The hybrid work model – are you ready for it?

We are getting closer to the end of the pandemic and companies are focusing on the future work arrangements for their employees. Workplace transformation has generally been a slow organic process, but Covid-19 accelerated that, with many employees having been working from home for more than a year who have grown accustomed to new ways of working and new methods of communication, motivation, and collaboration.

Lockdown restrictions are now being eased and many businesses opening their offices back up. But the general consensus amongst employees returning to work varies drastically. While some workers are happy to continue working from home, some are equally as desperate to return to the office. Either way, most employees today expect that they will be offered some kind of flexibility when offices re-open on a large scale, with a massive 92% of employees recently surveyed by Smartway saying they would like greater flexibility in how they work and would prefer a hybrid working arrangement of some kind.

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What is a Hybrid workplace?

The hybrid work model supports both working from the office and remote working – whether that is working at their home, or in some other place that is not a company’s usual place of business. It generally allows employees the opportunity to choose and decide based on their daily routine, rather than structuring work around fixed hours logged into an office. In the hybrid workplace model, employees can be grouped into 3 categories:

Office Employees – the role of this group, and in some cases the entire office, would require them to work primarily from the office.

Hybrid Employees – this is a group where the work does not mandate them to work from the office. They can work from anywhere and when needed they can work from the office as well.

Remote Employees – similar to the hybrid group, they can work from anywhere and actually prefer not to come to the office. Now, many roles are being permanently designated as remote work.

The flexible hybrid model is attractive to both the company and its workers, as businesses could potentially save a fortune in overheads and building rates, and employees gain more control over their lives. But it's not perfect and there are some serious issues to contend with. Developing this approach requires more thought than meets the eye, some critical thinking and some serious considerations that businesses must factor in to ensure it doesn’t give rise to two classes of employees.

Pros of a hybrid workplace

From an employee perspective, a hybrid working arrangement prioritises the employee and encourages a stronger work-life balance. If people have a clear understanding of the work they need to do and have responsibility for projects, then there is a general uplift in feelings of productivity among those employees working remotely who are able to go into the office at-will.

Hybrid work models have had a positive impact on wellbeing and mental health at work since the pandemic began and businesses leading this initiative have succeeded in increasing the general wellbeing of their teams. Additionally, it can help ease anxiety employees may have relating to returning to a public workspace, and using public transit for the daily commute. The lack of a commute provides more time for family, hobbies, and exercise.

From an employer perspective, a hybrid workplace allows companies to expand their hiring criteria and attract employees from different places and backgrounds. This opens up the company to workers who might not otherwise have been able to apply, diversifying the workforce and bringing in the best talent.

Cons of a hybrid workplace

Hybrid working isn't for everyone. Some businesses and roles aren't suited to hybrid working. Whether that's because there's little work that can be done off-site, or because set hours are required, hybrid may not be the right choice. In a traditional office environment, managers want to see that everyone present is at their desk, working their allocated hours.

Furthermore, not everyone is happy about working from home. Work-life integration comes with its unique set of challenges. Lack of a dedicated space and constant distractions can all contribute to frustrating working environments. For some team members, the office is the best place for both focussed work and collaboration. Programs like Zoom and Teams are a tool, not a place, and just don’t offer the same feelings of togetherness.

It can also be difficult as a manager not to wonder from time-to-time if your employees might start to get distracted from their work while working from home, and certainly some companies have discovered in the last year that certain employees do need to be in the office in order to be held accountable. Those who choose to go back to the office could be viewed by management as more dedicated compared to the people working remotely at home. Sometimes in-office workers can also perceive their remote colleagues not to be working as hard and using office hours for other work.

Hybrid may well be the future of work

It seems that like almost everything else related to the pandemic, there aren’t easy solutions. The shift to a hybrid work model is a change that is coming to companies across the UK and beyond, and one for which they need to prepare. The change should be viewed as a positive, fundamental shift in the way businesses operate, not merely an extension of a temporary work-from-home arrangement.

In the office, the hybrid approach means offering many different kinds of workspaces, including dedicated desks in an open plan space, private areas for focused work or sensitive conversations and spaces designed specifically for collaboration with those in the office and out. The workplace now needs to be more than just a place to work. At Dams, we have the product portfolio and expertise to help retro-fit your existing products, re-design your spaces, and help you re-imagine your new normal. Whatever that looks like, we will work with you to make sure your employees feel safe, comfortable, and are productive in their place of work.

For the hybrid workplace to be successful, it must be well planned and executed, and not treated as a novel experiment. The most positive outcome of implementing hybrid workplaces is that it will drastically improve employee engagement and satisfaction, in addition to contributing positively to employee’s mental health, morale and to company culture. As companies compete for the best talent, those who are truly able to provide the best employee-centric hybrid workplace may well reap the benefits.