The Covid pandemic accelerated a number of trends in the working world, and perhaps the most obvious one of all related to the places where we work. The mandate to work at home wherever possible meant that huge numbers of office-workers left their daily commute behind in favour of working from their dining tables or home office desks.
But now with the economy reopening again and the government encouraging people to go back to towns and cities – urban centres which have struggled without daily visitors to maintain their local economies – businesses are facing calls to offer more flexible, hybrid models of working into the future.
So what exactly is hybrid working?
It is essentially a blended mode of working which sees employees spending part of their time in the office and part at home. Different businesses are trialling different approaches to see what type of hybrid model is likely to work best for their needs. The important thing for businesses is to recognise that there are benefits to be had for everyone involved but that it may take time, consultation and negotiation with concerned employees who are still nervous about returning to the daily commute after a year or so working from home.
The benefits of hybrid working
These vary but can include:
- Greater flexibility for employees, who no longer need to spend large chunks of their time commuting
- Potentially, higher morale for employees who have greater choice as to their location of work
- A better link with flexible working, so that employees can flex their hours and enjoy a better work-life balance. This can greatly improve the company’s employer brand and help it to attract great talent as it is recognised as a healthy, supportive place to work.
- Fewer costs for the business, which is no longer required to maintain as many permanent and serviced desks in an expensive office.
- Potentially higher-performing staff who recognise the benefit of being allowed to work from home, and who are prepared to show their appreciation
- Access to a more diverse workforce, as the hybrid model allows a diverse range of people to apply for jobs, including parents, carers and people with disabilities.
The potential pitfalls of hybrid working
However, it isn’t all – or always – good news and employers must weigh up the potential negatives of promoting a hybrid model. For example:
- Tech issues may limit workers without ready access to broadband (overcome if the business is prepared to finance broadband connections and kit).
- It is harder for new employees to onboard and build networks without face to face time.
- Teams may find it harder to connect and work collaboratively when they are not physically together.
- It can be harder for managers to manage remote teams and to have creative ‘on the fly’ conversations.
- Security issues – it may be harder to manage IT infrastructure remotely.
The best way?
The ideal approach may combine home working with a physical collaborative and social space for teams. But the first step for businesses is to think, engage, collaborate and be open to change; particularly change which may springboard it to success within a changing economy, and for a whole new generation of workers.