How to Embrace and Succeed With Hybrid Working

Remote working will be a firm fixture in the post Covid-19 future of work

Remote or hybrid working is set to become a firm fixture in the post pandemic future of work. Yet the status of working solely remotely is set to evolve to become the latest version of flexibility and newly termed hybrid working. 

But what exactly is hybrid working? Hybrid working is described as being the link between purely working in a set location and working flexibly or remotely from a home or none workplace environment. 

What’s more, is the evolution to a more hybrid way of working that is predicted to be the saviour of the 21st century workplace. 

Prior to the pandemic, it was only a certain set of, what could arguably be described as progressive organisations who truly embraced remote and flexible working. The past decade has been beset with employee relations cases whereby requests for more flexible or home working arrangements have been purposefully declined. 

Hybrid working is the new term on everyone’s lips. Just as ‘agile’ replaced ‘flexible’ with the promise of better and more balanced working practices, so ‘hybrid’ is now being seen as the saviour of the 21st century workplace. If only it were that simple!

Employers have at times demonstrated a reluctance to embrace flexible working practices, preferring instead to have their workforce on site, visible and accessible in real life. Which over time, has been slowly replaced by remote working pilots at leading consultancy firms, cascading out to the more innovative and entrepreneurial start-up firms who have been keen to differentiate their working practices from the more bureaucratic of organisations. 

Yet one of the few positive lasting legacies following the Coronavirus pandemic could well be the long standing impact on the way that people work. The workplace will of course have its place, but the anticipated change to this will be how necessary it will be for people to actually work from there.

Who is Already Embracing Hybrid Working

A BBC poll of 50 employers found that almost all of those surveyed are not planning a full return to the office. At least not in the ways they were prior to the pandemic.

43 firms confirmed as part of the survey that they have active plans to adopt a more hybrid way of operating, one that is set to continue the practice where employees work from home in addition to working in the office, for at least part of the time. 

Firms such as WPP, Google, Facebook and KPMG are those that intend to continue the home working set up for employees. With Managing Director of advertising firm WPP stating that “We’re never going to go back to working the way we used to work,”

And it’s assertions of this nature that are the tip of the iceberg in terms of the thinking that is now coming out of leading firms in respect to more permanently changing the ways in which people work.

Facebook remote working plan extended to all staff for long term

In the Human Resources space, global recruitment organisation Adecco  who employ 34,000 people worldwide, have transitioned to around four-fifths of employees working remotely. A transition that they too intend to keep. 

With Adecco leaders stating in response to the change, “Rather than having pre-set rules we are encouraging our leaders to engage with colleagues to implement strategies that work for their business.”

KPMG, another global and market leading firm are describing this latest change to their ways of working as “Redesigning the future of work.”  The redesign has sought to not only respond to the challenges brought about by the Pandemic. But to also acknowledge the sentiment shared by many of the workforce who have expressed a desire to maintain a degree of the homeworking they have become used to this past year. 

With KPMG being amongst a multitude of professional services and knowledge worker firms globally who switched their entire workforce to operate remotely. The overwhelming response to this by many workers who have now adapted to a more consistent approach to remote working, has been positive.

What Are the Benefits of Hybrid Working?

Whilst there are a multitude of benefits to be achieved thanks to adopting a hybrid working model. The benefits extend far beyond the overwhelming positive feedback that have been received in surveys carried out by YouGov and research conducted by CIPD

EMBEDDING NEW WAYS OF WORKING
EMBEDDING NEW WAYS OF WORKING | Source: CIPD

The benefits identified by employers include improved work life balance that extends to all employees and not only those who may have children or caring responsibilities. Further to improved focus on work that benefits from the lack of distractions that can inevitably come with working in the office. The highly regarded value add for many employees surveyed has been the increased amount of time made available for family, friends and personal passion pursuits. 

Yet the benefits extend beyond those felt by employees – Expanding further to have a deep impact on the organisation and employers themselves. 

For the employer, there is the added advantage of a reduced need for office space and so has the potential to reduce infrastructure and real estate costs. This has been one of the key advantages for organisations who have coincidently within the lockdown period, had an office lease draw to a close. This was the case for Midlands based Public Relations firm, East Village PR, who have lept on the opportunity to save significant office costs by moving from a central city office location, to now become fully remote. 

Further to the benefits that can be realised through potential cost savings. There are additional advantages relating to employee engagement, where employees who benefit from greater work life balance, invariably take fewer sick days, report on their being much happier with their work in employee surveys and are more likely to be retained long term. 

Hybrid Working Considerations

As with any change in the workplace, there are understandably a number of considerations for both HR and the organisation’s leadership to consider. 

What should HR be focusing on now? post COVID cakehr by sage hr system
Most workers want to work from home after COVID-19 | Source: YouGov

Firstly, all returns to the workplace must, whilst there are levels of COVID-19 restrictions still in place, include communication and where necessary reassurance to employees who may have concerns about the measures being taken to ensure the workplace is safe.

What people want depends on what they were doing before the outbreak, and whether or not they’ve been able to work from home during lockdown
What people want depends on what they were doing before the outbreak, and whether or not they’ve been able to work from home during lockdown | Source: YouGov

Further to initial communications, KPMG have made a number of recommendations to organisations planning on making the switch, or adopting a more hybrid approach to work includes: 

  • Creating models of work that are compatible with employees variety of life choices by introducing flexibility and good connectivity;
  • Support and provide a good range of choices in the workplace that includes working from home, flexible days and flexible hours which are well understood to increase employer satisfaction and a deeper sense of purpose in the world of work;
  • Consider what communications strategy will need to be established in the new hybrid environment. Appreciating that you will have lower numbers of people working together in the same location at the same time. Demanding a revised approach to communication strategy;
  • Evaluate what you have in place for current performance management, professional development and management oversight frameworks. Consider where and how these programmes can be best developed to accommodate the new way of working;
  • Review and formulate a plan for ways to deal with greater risks around cyber security, compliance and technical down time. All of which can cause significant disruption to the organisation and people within it, in the event of things going wrong and there being no contingencies in place.

Beyond the policy considerations that will need to take place internally within the organisation. There will also be things to consider from outside, taking place in the macro environment.

Most expect companies to continue to allow working from home, with a sizeable minority considering relocating
Most expect companies to continue to allow working from home, with a sizeable minority considering relocating | Source: YouGov

Changes to policy making at a government level could also contribute to both cultural and behavioural changes required. In addition to developments going on in the wider work environment which may also lead to influencing decision making.

Making a Success of Hybrid Working

Hybrid working with its many advantages may still take some getting used to by employees. There may perhaps even be employees who prefer the idea of continuing with more traditional ways of working and not going hybrid at all. The important thing for HR is that it is able to support the transition as it occurs and help the cohesion between the business and those who are moving to a new way of operating. 

A key consideration for HR and people managers alike when striving to make a success of hybrid working, will be the ways in which they are able to adapt to managing remote working and workplace employees at the same time. 

This dual approach to operating has taken place in part for some organisations who prior to the pandemic lockdowns were already participating in flexible working practices. The difference following the pandemic, is that the practice of remote and flexible working will shift from being the preserve of a select few. Those who may have requested flexible working for example, to now becoming a more widely adopted practice. 

Sage in a recent guide into how to make hybrid working work for your organisation, suggests that checking in regularly with staff working at home, developing a culture of trust between managers and employees, in addition to monitoring performance on the basis of output, rather than hours worked, will all help to set the organisation up for success. 

Furthermore it’s vital to also remember, that much like in the office environment, in the home working environment it will not be a one size fits all approach that will be successful. Some employee’s, perhaps those with less working experience, new to their role or having just joined the organisation, may require greater levels of initial support and communication to create engagement. 

Other employees may not have a suitable home office set up and so may struggle to work in their home environment, which could be more distracting. 

Encouraging and effectively responding to both employee and management feedback will be an essential component of transitioning to hybrid working effectively.

Final Thoughts

Whilst there are many organisations who are making the move to embrace and succeed with hybrid working.  Some are seeking to oppose this new work style, despite the loud voices of employees who are keen to embrace an evolution that will work for them. Goldman Sachs being one such, well known organisation that is stipulating a return to the office environment. 

Yet it could arguably be just a matter of time until all organisations choose to revert and embrace this new way of working that is so warmly accepted by many. 

Just as many in the world of HR were predicting Post-Covid Future of Work Trends at the beginning of 2021, the theme of developing trends that embrace the possibilities of technology and the future of work are set to continue. 

Jade.


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Written By

Jade Taryn Graham

Founder of Inspired Talent.co a people & talent strategic consultancy working with tech, finance & startup companies worldwide. Jade is a contributing writer for Sage HR and shares her knowledge on people, process & strategies to improve the world of work.