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Hybrid working: Perfect solutions or just too scary for companies to manage?

Written by Jan Cavelle on Wednesday, 02 June 2021. Posted in HR, People

As offices struggle to open up in a post-pandemic world, does the future lie in the office, homeworking or hybrid?

Hybrid working: Perfect solutions or just too scary for companies to manage?

As offices struggle to open up in a post-pandemic world, does the future lie in the office, homeworking or hybrid?

A few weeks ago, Rishi Sunak urged companies to encourage workers to return to the office or risk losing them.   It contrasts with many studies carried out recently, showing what people are planning, feeling, or wanting.   Even a YouGov and Microsoft Surface report found that more than four-fifths (87%) of employees reported their businesses have adapted to hybrid/remote working.  

A study by the intelligence platform  HowNow showed that the majority of remote workers (79%) would prefer to continue working from home in some capacity, with just 5% answering that they would like to return to a workspace full time. The  Walters People found that over 88% want to continue working at least 50% from home. This report indicated that it was proving an asset for businesses, too, with nearly 70% of managers finding that productivity improved with remote working.    Yet why then are only 21% of companies considering moving to remote working full time?  It would appear there is a massive disconnect between the two.

The studies show that people want more freedom, a better work-life balance, more focus on outcomes than desk hours, trust, and autonomy, all things that they have come to enjoy working from home.  A report by Velocity Smart Technology also found that 83% of people happy working at home.  This report identified that many of their concerns revolved around COVID safety, including high numbers wanting at least 2m between desks, which could increase office space costs for many companies.  As with anything new, there are certainly issues to be faced and hiccups to be ironed out.  HowNow found 67% of people feeling disconnected from their colleagues, women, in particular, reporting this.  Yet, despite this, they found women even keener to remain working at home than men.  

The costs involved in making and maintaining COVID safe offices might be an additional reason for companies to re-look at hybrid or homeworking, yet according to the Walters report, 60% of workers felt that their employers were too traditional to be capable of changing and adapting to a post COVID world.  Moving to remote working overnight was, of course, not without its problems.  One of the biggest challenges of the sudden move to home working with the pandemic was maintaining a company culture. Some see a return to the office as a path to repair this. Many are planning to invest in employee branding to achieve it, sticking to old ways but adding a repair.  Yet global giants have already accepted the move to new ways.  Employees at Facebook, Twitter, Slack, Square, and Atlassian all now have the option to work from home permanently, and they are creating organizational culture in entirely new ways suitable for the virtual world.  Microsoft now has Microsoft Viva, their vision for a one-stop employee experience hub.  

Start-ups are mushrooming in this new space, using tech to build and re-enforce culture for companies running a hybrid office and homeworking set up and to help them differentiate on culture to attract and retain the best team.  They work to solve to recreate the key areas that form a company culture; learning and development, engagement, measurement, onboarding, internal comms, team building, and mentorship.  Culture creation is then achieved by concentrating on four key areas, connection and community, collaboration and competition, reward and recognition, and trust and transparency.  As both giants adapt and start-ups in this space grow, it is increasingly possible to develop a scalable and consistent culture for a hybrid of remote and face-to-face work.  

Other companies are also banking on the ending of traditional office space.  Many tech unicorns and larger corporations have already reduced their office space and are using office space on demand instead.   With the entrepreneurial flair of seeing opportunity within the disruption, one Amsterdam-based start-up is offering a white label solution to landlords, giving them a chance to transform their office building into flexible workspace, and they provide fully operational services within them and maintain the shared communal areas.  Good news for landlords, at least if this trend takes hold.

There seems little evidence to support the idea that going back to the office will stop people from leaving their jobs.  Velocity Smart Technology’s research showed that if employees are forced to return to the office, they may quit.  Company Debt estimated from their study that the numbers who will leave may be as high as a third unless sufficient flexibility is offered.  The solutions for any problems are emerging.  The majority of people want it, so perhaps companies do indeed need to rethink and prove more adaptable to change than they are at present.  Hybrid and home working are both here to stay. 

About the Author

Jan Cavelle

Jan Cavelle

Jan Cavelle has several decades of founding micro and SME’s behind her and is now a freelance writer and author. Throughout her career, she has worked on various campaigns to support and encourage other entrepreneurs. Her first book is Scale for Success, Bloomsbury 2021.

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