After the pandemic upended people’s lives on a global scale, employees have settled into the new systems of remote working. Now that the restrictions are easing off, many companies are trying to determine the best way forward for their workers. However, its quickly becoming clear many employees don’t want to return to the office fully. This is where hybrid working comes in.
Earlier this year, a survey in the US showed that 55% of workers want a new mixture of home and office (hybrid) working.
Meanwhile in the UK, employers are anticipating that the number of regular remote workers will increase to twice the amount before the pandemic. This would see an increase of remote workers from 18% to 37%.
Many companies are currently dealing with this demand for remote working in their own ways, with some employers giving their staff until later this year before expecting a return to office. Alternatively, some bosses have returned employees to the workplace on staggered schedules or even leaving it up to individual workers to decide.
Whilst this might meet the demand in the short term, it is undeniable that employers are soon going to have to consider the longer-term implications of these changes, including alternative work communications and timetable structures. And many are concluding that a very likely option is going to be hybrid working: combining remote work with office work.
What is Hybrid Working?
In this context, the term ‘hybrid’ refers to many possible systems of flexible work. Hybrid work typically includes more freedom around when and where to work.
In many cases, these systems grant more autonomy to employees and allows them to tailor their work to the rest of their lives. Ideally, it’s the best of both worlds; the structure and sociability of the office, and the independence and flexibility of remote working.
A common procedure is to designate certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration, and remote days for work involving individual focus.
When asked about hybrid working, Anita Williams Woolley (a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University), suggested that organizations should evaluate their space before considering downsizing, to avoid eliminating meeting space.
What issues can arise from Hybrid Working?
Of course, hybrid working won’t be for everyone. This can be for a variety of reasons, some of which have already been highlighted by many employers and employees alike.
- Not everyone has an office at home: The pandemic has drawn attention to issues facing many workers who struggle to support working remotely, whether that be because of unreliable internet access; the demands of parenting and caring for others; and a lack of appropriate space that is required to make working from home comfortable. Those employees living in small flats with poor internet may struggle to adapt to working from home for a large part of their week.
- Some people rely on the structure of their work schedule: As well as this, employees who appreciate a fixed routine may find it difficult to incorporate a workstyle in which the lines are more flexible to move back and forth between work settings.
- Communication problems are far more common: As you might expect, distributed teams commonly report communication problems when trying to coordinate with one another. It has been suggested that conflict between co-workers is more likely when working remote, because social inhibitions are more powerful when working face-to-face.
How can employers address issues and achieve a healthy balance?
So, what steps can employers planning to incorporate Hybrid Working take to ensure their model is successful? Well; here are a few points we think all employers should be aiming to address when planning their hybrid structure:
- Try to get as many workers in the office on the same days as possible. Although this may be impractical for some employees, a good leaders should always be in regular interaction with employees with roughly equal face-to-face time.
- Try to keep in constant communication both in and out of the office. Transparent communication is also critical, and it is recommended that companies have group meetings regularly. Communication doesn’t necessarily have to be constant, but more clarity and consistency around procedures is important to avoid conflict.
- Modularization is key to optimizing Hybrid Work. This involves dividing up work into tasks that employees can complete independently and make decisions on quickly, without requiring colleagues to be online simultaneously. In other words, efficient hybrid working shouldn’t require everyone to be working the same hours, although occasionally it may be necessary.
In short, play to the strengths of remote working by incorporating a healthy mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication methods to help your remote teams work at their best and benefit from all the best aspects of Hybrid Working.
If you’d like to learn more about how to embed hybrid working into your business, get in touch via our online form, or contact us on: 0330 400 5490.
Working in Marketing at Wurkplace, responsible for producing a variety of brand videos and images. Duties also include producing web content for the company website and social media.