The global COVID-19 pandemic changed the way companies and offices work – possibly forever. With only a small percentage previously working from home, during the pandemic almost everyone did.
Output generally remained the same or rose, with many workers providing positive feedback too. Now, with a return to the office for many, some companies seek to maintain flexible – or hybrid – working.
The definition of hybrid working is fairly fluid but, in short, it means employees split their time between working remotely (usually at home) and in the office. There is no one-size-fits-all ruling, but flexibility underlies any hybrid model. Depending on the organisation, the ratio could be fixed or negotiable, just not 9-to-5, five days a week.
With hybrid working becoming more popular, this article explores the top benefits (and some challenges) of a hybrid working model – could this be the ideal 21st-century creative model?
Flexible working can help attract and retain employees, boosting job satisfaction, wellbeing and staff morale.
Lots of self-starters really appreciate the flexibility hybrid working offers. Having worked from home for a prolonged period, some value the ‘watercooler chat’ and creative energy in the office even more. But they also love the freedom to work alone without interruptions. Working hours that suit their life is another bonus.
Companies deciding to downsize office space and adapt to a hybrid working model may become standard across the UK. Any desks will be ‘free’ and shared by employees on different days – called hot desking.
Even in offices with allocated seating, a workplace management tool such as Clearooms’ app can help monitor capacity and decide what days to work by checking availability and who is already booked into the office.
With no fixed seating and flexible days, many employees now report that they interact with a wider variety of colleagues, offering more scope for inter-departmental collaboration too.
Enhanced productivity and creativity
Employees who feel trusted to manage their environment, workload and time, tend to feel empowered with increased job satisfaction and reduced absenteeism. Output should reflect this.
Many people find it hard to concentrate in a traditional office environment. Background noise can distract, knocking productivity. For some, video calling from home is an easier way of ‘tuning in’ to the office. For others, visiting the office on certain days for targeted meetings is the answer.
Creative and/or group tasks may be better tackled in the office, with writing or high-concentration tasks done at home where (and when) it’s quiet.
Managers can focus less on who is at their desk and more on results. Just because someone is there in person, doesn’t mean they are working productively.
Exchanging commute time for other things can really boost mental and physical wellbeing. Plenty of employees report having more time for family and self care without daily travel.
House and life admin can be squeezed in before and after work or at lunch and not left to mount up. This frees up the weekends for fun things, further boosting the feelgood factor.
That time could also be used to commit to self improvement such as upskilling or a fitness class and, without office distractions, they’re more likely to actually do it.
Safety and reliability
With the slow return to offices, safety remains a real concern in the post-pandemic world. Some employees can’t wait to get back, others may be more reticent.
Careful management is needed to ensure safe working practices and environments. Social distancing in the workplace is key to companies remaining COVID compliant and minimising risk.
Clearooms’ app can facilitate this by making it easy to see how many will be in the office at any given time, and to book carefully spaced desks or meeting rooms.
Employees can save the money they would have spent on commuting, as well as sundry items like coffees, lunch or shopping. Fewer commutes also means less energy consumption and pollution.
Equally, if the office operated a strict or smart dress code, employees can save money – and resources – by not having to buy separate work clothes.
There are upsides for companies here too, as many move to smaller offices now that not all staff are in every day. This means less rent and lower utility bills and fewer resources used. Using a room or desk booking system, such as Clearooms, makes managing time in the office simple in order to maximise workplace efficiency.
Mental health and wellbeing are important, as is anything that can improve them, reduce stress and prevent burnout. Companies need to put the employee experience uppermost.
The office option can help keep home space ‘sacred’. This is particularly true for younger people or those living in urban areas where space is likely at a premium and they might not have a room set aside solely for work.
Any meetings or pitches that could be high pressure or difficult can be done in the office to make them as professional as possible, but also to prevent home becoming a place of stress or anxiety.
Being able to factor in exercise at lunchtime or in the time previously taken for travel to/from work can be a massive plus. As can spending more time with friends and family, such as reducing childcare or having more leisure time at weekends. This can all help manage stress and boost wellbeing among the workforce.
Disadvantages of hybrid working
Given that hybrid working models are relatively new, it will inevitably be a culture shift for many organisations and individuals – something of an organic process. Challenges can surely be surmounted with time, training, management input and cooperation. Different issues could affect certain groups and demographics more than others.
Potential isolation is a biggie. Someone with a partner, three children and a dog might relish the peace and quiet of working in an empty house but for others who live alone, the office provides a much needed social lifeline and sense of community.
Inevitably some employees struggle to discipline themselves regarding hours. This goes both ways – some won’t do enough, while others can’t draw a line under the working day. Neither is good.
Companies may have to work with employees on such issues as everyone strives for the elusive work-life balance. This could be workshops or imposing email/phone-call bans after hours.
Others working from home could have problems with things like heating in winter, establishing a healthy ergonomic set-up, avoiding digital fatigue or burnout. All of these need to be ironed out if hybrid working is to succeed.
Enhance hybrid working with Clearooms
The Clearooms app provides an easy-to-use, contact-free solution to manage hybrid workers in terms of allocating workspaces in a safe manner.