A silver lining of the pandemic could be that remote working practices were forced to move from a snail’s pace to a sprint. Businesses that were previously hesitant to offer remote working, or said it couldn’t be done, were put in a position to make it work during the Covid-19 crisis.
A wider pool of employees reaped the benefits of remote working and organisations witnessed first-hand that productivity could be maintained. It opened the floodgates to new ways of working, with “hybrid workplaces” becoming central to business plans.
Whilst the majority of employees agree they don’t want to solely work from home, they also don’t want to return to the office full time. Instead, employees want a hybrid working system, such as: home working (to aid concentration and support with care responsibilities); corporate offices (to build face-to-face relationships); and co-working spaces (to help creativity).
Regardless of where organisations are on the spectrum of offering hybrid working, businesses should consider the following points to make it a success:
- Communicate plans
Let employees know the current business thoughts on hybrid working, even if the answer is that it’s a conversation in progress. With the major players drawing their line in the sand – such as accounting firm EY moving 17,000 employees to a hybrid working model, in comparison to Goldman Sachs saying all banking staff should be behind their office desks ASAP – employees will want to know where they stand.
Research by McKinsey finds that 47% of employees feel that a lack of clear vision about the post-pandemic workplace is a cause for concern. And with anxiety known to decrease work performance, reduce job satisfaction, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues, among other ills, it’s imperative businesses communicate their plans.
- Assess roles
Some positions may easily transition to hybrid working, typically within creative and IT roles, but others may still require more regular or full-time office visibility. To manage this process some organisations have labelled roles according to requirements to be present in an office. This obviously has to be managed carefully to ensure a fair balance. For example, research found that 75% of employees would give up at least one benefit or perk, such as healthcare coverage, for the freedom to choose their work environment. So it’s important to consider how to balance the perks of being able to work more flexibly, in comparison to those that are required in an office full-time.
- Management training
Training managers to focus on productivity as a marker of success, as opposed to office visibility, is crucial to operating a successful hybrid workplace. Managers need to be mindful that impromptu meetings in the office, for example, can result in remote workers being left out. Not only can this affect employee engagement, but also career development – due to promotions typically being aligned to greater facetime with colleagues and managers.
Women and people with disability tend to have a higher preference for more days working at home, which could result in careers falling behind and lack of diversity at the top in the long run. Businesses therefore need to be careful, especially when providing hybrid workplaces, that managers are equipped to offer fair and inclusive opportunities.
With 89% of businesses expecting hybrid working to become a permanent part of working life, and the same amount of employees expressing a desire to maintain some home working after the crisis ends, it’s clear that the workplace has undergone a radical transformation. Businesses that can keep pace, offering a hybrid solution that works for the organisation and its employees, stand to benefit. But changes must be well thought through and prepared, to ensure the workforce is supported during the transition to hybrid working and beyond.