At the start of May, the BBC reported that most of the UK’s biggest employers it had questioned said they didn’t expect to bring employees back to the office on a full-time basis. In its survey, 43 out of 50 companies said they intended to embrace a more hybrid arrangement with a greater mix of home and office working. Most anticipate that employees will be working around two to three days a week at home.
This move towards hybrid working is something that’s being predicted by other research too. A recent CIPD report into the future of flexible working in the light of lessons learned from the pandemic indicates that 63% of employers are expecting to either introduce or expand the use of hybrid working to some extent.
The best of both worlds
Inevitably, moving to a hybrid way of working will present challenges. It won’t be for every company and it won’t be for every employee either. Some employees might prefer being in an office setting full time. For them, the “boundary blurring” might not be something they want, preferring instead that work finishes as they step out of the building. Some might feel uncomfortable about perceived power dynamics too – it can be harder to be the employee appearing on the screen when most of the team is together in the office.
But while a reduction in face-to-face interactions could pose communication problems in a 100% remote arrangement, this is less of an issue in a hybrid pattern. Meetings and collaborative activity can be scheduled to take place on days when people are in. This way of working addresses some of the concerns of “out of sight, out of mind” when it comes to considerations like career development.
Some of the most frequently mentioned benefits include increased wellbeing through greater flexibility and being able to fit work around personal demands, along with the very practical plus point of less commuting. Home working can offer an opportunity to carry out activity that requires high concentration in a quieter environment than in an office. And of course, with the potential for a reduction in office space there are cost saving opportunities too.
Reviewing ways of working to get the most from a hybrid model
While both the BBC article and the CIPD research suggest it’s unlikely many companies will go back to work in exactly the same way they did pre-pandemic, they also mention the need for careful thought and planning to make sure companies get the most from this new way of working. The switch to remote working at the start of the first lockdown was chaotic – companies didn’t have a chance to make changes to be ready in advance.
But now there’s an opportunity to learn from what happened with a well thought through hybrid arrangement paving the way for a business to operate even more efficiently while enabling better balance for its employees.
Making the most of the opportunities from technology
There are a number of companies that have already indicated their intention to go down the route of more hybrid working: KPMG is one high profile company that’s overhauling its approach to hybrid working, alongside other wellbeing initiatives. One of the steps it’s taking as part of that overhaul is a substantial investment in home working technology for its employees. While not every company will need to go to the lengths that KPMG is planning on, the need for an increased and improved use of technology in general is a sentiment echoed in the CIPD report.
According to the report, amongst the most common measures companies are intending to introduce are technology-based improvements. 41% are intending to invest in the quality of technology and 35% are planning on investing in the quantity of technology. It’s apparent that many companies recognise that for hybrid working to be a success, they must have the technology in place to support it.
Technology improves communication and collaboration. It facilitates a reliable flow of data and knowledge. It’s an essential way to connect employees, ensuring that location isn’t a barrier to the work people do. Companies must be confident that information can be quickly and easily accessed by the people that need it, when they need it, ensuring employees can do their job effectively no matter where they are. Any company that’s considering moving towards a hybrid model would do well to start accelerating their efforts now to digitise their information and digitalise processes so they have the flexibility needed for employees to carry out work anywhere.
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