Hybrid working – the death of the office or an opportunity to explore a new way to work?
The global pandemic that hit the world in 2020 has without doubt, been a game changer when it comes to the way we work.
The press is full of stories with varying views about where and how work will be undertaken, about the impact on the economy, on learning, on our social norms and impact of the communities we form when we are at work.
But no one has the magical power or crystal ball big enough to determine what the “right” thing to do is, or whether that “right” thing will still be “right” in 6 or 12 months time.
For employers it is a conundrum like no other and it’s hard not to be influenced by reports such as this from People Management in April 2021:
“Only one in five workers feel their employer is prepared to support a hybrid working model after the pandemic, according to a new study.
A survey by Sony Professional Solutions found that two-thirds (65 per cent) expect to work from home at least two days a week, while almost a third (31 per cent) believe that a return to five-day office working will not happen until 2022, if at all.
Where employers had a one-day remote working policy pre-pandemic, nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of employees expect to work from home at least one day a week post Covid.
The study also revealed that the shift towards a more hybrid working model is being driven by 18 to 24-year-olds, with three-quarters (75 per cent) saying they expect to work remotely at least two days a week.
Just 13 per cent of those aged 18-24 said they expect to return to working in the office full time, compared to half (51 per cent) of 35 to 54-year-olds.
The firm added that the results of the survey suggest employers need to better plan their “future workplace” and look at how they support remote workers.People Management: April 2021
Or this from the BBC in February 2021:
Goldman Sachs boss David Solomon has rejected remote working as a “new normal” and labelled it an “aberration” instead.
Mr Solomon said the investment bank had operated throughout 2020 with “less than 10% of our people” in the office.
His eagerness for workers to return to the office is at odds with many other firms, who have suggested that working from home could become permanent.
Mr Solomon suggested that it does not suit the work culture at Goldman Sachs.
“I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us. And it’s not a new normal. It’s an aberration that we’re going to correct as soon as possible,” he told a conference on Wednesday.Goldman Sachs: Bank boss rejects work from home as the ‘new normal’ – BBC News
With the level of noise ever increasing, we think it’s helpful to set out the facts from an employment point of view and then give you our three top tips based on our experience to date and working with employers, some, perhaps are just like you.
Most reputable employers look after their staff. They will have navigated the pandemic the best way they can, but have probably made decisions based on health and safety rather than their immediate business interests. People therefore have got used to framing their thinking about work in a similar context.
Reputable employers have a contract with their employees. This contract puts obligations on both the employer and the employee. A contract will include a place of work. Many employers had to temporarily change the place of work as a result of the government instruction – to “work from home if you can”. That instruction was lifted on 19 July 2021.
Employee’s expectations around where and when they work have seemingly changed. The perception is that because some staff have worked at home for a number of months that they can continue to do so. That isn’t, necessarily so. In some businesses there has been an impact in the quality of communication, the quality of work, the quality of staff wellbeing, the quality of learning and the overall productivity. That is not to say that some have worked well from home but if you ask yourself – has the productivity of my business been negatively or positively impacted throughout the pandemic? The answer may lead you toward the answer you are looking for.
Some employers feel pressurised to make a decision now – everyone else is, so I should too, right? You are not obliged to do anything about how you work right now. You are obliged to provide a safe place for your team to work, but on what pattern of work is up to you.
Three Top Tips when thinking about hybrid working
- Talk to your team
Be open, listen and be transparent about how the business has done throughout the pandemic. Use various methods to establish how they feel about work in a post pandemic world. Use a survey, a team talk, one to one’s, but try and gather people together in person if it is possible.
- Don’t make a decision now that you might regret later
Agree to any change but do so on a temporary basis and then review again in 3- 6 months. A great deal will change as we return to a more normal way of working. What people think they want now may well change as more people return.
- Embrace the solution that is right for your business
Don’t feel obliged to go with the crowd. If your business succeeds your people will too, so do what is right and communicate why it is right with the people you employ.