Hybrid working is here to stay but what is hybrid working?
Hybrid working existed long before COVID-19 sent us all home in March 2020, but in a post-pandemic era it has been adopted as normal practice for many businesses.
Employers who were previously reluctant to let their people work from home, have now embraced the hybrid workplace in a working arrangement which makes employees feel like they are trusted by their bosses to get on with their jobs, whether they are working in office space or working from home.
Hybrid working meaning
Put simply, hybrid working is any flexible working model which enables employees to work from different locations. Rather like the hybrid car combines both traditional and electric engines, similarly, hybrid working combines the option to work in the office, at home or in another remote location such as coworking space.
Hybrid working provides employees with a degree of flexibility, breaking up their working weeks with perhaps three or four days in the office and maybe one or two days at home. When an employee works flexibly, they are perhaps more likely to be productive, feeling trusted to complete their work regardless of if they are in the office or not.
Certainly, a day working from home can be helpful if one is engaged in a project which requires uninterrupted concentration. On the flip side, team meetings are much better held in person rather than on zoom, and on days when you need to interact with numerous different colleagues, this is much easier to achieve in the office.
During the pandemic, workers became used to working from home and have enjoyed some of the benefits that has brought, but while remote working has worked for many, there are some for whom it has brought on issues with mental health, finding it hard to strike a work/life balance, feeling isolated and disassociated from fellow team members.
Some people just prefer to be office-based on a full-time basis for the collaborative work environment the office provides and for the feeling of belonging. This is particularly true for young workers who are starting out on their careers and for whom working from home can result in a lack of mentoring and reduced opportunities for growth, not to mention potentially restricted career development. Certainly, the soft skills which are naturally acquired when working in an office are obviously impossible to learn in a remote environment.
Employee engagement and company culture are also things which are hard to maintain when employees aren’t coming together face-to-face on a regular basis. With the days of social distancing more or less behind us, teams are now able to meet in person, seeing an end, more or less, to the interminable days of Zoom and Microsoft Teams calls.
Hybrid working benefits
No two hybrid work models are the same as employers re-imagine the traditional working week. Hybrid working must fit in with the needs of the business as well as accommodate the needs of its personnel.
Greater flexibility for the worker is perhaps the most significant benefit. This is important for attracting new talent, with most people expecting some degree of flexibility in any new role when it comes to the option of working from home.
While some people work best in an office, others prefer the quiet of working alone. For most a mix of both allows for days when some quiet time is required to write up a report or presentation, or to focus on clearing that inbox. Similarly, days in the office are great for team meetings and collaborating with colleagues. This is where a hybrid working arrangement comes in to its own, offering a mix of both.
In terms of productivity, there are those for whom productivity levels will be boosted by the chance to work a day or so at home, similarly there are others who may find that being office-based works better for them in order to get work done.
Hybrid working disadvantages
Hybrid working obviously doesn’t suit all businesses. There are some jobs which simply can’t be done from home, not even on a part-time basis, this would include client-facing roles such as a receptionist.
There is also the issue of certain members of staff who might be difficult to manage remotely, viewing the days they are working at home as days when they perhaps need not work as hard or indeed, only work just enough to make it look like they are doing something. In such cases, managers will need to monitor productivity and take action accordingly.
In the same way that hybrid working doesn’t suit all businesses, it may also not suit all members of staff, with some perhaps feeling demotivated by the situation and lonely working in isolation.
Additionally, any organisation implementing a hybrid working policy must consider the health and safety aspects of working from home for employees. This is as much the responsibility of the business as it is if the staff member is working in the office. This means ensuring the necessary risk assessments have been made in terms of an employee’s desk set-up at home. Are they sitting in a suitably ergonomic office chair? Is their computer screen at the right height to ensure correct posture? Younger members of staff are less likely to have a designated workspace at home and their long-term skeletal and muscular health can be impacted detrimentally by sitting for long periods with a laptop on their knees, or by working at a kitchen table, sitting on a kitchen chair.
Hybrid working brings with it a variety of pros and cons, both for employees and the organisation they work for. Striking the right balance will depend on the needs of the business as much as it will the needs or preferences of individuals, but whatever the case, hybrid working is here to stay, in one form or another, and certainly it seems to be the future of work.
Image credit: Canva