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With hybrid working rapidly becoming the norm, the majority of businesses are now transitioning from 100% home working during the pandemic to a middle ground where employees spend a portion of their time in an office, a coworking space and occasionally at a corporate HQ).
How do you optimise the hybrid work model and make it most effective? A lot of business leaders will feel nervous about embracing change – and their concerns are valid – but, in reality, all these challenges can be overcome. Companies might even find they perform better than before…
1. ‘My team won’t be as productive if they work remotely’
In 2018, the average daily commute time of UK workers was 59 minutes, while Londoners were spending one hour and 19 minutes each day getting to and from work, according to the TUC. This adds up to between five and 6.6 hours a week.
Allowing people to work from home – or near where they live, from a local flexspace – immediately frees up more time for getting on with professional responsibilities and alleviates the stress of travelling during rush hour.
According to a recent study of more than 30,000 employees by Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, working remotely around one day a week will boost productivity by 4.8%. That said, with hybrid working it’s also important to schedule regular time together as a team – creating weekly ‘anchor’ days can be a good idea.
2. ‘It’ll be impossible to manage people effectively from a distance’
Firstly, the fact that teams succeeded in performing during the pandemic in the hardest of conditions means that people can be managed from a distance. Hybrid working comes with its unique set of challenges, though, so communication, support, inclusion and the setting of expectations are all essential for the effective management of people working in a combination of physical locations.
To avoid creating an ‘us/them’ sentiment in relation to people who are in the office and people who are working remotely at a coworking hub or at home, one approach is to conduct all weekly team meetings via video call, wherever you happen to be. It’s also crucial to have employees meet face-to-face when necessary to build rapport and a healthy corporate culture, but if some members can’t be there, take care not to exclude them from decision making – setting a precedent for looping in colleagues via Slack, email or even an old-fashioned phone call can get around this problem.
3. ‘What’s the point of having an office if people aren’t using it?’
This is a valid point, but the idea of hybrid working is to use an office in addition to remote locations, not to leave it empty and gathering dust. According to research in May 2021 by YouGov for HR tech firm Applaud, more than a quarter (26%) of UK businesses were expecting to either close, downsize or consolidate their offices, indicating a common approach, while recent research from IWG revealed that 77% of office workers expect to spend 3 days a week or less in the office in five years time.
The advantage of not needing to accommodate a full team every day of the week is that companies can take leases on smaller offices, lowering their overheads and carbon footprint, and suggesting employees come in two days a week, for example. Supplying everyone with a laptop rather than a fixed desktop computer allows for a hot desk set-up whereby workspaces are fluid, flexible and agile.
For companies that are growing, using flexspace in addition to an office means they can maintain a compact and affordable HQ without employees missing out on real-life facetime in a shared work environment.
4. ‘It’s too difficult to keep track of everyone’
It was, admittedly, easier when employers knew that everyone would be working from home all day every day but adjusting to new work patterns that go beyond the nine to five, as well as working from disparate locations is an inevitability. What’s more, just because you can see someone sitting at their desk, it doesn’t mean they are being productive, which is a better KPI.
Trust is important, but this needs to be reinforced with infrastructure that enables people to share their work schedules, book time in the office, know when to attend meetings in person and how to inform managers of their whereabouts. Letting employees choose which days of the week they will come into an office (for example Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) is a common strategy.
5. ‘Colleagues will be too isolated from one another’
With hybrid working there is a real opportunity to create work cultures and ethics that are healthier and happier for everyone. A flexible working model allows businesses to expand their recruitment pool as barriers such as geography, childcare and access pose less of an issue, while recent IWG research revealed that 83% of office workers would be more likely to apply for a job if it offered hybrid working options. By giving individuals flexibility, it allows them to tailor their midweek routines in a way that better suits them and the other demands they are juggling – especially when it comes to childcare.
There is no way of working that is perfect for everyone – some people find being at home every day too lonely, while others find being in an office too distracting. Hybrid working means that employees spend some of their time together, and hopefully in a more constructive way than before the pandemic. (More conversation, less staring at screens all day in silence.)
What’s more, using a combination of home, office and flexspace can help people demarcate their days better – during lockdown many people complained of not being able to ‘switch off’ from work, while also battling to ignore domestic tasks such as the washing up.
According to a Salesforce survey of more than 1,500 knowledge workers in the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, 59% said hybrid working would improve their psychological health while recent IWG research revealed that 60% of office workers said hybrid working had improved their mental health. What’s more, with so many great online platforms – from Slack to Monday – there is no reason for people to feel isolated and poorly informed when working remotely.
With locations in thousands of neighbourhoods all over the world, find out how Regus can help your business thrive in the new, hybrid world of work