Hybrid working has developed out of the need for working from home during the pandemic followed by calls to return to the office.
Touted as harnessing the best of both worlds, it’s a trend that looks set to stay.
But what are the pros and cons of hybrid working? And will it work for your business?
To hybrid or not to hybrid? As UK workplaces consider the best ways of working post-pandemic, hybrid working – where employees can work via a combination of in-office and remotely – is a hot topic of conversation.
Before Covid struck, this flexible approach to how and where we work was not even on the agenda for many businesses – and working from home was the exception, not the rule.
However, throughout various lockdowns over the past couple of years, many organisations have had no option but to enable their employees to do their job at home. Statistics reveal that the number of people that worked exclusively at home rose from 5.7 per cent in January/February 2020, to 43.1 per cent in April 2020.
In changing times, being able to work from home is now a priority for employees. According to the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, 24 per cent of people said they had adopted ‘hybrid’ working patterns, where they are in an office part of the time, with only 17 per cent preferring to be working full-time or mostly in the office.
This means that more and more companies are considering adopting hybrid working permanently, with employees required to come into the office perhaps two or three days a week. JLL’s ‘Reimagining Human Experience’ report, which surveyed over 2,000 global office workers, revealed that 66 per cent expect to work in a hybrid model post-pandemic. To boot, 50 of the biggest UK employers have said they have no plans to go back to full-time office working in the near future.
While many see this as the best of both worlds, there are both pros and cons to hybrid working, which are important to consider if you want your business to flourish and grow.
Having a hybrid working policy can improve the balance between work and life. Not only does it give people more autonomy over their schedule, but it can save time (and money) for those who previously had to commute five days a week. This can become even more of an issue if an employee’s situation changes – when they start a family, for example. Flexible working to fit around childcare arrangements may become essential, or your staff will look elsewhere.
Removing the distractions of in-person water cooler chats and back-to-back meetings allows some people to increase their focus on the task at hand and (sometimes significantly) boost their productivity.
If employees worked remotely 100 per cent of the time, the lack of face-to-face interaction can inhibit valuable chances to collaborate and build meaningful work relationships with colleagues – something that is still possible with hybrid working.
For many employees, flexible and hybrid working is now considered a must-have benefit – and it is something that can help businesses improve employee retention. It also widens the talent pool by attracting potential employees from further afield.
Right now, the ability to reduce costs is a key concern for businesses of all shapes and sizes. The ONS reports that the top two concerns reported by businesses are inflation and increasing energy prices.
Businesses are realising they can cut back on the physical space they need, replacing a traditional office block with smaller and more flexible ‘hubs’ that have a mix of versatile spaces – from soundproofed areas for those who like a quiet space to work, to spacious communal areas with laptop hook-ups for informal team chats or brainstorming sessions. And once a company knows how many employees will be in the office at any given time, they can plan around these occupancy levels to cut down on the cost of rent, heat, light, office supplies and other business expenses.
Working alone for a large chunk of the week can make some people feel isolated and cut off from their colleagues. This raises questions about how best to support the mental health and well-being of employees from a distance. Interestingly, while research suggests that over 55s are the most likely to want to work from home permanently, 16–24-year-olds favour working in the office full-time. This suggests that whatever hybrid model you adopt, it needs to be flexible to best suit your workforce demographic.
The Health and Safety Executive advises that, as an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for people working at home as well as in the office. You will need to develop (and carry out) risk assessments that focus on things such as stress and poor mental health, the safe use of laptops and computers, and ensuring working environments are appropriate. If your employees don’t have a dedicated workspace at home or the right IT equipment, they may find working remotely difficult.
Managing staff who aren’t always in the office can be trickier, particularly in terms of mentoring, training, and development.
With people working remotely, the IT department needs to manage different personal devices connecting from a variety of locations, to ensure no one is digitally disadvantaged and that the company’s data is completely secure. Cybercrime has boomed since the onset of the pandemic. Money-motivated criminals after your company’s data, specifically private financial information, and customer details, so data security needs to be high on your agenda.
For some businesses, having customer-facing employees is vital to maintain relationships and deliver a positive customer experience. If employees are working remotely for part of their week, it’s essential to ensure that customers continue to receive a seamless service.
Many business commentators are stating that hybrid working is here to stay. So, by having a plan of action in place, you can ensure that hybrid working will work for you and your business. Here are some things to consider:
Ensure everyone has the right tools
It is essential to invest in the right tools and setup for each team member’s situation and individual needs. For example, this may include personal laptops, better Wi-Fi, headsets and webcams.
Be clear about your expectations
Maintain regular communication between employees and managers and make sure that everyone on the team knows what is expected of them in terms of output and performance.
Keep everyone in the loop
Hold regular short meetings and status updates so that employees continue to feel part of the office, even when not physically present.
Stay on top of schedules
Create a central database or calendar where people can log what they are planning to do that day and whether they have any meetings or client calls.
Choose digital comms that work best for you
There are all sorts of innovative products available to help manage remote and hybrid working – from the web video conferencing platforms where you can chat, create channels, and run your day-to-day correspondence, to project management tools such as Basecamp and Slack, used by many teams as a virtual HQ, with on-line messaging and file-sharing capabilities.
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