Hybrid working involves giving people more choice as to where they would like to work, offering a flexible blend of remote and in-office working. Despite a few leaders coming out firmly in favour of a return to pre-COVID ways of working, evidence suggests hybrid working is the future most organisations will be choosing.
The pandemic shook up our ways of working, forcing some businesses to manage both critical workers on the frontline and staff at home, and other businesses to adapt to an all-remote workforce. The question of ‘what’s next?’ is now on many people’s minds. Hybrid working is the clear preferred option. Specifically, research shows:
89% of business executives agree that hybrid working will become a permanent part of working life moving forward;
68% of employees desire to continue working from home for one to three days a week going forward;
22% of employees want to adopt full-time remote working permanently.
Before the pandemic, remote working was becoming increasingly prevalent within various industries, with organisations and managers embracing the shift towards hybrid working to different degrees. Now things are different. It’s less a question of ‘can we do it?’ and more a question of ‘how can a company justify not making this shift?’
The pandemic proved that many jobs can be done remotely, prompting people to reflect on their previous working habits and routines. People will have learnt a lot about themselves and how they work best, namely: which habits feel sustainable and which don’t, what benefits they appreciate about working remotely and what aspects of being in the office they’ve missed. Hybrid working is about harnessing this shake up and giving people more autonomy to decide how, when and, crucially, where they work best. And, many organisations are seizing this opportunity to reset. The Financial Times recently noted that Lloyds Banking Group, Natwest, Aon, Virgin Media, Deutsche Bank, PWC, and Centrica have all announced they are currently analysing their ways of working strategy and shifting to a hybrid working model. But how do you get it right? How do leaders make sure that the shift to hybrid working is a win-win-win for individuals, managers, and the business? What does it take to make the ‘best of both’ dream a lived reality? This white paper aims to provide practical ‘how-to’ insight from research around those big questions.
89% of business exec research suggests that shifting to hybrid working sends a signal of support to people. The shift is interpreted as a 'signal' that the company cares about people’s welfare and wants to support them to accomplish their goals. Similarly, not shifting could signal a lack of trust and risks taking away benefits of remote working which people have come to value (such as increased autonomy and resources such as sleep and time). Even if benefits are gained from returning to pre-COVID norms, it’s the loss of benefits that will be felt more keenly and have a stronger impact on people’s motivation.
Top tips for managers around hybrid working
Co-create and clearly communicate the decision criteria - it’s important that people are given the opportunity to co-create the gatekeeping rules; for example, feeding into the decision criteria around how roles are reviewed and judged as suitable or unsuitable for hybrid working.
Stay attentive to the reactions of those not selected for hybrid working - sometimes managers will opt out of the decision entirely to avoid facing the reactions of people whose roles require them to be office-based. However, this ‘all-or nothing’ approach in the name of fairness, could restrict people’s performance and feel out of touch, especially if hybrid norms are embedding elsewhere in the company. Here, the ‘ask’ will be for managers to face into these difficult conversations, reiterating the common criteria, ensuring people are clear around how certain decisions were made and what factors are considered.
Be clear that ways of working agreements will be regularly reviewed - hybrid working is about supporting people to attain their work goals by giving them more autonomy to decide how, when, and where they work best. That said, it’s important that people don’t view the agreement as a long-term entitlement. Hybrid working agreements should be reviewed intermittently to check they are working for all parties (the individual, the manager, the team, and the organisation).
Top tip for individuals
Consider all aspects of your role within the company - while it’s tempting to just focus on what you need to work at your best, (i.e. your goals, your situation, and your preferences), it’s important to think about the role you play within the team and wider organisation. Consider all the benefits both in-office and remote working environments can bring.
Whether the promises of hybrid working become a reality or an HR nightmare will come down to line manager attitudes and how well people are trained to manage hybrid teams. However, it will also rely heavily on individuals becoming great hybrid workers, adopting fresh mindsets and work habits. Allowing people more autonomy in how, when and where they work, has potential to inject a fresh energy and motivation into a company, supporting people to be at their best and do great work. But this change, like all change, must be done with care and intention.
The questions to ask back in the workplace are to do with culture moving forward – is this new way of working now part of our culture moving forward?