Whether you love it or hate it, hybrid working is here and has become a global way of working. It is not without its challenges and benefits. It requires us to redefine what we call the workplace. The effects of changes such as these not only encompass the way we define the workplace but how we engage with it, what we love about it, and what we will change about it. Therefore, understanding some of the benefits and challenges that lie ahead and what your business can do to help manage them is necessary.
What are the benefits and challenges of hybrid working?
The benefits of hybrid working have become evident to employers and employees during the last two years. Some of the benefits have included less commuting which contributes to reducing emissions (scope 3) and spending less money on costs associated with commuting. Hybrid working for some has increased their work-life balance and given greater autonomy in where and how they work. Additionally, it has meant that attending the workplace has become more purposeful resulting in less presenteeism. Hybrid working has also been linked with improving the diversity of an organisation as the pool of available talent expands and more flexibility arises.
The National Remote Working Survey (2021) asked almost 7,000 people working in Ireland during the pandemic about their experiences. Some of the positive benefits of working remotely included 65% of respondents agreeing that working remotely enabled them to get tasks done more quickly (14% disagreed) and 68% agreed that working remotely increased their productivity. Hybrid working has had an undeniably positive effect.
In a LinkedIn Poll recently we asked our followers which areas their business they will need to focus on in a hybrid working model. 42% of respondents to the poll answered work culture. Workplace culture encompasses areas including vision, values, relationships, leadership, organizational identity, purpose etc. The effects of a positive workplace culture include assisting employees become more engaged with their work and can encourage greater dedication to their work. The social aspect of being in work is one area that people missed during lockdowns. Creating a work culture is easier when employees are sharing the same space and can have in person interactions. This is confirmed by the National Remote Working Survey (2021) where 44% of respondents indicated that it was more difficult to manage their team remotely and 70% said that they are concerned about readjustment to office life. The effect of the flexibility and digitisation that hybrid working has brought means that the workplace ecosystem has expanded. The effect this expansion may have on
Technology, connectivity, and cyber security have become important during the pandemic as weaknesses in security systems or availability of technology became more apparent. The pandemic has had a big influence on how organisations see and treat their cybersecurity needs. A report called The State of Security in a Hybrid Work created by Citrix (2021) surveyed almost 5,000 businesses in Europe and the US to understand how the pandemic influenced their cybersecurity. Many businesses were not prepared technologically for mass remote working at the beginning of the pandemic.
How to make the most of your office space is another challenge. Redesigning your existing office or workplace may be an option especially if your business has a lengthy lease or it is not possible to move. Employees who go to the workplace only for collaborative work or meetings will likely only use collaborative spaces. There may be a greater emphasis on the social elements of work while present, while individual-focused work may become more suited to remote work.
What should I do about hybrid working in my workplace?
The removal of some restrictions recently although positive means that more adjustment is on the way as the return to workplaces now has a protocol in place. As a result, some preparations will be needed.
Communication: The continuous changes over the last two years has meant that a greater degree of flexibility has been required. However, change can be disconcerting even when it is positive. Consequently, encouraging conversations with employees about managing work in the next stages of the pandemic and addressing health and safety concerns will be necessary for the transition back to the workplace.
Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the technology available to your business, both in office and remotely and include cybersecurity. Consider what employees will continue to need for successful hybrid working. Giving more attention to your technology need can assist in making remote working smoother.
A gradual return to the workplace is advocated by the government’s new Transitional Protocol: Good Practice Guidance for Continuing to Prevent the Spread of Covid 19. Depending on the size and type of your organisation, consider a trial period to see what works and adjust accordingly. Additionally, for those employees who continue to work remotely, ensure their health and safety with a DSE assessment by one of our EHS specialists.
Write a hybrid work policy referencing the governments Right to Request Remote Working Bill 2021 and the Transitional Protocol bill just published in January 2022. The limitations and rules around remote working and how staff will be managed and supported as they work from their remote locations. Additionally, the policy will also need outline guidelines around equipment, insurance, cyber security and DSE assessments as needed. Consider which channel is the best to communicate your policy to stakeholders and which areas may be a priority for different sections of your organisation.
Consider doing a skills gap analysis – managing employees remotely has been challenging for some businesses. However, understanding which skills are lacking or need improving may be helpful for the future of your workplace as hybrid working continues.
These are a few ways to prepare your workplace for hybrid working and will vary according to organisational type. The term ‘workplace’ in a post covid environment will need to be redefined as we move into the next stages of the pandemic and remote working continues. If your business needs assistance in planning the layout of your workplace or ensuring compliance for health and safety regulations, you can contact us here.