Since the work from home guidance has been lifted and more people have started to return to their offices, the reality of hybrid working is now beginning to be properly put through its paces.
The hybrid working model experienced a huge rise in popularity since the pandemic and a recent XpertHR study showed that 97% of organisations are implementing, or plan on, implementing hybrid working. However, a recent McKinsey study revealed that 68% of companies have no detailed plan communicated or in place for hybrid working. So despite hybrid working becoming the new workplace buzzword, there is still an air of confusion around exactly what it is and how to implement it.
Flashback to 2019, or indeed to any point in the last 15 years, and the concept of hybrid working becoming a fixed solution for most global workers would have been difficult to digest. Google search data shows quite how radical the growth in hybrid working has become. Terms associated with hybrid working jumped from 60+ searches in January 2020 to 33,000+ searches in January 2022. There is clearly a difference between Googling a topic and transforming your workplace strategy but what this does show us is that hybrid working is a topic that people are searching for more clarity on.
The fact is that not every business will need to adopt hybrid working, it simply will not benefit certain business. But with more people heading back to the office and hybrid working being put into practice, the question looms about whether hybrid working will become permanent.
During the pandemic, many businesses were forced to adopt hybrid working to maintain business activity. Some companies have implemented hybrid working without conducting the processes you would ordinally go through when making substantial changes to your working model.
Hybrid working should be driven by objectives and shaped by data and insights from within your organisation. These data-driven choices and insights have been skipped and if hybrid working is going to offer long-term changes to business practice, now is the time for adaptation and rectifying. This is not to say that those companies haven’t been using the hybrid working model but it is likely that the full potential hasn’t been unlocked.
Another area where hybrid working is also potentially causing confusion is down to individual definitions. The idea of having more freedom at work, or simply the interchangeable use of other working models such as agile working and flexible working means people are saying one thing and meaning another. Before hybrid working really becomes integrated into our vocabulary, we need to acknowledge the difference between different ways of working and ensure we’re all speaking a common language.
Once exposure to hybrid working and what that means starts to increase, the future of hybrid working will become clearer. One of the most progressive views on hybrid working is to think of it as a way of achieving greater autonomy as explained by Harvard Business Review. Shifting to a productivity-based model or giving staff the autonomy to decide where and when they work is the ultimate end goal for hybrid working. If workplaces are designed to support hybrid working and businesses can extend the levels of trust developed during the pandemic, then hybrid working has the potential to become a permanent way of working and not just a post-pandemic fad.
While hybrid working is not a new concept, the working landscape now looks quite different to how it has in the past. Naturally, splitting time between the office and remote workspaces has changed how we view the working week but we’ve also seen how a lot of people can do their job effectively from anywhere. On the other side of it, working from home highlighted the shortfalls of not being in the office. A recent McKinsey study about the hopes for the future of work, shows that 44% feared a loss of community and connections to colleagues and 43% feared reduced collaboration for individuals and teams while working from home. If hybrid working is to become permanent, then there is a requirement for the office to be optimised as a high-performance space that has been tailored to the people working there.
One of the big drivers for office-based work is the benefit to collaboration and communication with co-workers. Now that we’ve seen this trend across multiple sectors, there is an opportunity to redesign our offices to emphasise the benefits off working in the office. CBRE’s EMEA Market Outlook for 2022 reports that the allocation of collaboration space within an office will move from approximately 13% up to around 25%. In what CBRE are calling the shift from ‘Me to We’ the outlook for office design is that it will prioritise community spaces and put an even greater focus on the collective. This is one of the many areas in which the office can be improved due to the arrival of the new hybrid working era as technology, leadership and culture will also need to be encapsulated in office design.
Equally, there is a risk of designing offices as social-spaces which turn offices into coffee shops or hotel lobbies. The reality is that hybrid working will need a hybrid workplace and current trends suggest that by increasing the agile and flexible elements within the workplace, the office will be reinvigorated. Social elements of work are not easily accessible while working remotely so office design will double-down on these aspects to demonstrate how the office will support new working patterns.
With more employers starting to offer greater flexibility under the hybrid working model, the prospect of achieving a better work/life balance may help us to become more productive. Chief Executive of CMI Ann Francke believes that having a split between the office and a remote working environment can be a huge benefit for employees.
An office represents a lot more than just a place to be productive, so if companies can design their offices for hybrid working and reposition the benefits of coming into the office, the focus shifts onto creating a seamless experience between office-based and remote work. Productivity has repeatedly been used as one of the main reasons for retaining home and remote working, with reports showing that 65% of workers said they would be more productive in a home office than a normal office. However, relating everything back to productivity is going to provide skewed results as productivity can vary so drastically from person-to-person and task-to-task. Research conducted by Prodoscore, a productivity monitoring software company, claims that employee productivity is in fact predictable. Their research data showed that if an employee is highly productive in the office, they’ll be productive at home and that if an employee wasn’t productive in the office, they’ll be the same working from home. So if the focus shifts to the individual, then the working environment can be used differently.
Hybrid working is frequently positioned as remote working versus office-based working and one being better than the other but true hybrid working is far more harmonious than that. If businesses can shift their views to see hybrid working as an unbiased working model, then it is possible to allow individuals and businesses to select their environment based on their task. Certain tasks are better suited to the office, such as group project work and collaboration sessions. Similarly with remote work, many people have experienced increased concentration and less distractions. By removing the push and pull of one location against the other, then the more likely it is people will migrate to where they can do their work the best.
Before hybrid working becomes permanent, it must be established in the first place and currently, there is still a big gap in knowledge and implications of hybrid working. While businesses are starting to look at hybrid working, the feeling is that more time is needed before it’s proven. With a lot of workers only returning to the office for the first time in two years at the beginning of 2022, hybrid working is still in beta mode.
Businesses are still at the initial stages of making long-term decisions on their workplaces but the market trends show that companies are now starting to look at their office space. Whether they are consolidating, increasing or reconfiguring their offices, there is now consideration around how to get the most out of their space in line with new ways of working.
The Guide to the Hybrid Workplace
Hybrid working is still in its preliminary stages but the potential for it to become permanent is there. Our Guide to the Hybrid Workplace is designed to help you understand the key components of hybrid working and how to introduce it to your workplace.download now