As we go ‘back to normal’ many employees will be reluctant to leave behind the luxury of WFH. Here is how you can make hybrid working work for your business.
On February 9, 2021, a Texas lawyer named Rod Ponton was attending a virtual courtroom session on Zoom.
Present in the call was his client and the judge. All was normal except Ponton's frame had him appearing as a cat.
The judge looked on bemused as Ponton said, “I’m here live, I’m not a cat.”
The video capturing the innocent filter mishap went viral hours later, showing that even in challenging times, the show must go on.
Zoom snafus were basically unheard of before Covid-19. But as of March 2020, these things became a huge staple in our daily lives. When these working conditions were first enforced, many businesses feared that employee productivity would suffer and the workforce unable to adapt to such changes.
But what started as a stopgap solution to enable businesses to continue to operate during lockdown has now become a sought-after way of working. This shift in the working structure may feel sudden to some, but for others, it is not new.
In fact, 73% of employees want this flexible way of working to stay, dubbing hybrid working as the ‘new normal’.
Even before the pandemic, people were craving flexibility within the workplace, with a friendlier work-life balance being a top issue raised by employees. 50% of companies are determined to bring employees back on-site, while others are adapting to the change and experimenting with flexible options.
And the hybrid model is working well.
For one, the workforce became more productive. 65% of employees say that they produce more work per-hour at home as opposed to the office, and 55% report concentrating better at home.
The outcome has greatly favoured businesses, leading to 50 of the biggest UK employers stating they have no plans to return their staff back to the office full-time.
Regarding employees, hybrid working has meant increased managerial trust, better quality meetings which have improved team relationships, and a reduction in commuting costs.
Overall, a win.
Though, like all things, hybrid working doesn’t come without drawbacks.
While productivity may have increased with hybrid working and been deemed a success, many employees have reported feeling more anxious and burned out.
This is largely due to us all staying switched on. Weekly meetings have doubled for Microsoft Team users, with individual conversations rising by 45%. The evidence suggests we’re working harder for longer at home.
This has led to a collective exhaustion. According to the Work Trend Index survey, 60% of 18-25 year-olds say they are merely surviving or flat-out struggling. The blurred lines between our work and leisure have made us more accessible to contact, with people responding to work messages late into the night.
Though organisations are not outright to blame for this, their passive reaction to hybrid working could be a factor. Some clear universal identifiers can be addressed to limit workforce dissatisfaction and costs, but looking at internal factors first could be proactive.
Subtle shifts in your management style can make a huge difference to the outcome of hybrid working within your business.
Putting your employees at the centre of your decisions is a key way to raise them to meet your expectations. Encouraging them to be part of the conversation and regularly checking in on the progress of flexible working will help create a fail-safe plan.
A topic that could be explored is the space in which they work. If your company requires people to collaborate and meet, you should also include a focus space where employees can reflect and recharge alone to avoid burnout.
Online space is also very important to enforce the agility and flexibility hybrid working has to offer, especially in terms of collaborative work. Supplying your employees with 2-in-1 mobile and computing devices which can adapt to different tasks and locations is key to ensuring they stay connected.
Even though just a handful of suggestions to optimise hybrid working for your business, they can make a huge difference to work ethics and company performance.
One thing for sure is that hybrid working is inevitable, and it’s increasingly popular among employees. In fact, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that half of professionals in the UK would consider quitting without the option of hybrid working.
The working model does have some significant benefits, with boosts in productivity and the ability to save space and money. But it also has drawbacks, with employee burnout and uncertainty still surrounding a routine: a solid approach needs to be coined.
Opening the conversation with your workforce should be the first step in your plan. Equipping them with the right tools and a voice to work alongside changes will see a rise in their wellbeing and performance.
2020 may have paved the way for remote working, but the future is hybrid - and whether you succeed is up to you.
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