Ever since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic early last year, quarantines, lockdowns and self-imposed isolations have forced millions of workers around the work to work remotely from home. This workplace experiment that had once struggled to gain any traction amongst businesses, became a saving grace for many during a time of great uncertainty.
While there have undoubtedly been challenges along the way, remote working has proven itself to many that its more than just a useful stopgap. It worked so well in fact, that even though a vaccination is being rolled out and an end to the pandemic is in sight, employees don’t want to go back to their old way of working. Well, not completely anyway.
New research by YouGov discovered that almost 18% of UK office workers would choose to work from home every day, whereas 32% would opt to work from home most days. It seems that while some may be glad to return to the office, many employees want to spend more time working remotely — and some may not want to return to the office at all.
With pressures to keep all of their employees happy whilst also ensuring their business remains productive, many employers have already started to consider a new style of working for their post-pandemic workplace, known as the hybrid working method.
In its most basic form, the hybrid working model involves a workforce that is split between working remotely and working in an office and has a combination of remote, semi-remote and office-based employees.
While it might sound a lot like flexible working, there is a key difference. The hybrid working model gives employees the autonomy to decide how, when and, most importantly, where they work best. This is designed to enable employees to improve their work-life balance and increase flexibility, whilst also providing them with structure and sociability.
Existing hybrid companies, which have already seen a significant increase since the outbreak of the pandemic, typically designate certain days where the physical presence of their employees is required in the office. This could be for in-office meetings, team building and collaboration or project kick-offs. They then utilise remote days for work that requires more individual focus.
The beauty of a hybrid working model is its ability to be tailored to an organisation and its team’s needs, whatever they may be. So, whether you want a fully remote team or just want to come into the office a couple of days each week, this model could give you the power to do so.
Prioritising employees and encouraging a stronger work-life balance are some of the key benefits that can come from the implementation of a hybrid working model. But there are also plenty of others.
32% of UK employees are concerned about contracting the virus when they return to the office, according to a survey by YouGov. The hybrid working model can help to ease this anxiety about returning to the workplace or using public transport, particularly for those who are vulnerable or caring for those who are. It has also been proven to reduce the spread of the virus as employees can choose to work from home if they feel unwell.
It can also be beneficial for employers. With less reliance on large scale workplaces and reduced power consumption, organisations can save money. This can then be reinvested into employee training, hiring new employees or upgrading technology, which can contribute towards employee satisfaction, development and retention.
In theory, hiring the best talent should be a lot easier for organisations who utilise hybrid working, because they are no longer confined to only hiring employees in a specific geographical area. It can also be an attractive offer for prospective employees who want to continue remote working after getting a taste for it during the pandemic.
Additionally, a hybrid workplace can also help organisations to prepare for future pandemics and crises by creating a more crisis resilient culture. For instance, if part of a team is already working remotely on a regular basis, the organisation already has the means in place to switch a fully remote workforce if another crisis occurs in future.
While it might seem like the best thing since sliced bread, the hybrid working model isn’t without its flaws and challenges. For starters, not everyone has access to good quality WIFI, a designated workspace and a quiet place to work at home. Not only can this make employees feel isolated, but it can also have a negative impact on their work performance.
There’s also the risk that employees who are ‘seen’ in the office every day will be seen as providing a greater output than their remote-working colleagues who are seen less frequently. This could mean that the in-person office workers are given preferential treatment when it comes to promotions, whilst also reducing remote workers opportunities for collaboration, individual recognition and advancement.
If there is a lack of communication between a hybrid working team, employees can quickly feel excluded and out of the loop when it comes to upcoming projects and company goals. This can also erode company culture and social interaction amongst teams, which will ultimately impact engagement and satisfaction levels.
These examples highlight the importance of having a robust hybrid workplace plan in place before implementation. If not properly executed, a hybrid workplace could create an unnecessary divide between those who work in the office and those who work remotely.
The key to the successful implementation of the hybrid working model is communication and collaboration with employees. While some might think that this new style of working is incredible, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. By asking employees for their input from the get-go, organisations have a far greater chance of making this new style of working a success.