What is hybrid working?
At its simplest, hybrid working means that some employees work from a central office and others work from home or at another location. But it may not be the same ones working in the office all the time, or the same ones outside the office. Every employee can, potentially, do some of both. McKinsey has a continuum of six distinct models ranging from ‘limited remote work, large HQ’ at one end of the spectrum to ‘mostly remote work, no office sites’ at the other.
Boston Consulting Group concurs. “At the corporate level, no single policy or programme is likely to fit all circumstances and combinations of remote and on-site work,” it says. “Employers must experiment with a range of solutions to address these diverse needs and concerns.”
The people want it
Numerous surveys in recent months show that this is the approach most people would like in the future. In a survey of US workers by CNBC, ‘working from home more than I used to’ was the most desired option among respondents.
In the UK, a survey from YouGov in September found that 39% of workers want to continue working from home some of the time – including 91% of those who’ve worked at home for the first time during the pandemic.
Think hub and spoke
The ‘hub-and-spoke’ model is where companies rely on a central ‘hub’ headquarters for important meetings and events, plus a network of smaller regional offices or ‘spokes’ closer to where employees live, according to real estate services firm CBRE.
According to its template, the spokes can be a variety of different spaces, including regional offices and coworking spaces alongside employees’ home offices.
Offices re-engineered for inclusion
If some of your team are in the office and some are remote, it’s important that the remote workers don’t feel left out. “The boundaries between being physically in the office and out of the office must collapse,” says McKinsey. “In-office videoconferencing can no longer involve a group of people staring at one another around a table while others watch from a screen on the side, without being able to participate effectively.”
Businesses need to address leadership and culture
Lockdown has shown many companies that dispersed teams to be highly effective. But it’s also important to consider the fabric that holds the organisation together. As McKinsey puts it: “Some things simply become more difficult when you are working remotely. Among them are acculturating new joiners; learning via hands-on coaching and apprenticeship; undertaking ambiguous, complex and collaborative innovations; and fostering the creative collisions through which new ideas can emerge.”
The answer is to consciously rethink how you forge the desired behaviours and connections among your workforce, for example, through explicitly building in informal interactions, ‘fireside chats’ and other communications.
Make the office a place to go to
Firstly, employees deserve some support to make their home office effective and easy to work in. “For executives and mission-critical workers, you may want to engage a managed IT service provider familiar with your chosen technologies to provision and maintain home-office setups,” says Janet Schijns, channel adviser and CEO of JS Group.
Secondly, all your office spaces, whether flexible or your own corporate hub, need to be fit for purpose, hygiene-conscious and appealing places to work. That way, people will decide where to work on the basis of what’s most effective and most appropriate – not because it’s the least-worst option.
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