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Is Hybrid Working the Future for Your Company?

This article discusses:

  • What is hybrid working?
  • The benefits of hybrid working
  • The disadvantages of remote work
  • What types of hybrid working are there?
  • How can hybrid work for your business?
Split illustration. One side shows workers in a modern, open plan office. The other shows a home worker.

Hybrid work is here to stay.

A 2023 survey by Zippia found that 74% of US companies are using or planning to use a permanent hybrid working model and that 59% of employees are more likely to choose an employer that offers remote work opportunities over one that doesn’t.

 

Since the pandemic, there has been a constant evolution of how and where we work. For roles where it’s appropriate, full-time office work is no longer the accepted norm.

But what exactly is hybrid working? Is it right for your organisation, and how can you implement it?

What is hybrid working?

Illustration of a man sitting at a sofa working on a laptop. In the background is a sunset and palm trees.

The problem with hybrid working is that there’s no one single agreed definition. Different companies implement different hybrid working practices in different ways.

In some ways, that’s brilliant because it means you can work for your business and your employees.

But in other ways, it’s difficult because there’s no clearly accepted framework that you can utilise.

Broadly speaking, hybrid working means that employees have a combination of working remotely (usually at home) and working in the office. Sometimes, this can mean that all staff have the opportunity to choose hybrid working. In larger companies, some staff whose roles need them to be on-site may not have the option to work remotely, whereas others may be able to do so full-time.

Benefits of hybrid working

Illustration of a happy lady working at her laptop in her home office

There are plenty of benefits to hybrid working, both for employers and employees.

Flexible working can be more productive

In an office setting, workers must conform to a specific way of working. With hybrid working, they can work as it suits them.

A noisy, vibrant office is great for collaborative work, but a quiet space at home can be much better for head-down concentration.

Employees can have a better work-life balance

Getting away from the 9-5 in the office every day mindset can be a game changer for workers. Not to mention the ability to gain back the hours a week spent commuting.

Work better before breakfast? Like to go for a run at lunchtime to clear your head? Need to do the school run? No problem with flexible hybrid working.

A wider talent pool

For employees, the opportunity to appeal to talent from geographically disparate locations can be a huge boost.

For roles where office attendance is not mandatory or can be kept to a minimum, the job can appeal to a much wider audience. This is great for staff too, who can have the opportunity to find roles to suit them that may not exist within easy commuting distance.

Save on bills

If you have fewer people on-site at any time, you can save money. Maybe you don’t need so much office space. Maybe you don’t need to open every day.

Those savings can then be reinvested back into providing a better hybrid working experience for your employees.

What about the disadvantages?

Illustration of a man working at his laptop at home. He looks sad. The room is dark and his face is lit by the glow from the laptop screen.

Hybrid work isn’t all upside, though. There are disadvantages and difficulties to be dealt with.

Collaboration can suffer

If employees can choose to attend the office as they please, there’s a concern that they might not crossover with members of their team. And while online collaboration tools exist, they’re no replacement for in-person interaction.

On the other hand, if teams are required on-site on specific days, this issue can be sidestepped. But the spontaneous, unplanned collaboration between disparate teams that can only happen through chance encounters is almost certainly lost.

It’s a lot of work

While hybrid work can make your employee’s life better, it can be hard work to implement successfully. It requires careful management and constant reassessment to make sure that workers are getting the benefits without productivity suffering.

It requires a high level of adaptability and pragmatism from managers to get right.

It doesn’t work for everyone

Even setting aside the potential problems around collaboration and relationship building, some roles simply don’t work remotely. A laptop-based data analyst may be easily able to take their work home; a shop fitter or nurse, not so much.

It’s vital when planning hybrid working options to ensure that staff who cannot work remotely don’t feel like they’re being left out.

Increased cost for employees

The benefits of commuting less are well documented – but what about the disadvantages? Working at home means an increase in energy bills, which could cause problems for employees. The savings in commuting costs may not offset these increases for all staff.

So, you need to make sure you listen to your employees and don’t dismiss their concerns because they don’t fit with your plan. Check whether the government in your area provides any benefits or relief for home workers.

What types of hybrid working are there?

Split illustration showing different ways of hybrid working. There is a woman working at home, a busy office and a man working on the beach

Most businesses have their own unique interpretation of exactly what hybrid working looks like. But broadly speaking, most will fit into one of these four definitions.

Hybrid-at-will

The most flexible option for hybrid working. Employees can decide when – and if – they come and work in the office with no restrictions.

Hybrid-at-will offers great flexibility for employees but can cause planning problems for employers. The lack of a set schedule can lead to over-full facilities on some days and empty buildings on others. The morale-boosting and collaborative benefits of office time can easily be lost.

Hybrid split week

The company decides specific days for employees to come into the office – usually, each team will be in together.

This is much easier to plan for, as you’ll know who will be in when. It can also be great for collaboration within teams. It can lead to siloed working though, as inter-team interaction can be limited. It also limits the flexibility for employees.

Hybrid manager scheduling

It is similar to the split week, but instead of the company deciding which team comes in when, it’s down to individual managers to set times for their teams.

Again, this is an easier option to plan for, but it still limits employee flexibility and cross-team interaction. It can also cause friction between teams if different managers implement it in different ways.

Hybrid mix

A combination of all of the above. Managed well, this can offer the best of all worlds; managed badly it can exacerbate all the negatives while minimising the advantages.

How can hybrid work for my business?

Illustration showing workers discussing a graph representing business growth

If you’re not offering hybrid working options then you’re missing out. Workers will opt for an employer that offers hybrid over one that doesn’t. They’ll leave a company to get the working opportunities they want. And for many, hybrid working means a happier, more productive workforce.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Well not quite. To make hybrid work, you need to make sure that you’re addressing the needs of your workforce. You need to make sure that you’re getting the most out of the benefits of hybrid – and that you’re minimising the impact of the negatives.

And there’s no simple, one-size-fits-all solution. You need a hybrid working solution tailored to your business.

But there are plenty of things you can do to help make sure you get it right.

Talk to your employees

This is the single most important thing you can do before implementing or changing a hybrid work plan. Hybrid working needs to work for your workforce or it doesn’t work at all.

So ask them.

Ask what’s good about the current system. Ask what doesn’t work. Ask for ideas on how things could be improved.

But be prepared that the answers might be disparate. Different people have different needs, and your policy will need to reflect that. You need a system that will work for everyone, and allow them to be the best employees they can be.

Talk to your leaders

Your team leaders understand how their employees work and what they need.

They’ll be able to advise you on things like how to maintain high levels of collaboration and morale without losing the flexibility that people crave.

Find out what’s working for them now, and what’s not. Learn what solutions different teams have put in place, and whether they can be rolled out to other areas of the business.

Then you’ll need to reconcile their needs with those of their team members.

Talk to HR and IT

The pandemic forced global changes to how we work on an unprecedented level. But you can’t make such sweeping changes without considering the ramifications now.

So talk to your HR team. Use their skills to make sure you’re creating a system that’s great for everyone.

And talk to IT too. Make sure your systems have the capacity and security to enable consistent, productive home working.

Create great spaces

Wherever your employees choose to work, you need to give them the space and the equipment they need.

How that looks will depend on your business and how you implement hybrid working.

  • You could create a simple, bookable hotdesk system so people always know they’ll have a space to work – ideally close to their team.
  • Use the extra space for small breakout rooms for when employees need to make calls from the office or have team huddles.
  • Make sure every desk is set up ready for work. Knowing that there’ll be a screen, mouse and keyboard ready to plug in makes preparing to come to the office much simpler.
  • Invest in different styles of workspace. Not everyone wants to sit at a desk.
  • Make sure employees have everything they need to work at home. Provide things like screens, chairs and headsets where they’re needed.

The feedback you receive from your teams will help you to plan how you can build the spaces – both on-site and remotely – that they need to work at their best.

Invest in tools and technology

If you want your employees to be happy and productive in a new way of working you’re going to give them the tools they need to do it.

This might be as basic as providing them with laptops and network access from home. It might mean a simple, flexible booking system for the office. Or asynchronous communication tools for collaborating with colleagues in different time zones – or who just like to work at different times.

There are many solutions to hybrid working problems. You need to understand the issues you have, and build the solutions around them.

Create a flexible hybrid company culture

Making hybrid work means embracing it fully. That’s more than just buying some laptops and a Slack license.

Make sure that employees are supported and encouraged to work how it suits them. Avoid any stigma around different styles of working.

Build systems to encourage hybrid workers to socialise beyond their immediate teams – whether in the office or remotely. Virtual and in-person coffee breaks with people from other departments can be rewarding both professionally and personally.

Make a workplace where people want to be

The best way to get people to come into the office is to make them want to come into the office.

Everything you do in creating a hybrid working environment should be geared towards it being a positive, exciting space where people look forward to office days.

No one wants to come into work to sit in silence with headphones on. They can do it at home.

It might mean that overall productivity dips on office days – but the collaborative team-building advantages more than outweigh it.

Be adaptable

Don’t rest on your laurels.

When you’ve got your hybrid system up and running, monitor it. Track it. Talk to people. Make sure you have a robust feedback system so employees can have their opinions heard.

And be ready to change.

You might find that what worked perfectly in theory has teething problems. Maybe a system that worked 18 months ago doesn’t work now.

Business priorities change. Employee needs change.

Make sure you’re catering to both by having an open mind and a positive attitude to change and growth.

Make hybrid work for you

Hybrid work isn’t going away.

More and more employees are demanding the opportunity to work flexibly, and they’re not afraid to switch jobs to get the lifestyle they want.

If you can’t offer that, you’re missing out on some of the best talent.

And if your hybrid solution isn’t up to scratch, then your best employees will leave.

Because they know they can do better elsewhere.

So it’s vital that you create a culture and work environment that employees love.

For additional advice or information on flexible working environments, please get in touch with our specialists at [email protected] or fill out our contact form here. If you’re looking for a new opportunity, all our live roles can be seen here.

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