Yesterday, Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to Covid lockdown easing in England, meaning a full return to the office is once again delayed. This announcement has created major conflict amongst employees and employers alike, with new data from the ONS revealing that bosses are keener than their staff on return to the office. Today, 85% of employees working at home want to adopt a 'hybrid' work model when returning to the workplace, yet only 14% of company bosses expect more than half of their staff to work remotely after lockdown lifts. Hybrid working models give employees more agility, flexibility and freedom. Yet the new hybrid normal could be a double-edged sword for employees and employers alike if not strategically implemented. A large part of a well-run hybrid structure is determined by maintaining the camaraderie, efficiency and productivity that face-to-face working brings. Therefore, employees and employers must be aware of the potential challenges that working in a hybrid environment can present and how to overcome these successfully.
Justin Small, Founder and CEO of Future Strategy Club, explains how to make hybrid working work for employees and employers alike:
"The worries that corporations have had about the loss of productivity from home working are now seen as laughable as the physical office with all its interruptions - chit chat, coffee breaks and commuting time - appears to be much less productive. Of course, work in isolation does affect mental health, which will impact productivity and more importantly the personal lives of employees, so 100% working from home is not a solution either unless coupled with frequent physical get-togethers where interaction is prioritised over desk work. A hybrid working structure is not a new idea for us at Future Strategy Club, it is something which we have successfully implemented for years now and as such, I am sharing how we have made hybrid working work for us: The Problem
“The key to the hybrid office will be the successful integration of the in-office and at-home workers in one physical/digital meeting place. This is harder than you think, as many iterations of defunct ‘telepresence’ conference room tech has shown over the years.
If not thought through properly, the office might end up being an extension of employee’s kitchen tables and spare room - with in-office employees sitting in small booths on Teams talking to at-home employees on Teams to include them in their daily meetings. In this situation, the usefulness of having an office is marginal. When the in-office team decide to all sit together in one room with the at-home employees on one screen, this results in the at-home employees missing out on most of the cross talk by the in-office employees with associated communication problems. Therefore, thinking very carefully about the tech used to bridge the great digital/physical divide is crucial.
"Regarding tools we use, one decision Future Strategy Club has made is to have an always-on office camera and screen near the communal area so that at-home employees can chat with in-office employees during their breaks. We also use ‘Tandem’, which is a great virtual office solution where employees are always live, and where conversations during the day are made quick and easy. Additionally, we use ‘Miro’, ‘Slack’ and ‘Trello’; cross-device systems which allow everyone to share their thoughts and ideas with the team, making the virtual office no less connected and productive than the physical one."