Hybrid Working – is this the right option?
The last 18 months have brought a seismic shift in the way that many people work. Unless employees were classed as “essential workers” undertaking the type of roles that meant that they needed to be in their place of work, most people moved to remote working, and offices fell silent across the globe.
However, businesses and individuals alike are returning to those long-forgotten offices, and many are adopting a blended approach with a mixture of remote and office working as we return to a level of normality. Is this the right approach, and what are the risks and benefits that it brings because the hybrid workplace comes with its own set of challenges?
Hybrid working gives employees a good blend of office-based working and remote work. This allows for face-to-face collaboration between colleagues and departments. It brings back the ability to quickly turn around last-minute tasks without having to “jump on a zoom call”. It also allows for social interaction as many people have missed a quick coffee break chat with colleagues or a conversation in confidence which is more difficult over the phone or a video conference.
There are positives and negatives
Research has shown that for many people, getting back to the office is a positive move for good mental health, but that spending at least one day a week working from home is also beneficial. Productivity increases as work commutes are cancelled out. People can balance work and family life – no need to worry about a fraught school run before reaching the office and many people use time at home to tick tasks off the to-do list that may not get completed in a hectic office environment where work distractions are plenty.
There is a downside to coming back into the office for many people and the businesses that they work for. People are still concerned about the spread of COVID19, which remains a threat for the foreseeable future despite the best efforts of a vaccination programme.
Organisations must be prepared to deal with the physical practicalities of taking steps to prevent the transmission of the virus alongside the mental side effects of concerned employees (some of whom may have been shielding for their own or their family’s health during the pandemic).
Some businesses may want staff to continue to put in place social distance measures or wear masks (when applicable) in the office, but this is difficult when so many people are looking forward to socialising together as much as working alongside one another.
There are also employees who will be resistant to the change back to a blended approach of office and home working. People are creatures of habit, and for all those who can’t wait to be a part of the office world again, there will be some who have created routines and changed lifestyles to accommodate remote working – bringing them back into the office may well be a physical and mental challenge.
The hybrid working model also brings the challenge of managing people. Not everyone will be in the office on the same day, so for managers, keeping track of who is where, remembering to check in with employees working from home, and running meetings that are face to face but with additional online participants, all add to the workload of the management team.
Ultimately, shifting towards a hybrid working model is an iterative process and needs to be tested and adjusted continually. Expectations that may be set by businesses may not always be adhered to or may not be practical. As we enter a second winter in this COVID19 era, we may also face further unknowns such as regional or national lockdowns. No one can tell. For most, however, the good news is that these hybrid models are here to stay, and this allows for flexible working, improved productivity, and the ability to maximise career progression in different geographical areas when possible.