. Without the need to cater to a vast number of everyday employees, many organisations will find themselves seeking out smaller, more modest office spaces in order to reflect these new priorities. HR Leaders are constantly looking for new technologival innovations to support their human capital management activities and discovering the latest HR software.

The more permanent switch to hybrid working is also likely to see the everyday commute go the way of the dodo. This change is unlikely to be mourned by many employees who will inevitably find themselves more well rested and engaged with their work after not sacrificing hours of their time each day, travelling to and from the office space.

Many organisations may be concerned about moving to a hybrid model on a long term basis, perhaps fearing a lack of oversight will lead to gaps in processes and a downturn in productivity. Fortunately, the past year has proven the willingness of the wider workforce to seize the opportunity to make working from home a success. A survey conducted by TalkTalk found that more than 58% of employees felt they were more productive whilst working at home when compared to the traditional set up. As businesses look to make a strong post-pandemic recovery moving forward, it is important that in their hurry to introduce a sense of normality, that the lessons of the past year are not lost.

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What does a hybrid workplace look like?

As businesses are assessing their future working structures, any formalised sense of what this will look like may still seem like a far-off concept for many. Heavy hitters such as Amazon and Microsoft have already begun to lead the way, setting out their expectations for their employees and sketching out plans to accommodate a hybrid workforce. As organisations begin to follow suit, there are some common patterns emerging when we begin to assess how the future of the workplace may look:

1. A common element is an expectation for employees to split their working week between home and the office space, with two or three days on site seeming to be a likely requirement for many organisations.

2. Most businesses agree that the function of the office space will need to change in order to support the new hybrid structure. The commonly held belief is that office spaces will function as social hubs for team catch ups and centralised points for important business meetings.

3. In order to supplement this change In priorities, businesses will need to lean on virtual platforms in order to support the hybrid workforce. Rigid seating arrangements look set to make way for hot desking set ups, therefore necessitating the use of a platform to allow employees or even entire teams to book desk space as and when required.

4. Workplace process will need to evolve to move in lockstep with this change- workplace appraisals, disciplinary processes and other HR related responsibilities may very well shift to online platforms. Businesses will need to lean on their HR systems in order to ensure they are able to maintain an equivalent level of engagement with employees as in the office space.

5. Any workplace practices and policies will have to be examined before shifting to hybrid working. It will be critical that businesses ensure that any such mandates are equally weighted for office or home based staff.

6. Hybrid workplaces are set to become more collaborative than the more traditional model, with businesses set to make continued use of the same video calling technology which allowed them to remain agile and connected during the height of the pandemic.

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How can you make the hybrid working model a success?

A hybrid workforce presents an exciting opportunity for organisations to fundamentally evolve their working culture. As positive as these changes seem, businesses need to be mindful of the fact that a hybrid workforce will only be a success for those who take a proactive approach in implementing it.

In order to drive the success of the hybrid workforce, many organisations will have to cast aside older prejudices surrounding remote work. The past year has more than proven that people not only have the capacity to work effectively and efficiently from home, but also in many cases, remote working can be far more beneficial for some, offering as it does, a distraction free environment,

This piece by Forbes explores the idea of employee autonomy and correctly identifies it as a key player in instilling confidence in people.  As noted in the article, businesses who take a step back and allow their people the freedom to shape their schedules to fit their needs, inevitably find their workforce grows in confidence and engagement.

Employee autonomy will form a keystone of the hybrid workforce as it demonstrates employer’s dedication to the new way of working. For a largely remote model to be a success, businesses cannot afford to be draconian in their monitoring of their people. Oversight of your people and their output is important of course but the idea is that by having sufficient visibility of employee productivity, organisations can avoid damaging course correction measures that comes from a fear of employees “slacking off” when working from home.

The hybrid workforce will require an investment of time and resources from organisations. Policies will need to be adapted, work spaces reworked and the whole culture of modern working will undergo a huge evolution. Businesses will need to lean on technology to support them like never before in order to bridge the gap between remote and office-based staff and to ensure they are providing an employee experience that is universal to their people, wherever they choose to work from.

It is important also to consider the shift in employee attitudes over the course of the past year. Businesses need to take into consideration that in many instances, the people who exited their offices last year to begin working from home will have a different set of priorities now than at the beginning of the pandemic. Organisations who want to focus on achieving a strong post-pandemic recovery, cannot afford to simply initiate a hard reset back to the previous way of working. 

The past year has placed an undeniable strain on businesses and their people but it also has to be acknowledged that the emergency measures implemented by organisations in order to ensure business continuity has taught us a lot about the potential of people to drive their own productivity when working in a remote capacity. Employees will have gained an appetite for remote working and it will be crucial that organisations are engaging with their people and taking onboard their feedback to help inform any working structure they create moving forward.

Conclusion

Hybrid workforces represent an exciting change for the modern working culture. A shift that looks to benefit businesses and employees alike, we are on the cusp of a fundamental evolution of the way we work. The move away from rigid structures both in terms of work schedules and locations offers opportunities for business to expand the scope of their talent search, reduce their reliance on expensive and vast office lets and frees their employees to craft a schedule that fits around their needs.

As we have seen, this shift looks to be an extremely positive one for organisations looking to make a strong post-pandemic recovery. The shift to hybrid working models will only work if organisations are willing to set aside any pre-existing prejudices around remote working and take a proactive approach in engaging with their people in order to craft a working model that benefits everybody.

At Advanced, we understand what a crucial time this is for businesses. The steps taken now may very well dictate the success of organisations moving forwards. It is clear that technology will have a huge role to play in making hybrid working a success and our suite of HCM software has been designed to help you stay connected with your people and give you the oversight you need in order to drive productivity and profitability in your business.

How our HR Software can help you

One single sign on gives HR teams and employees quick and simple access to all HR functionality, whether that be booking annual leave, logging sickness, logging a personal development plan or booking training. Making HR More Human.

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Alex Arundale

Alex Arundale

PUBLISHED BY

Chief People Officer, Advanced

Alex joined Advanced in February 2016 with a track record in senior HR positions. She has been responsible for innovative strategies to lead the company’s talent management.

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