If you own or manage a business, it’s likely that your working practices have changed over the last year and a half. Hybrid working looks set to be the new norm for many firms, with a recent BBC survey finding that almost none of the UK’s biggest employers plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.
43 of the top 50 employers in the UK say they plan to embrace a combination of home and office working, with staff working from home for perhaps two or three days a week.
This hybrid approach can offer the best of both worlds for employees – but business owners do face challenges in transitioning to a fundamentally different approach to work. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering hybrid working.
The advantages of hybrid working
Since the first lockdown in March 2020 saw millions of workers head home for the first time, the world of work has changed. Over the past 15 months, employees have proven that they can be as productive and effective working from home, and many would like to continue to benefit from this flexibility in the future.
A poll reported in The Atlantic found that 84% of respondents said they enjoyed remote work. A similar Gallup study found that remote workers reported better overall wellbeing and higher engagement than office-based staff. And, many office workers also seem to be more productive at home, even in a once in a generation global crisis.
One of the key reasons why employees are so keen to retain hybrid working is because it offers a better work-life balance. Working from home for two or three days a week allows people with a substantial commute to regain some of their time, which they can spend with their family, on hobbies they enjoy, or simply catching up with sleep as the alarm clock goes off a little later.
Working from home also gives staff more control over their workload and time management. Remote workers can take a break from their computer by walking the dog or putting a load in the washing machine, and use breaks more productively.
Hybrid working can also enable staff to reconsider their home arrangements. Many workers have decided to move out of urban areas to the countryside as they no longer need to be so close to the office, and this can also lead to a higher quality of life.
Tips for managing hybrid working
While hybrid working offers many benefits to employees, business owners and managers are going to have to adapt to this new way of working. Here are some tips for managing hybrid working.
Ensure staff do have a remote environment to work in
Research published by the World Economic Forum suggests that, while most workers want to continue to work remotely for at least a few days a week, they are also keen to retain access to spaces outside their home where they can work. It will be important for you to recognise this need.
Our study found that post-Covid, employees want to split their time almost evenly between three types of spaces:
- Their home
- The office
- Other environments such as co-working spaces or cafes.
As an employer, you’ll need to provide access to these spaces to your team. If you have enough space in your office, that is great. If you don’t, you might have to consider renting office space or services offices to give your team the flexibility to work in a different environment.
You may also need to reconfigure your existing office space to make it more Covid-friendly. That might mean more break-out areas or meeting rooms for collaboration or implementing a “booking” system for desks.
Treat everyone fairly
If some of your workers are coming into the office more than others, it will be important to ensure that everyone receives equal and fair treatment. You should approach your plans for hybrid working with fairness and empathy in mind.
That means you’ll need to understand what is best for each individual. However, you’ll also need to make sure that you’re not accommodating working from home requests to some workers more than others – for example, those with children.
Recognise remote workers
As part of being fair, you’ll need to ensure that you are recognising and including your remote workers. Recent research from WeWork found that almost a quarter (23%) of employees feel they are not being recognised regularly, and this will be magnified if they are not in the office.
Recognition makes employees feel more connected to their team and their manager, and so it’s important you include remote workers and recognise them.
Enable social connection
While you may be more concerned with ensuring the work is done, ensuring your remote workers are happy and feel connected to their colleagues is also important.
This can be tricky when your workers are not sharing an office environment – especially when loneliness is one of the main drawbacks of remote work.
So, it’s important that you provide social opportunities that all employees can access. This might include:
- Implementing an office messaging system, with channels where staff can talk about pets, TV and films, photos, and other water-cooler topics
- Host regular team meetings and encourage your workers to talk about non-work subjects
- Host social events such as virtual quiz nights, “happy hours” or online escape rooms
- Open up a lunchtime channel where people can join and chat while having their lunch. You could ask individuals to do a 10-minute presentation on a subject they are passionate about, or share productivity and efficiency tips
Moving forward, it will be important to ensure that both your in-office employees and remote workers have the same experience. So, creating opportunities for everyone to forge relationships will be critical.
Get in touch
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