Hybrid Working - The future of work?
Being adaptable and flexible regarding our work environment was something that was forced upon us by the pandemic. Before Covid-19, flexible, remote working set-ups that allowed employees to move between home and office, were really only afforded to those who worked for “progressive” organisations. In the post-pandemic world, these sort of working situations, now being referred to as “Hybrid Working” look set to become a common fixture throughout the world of work.
So, what is hybrid working? Hybrid working is described as the link between working in a set location and working flexibly or remotely from a home or non-workplace environment (coffee shops etc.)
It’s fair to say that in the past, employers have shown a reluctance to embrace flexible working practices, with the preference being having all workers on site. This is largely down to visibility and accessibility of workers, and ease and speed of communication being aided by the fact that employees are there in person. One of the lasting affects that the pandemic could well be that the way people work, and the way that people want to work could be now changed. The workplace will always be important, but it is anticipated that how important it is in relation to the necessity of employees having to always work from there is debateable.
Some recent studies show that up to 85% of workers would want a flexible work situation, allowing them to work between home and office. If companies were to embrace this, for many it would be a massive cultural shift in how these companies function as well as having potential knock-on effects in terms of policy changes and changes of practice. The many obvious benefits of a hybrid working set up are the flexibility afforded to the employee by being able to work from outside of the office, the subsequent positive impact on work-life balance and studies show that when implemented correctly, hybrid working can increase productivity.
From a recruitment perspective, accepting that the demand for a hybrid working arrangement may be here to stay is something to consider. Hybrid working will be highly sought after by job seekers and companies and recruiters must be aware of this, with some studies showing that as many as 50% of employees would leave their job for one that offered hybrid working. As many industries begin to get back on their feet and companies may look to recruit new staff, as well as companies who retained their staff throughout the pandemic look to bring staff back to the office, it must be acknowledged that many employees may look elsewhere if a hybrid model is not part of the job offering. Recent graduates, who would have spent the best part of the last 18 months finishing their studies remotely, are likely to expect hybrid working to be the norm. UCD College of Business Professor and founder of HR Analytics Ireland, María Belizón, has suggested that this class of digital natives “have developed more skills than other cohorts and are mindful of interacting with people online. I think, on the whole, they have experienced more of the life they will face in the workforce, so it is a good training ground.” Not only that, but companies must also consider the implications of having part of their workforce not in the office, but still being set up and enabled to work properly whilst remote.
While there are obvious considerations around smaller office spaces i.e. cheaper rent, with a reduced workforce on site, some of this may be off-set by having to invest in the likes of video conferencing software and then also laptops, tablets and even home office items, ensuring employees can still work to the same capabilities whilst not in the office. Different employees, whether they be in the office or elsewhere, have different needs, so supporting them as best you can is very important.
There are also some interesting conversations being had around hybrid work and its impact on the culture of a company. As stated previously, prior to the pandemic it was only a handful of “progressive” companies that had fully embracing hybrid working models and its interesting to note that these types of companies are often highly praised for their company culture. If accepting that hybrid working is here to stay, how does a company cultivate a culture for a workforce that are scattered across various locations at any given time? It’s hard to say for definite right now, but it is an important point of consideration.
The reality is that enabling hybrid working is a compromise. In exchange for allowing employees work off-site, you allow employees to strike a better work-life balance, increase productivity and it also means that when they are in the office, it is generally for important things that the employer wants to do in a face-to-face setting. Some people will obviously not want to work from home. Increased meetings due to not being able to have quick, casual at-the-desk conversations has been one of the most common complaints from workers based at home. The lack of ability to concentrate and increased distractions at home being cited as a common reason that some workers will prefer to stay in the office, which is fine as with hybrid working, workers are empowered and given the choice to decide to work where they feel they can be most productive.
Hybrid working is here to stay. It is going to be something highly sought after by employees and job seekers going forward. Workers and employers must consider how best to implement a hybrid working scenario that suits them / their organizations unique set of circumstances.