Hybrid working is not a new concept, far from it. The hybrid remote working model has been a growing trend over the past decade; however, with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, it soon became the only option for businesses, especially if they wanted to survive the financial implications. The post-pandemic world has created a ‘new normal’ that we are still adapting to this very day, from how we socialise to the way we work.
Before the global pandemic struck, only 32% of the UK population worked from home, as many businesses were hesitant about introducing a hybrid working policy due to concerns about productivity levels dropping. However, the working from home arrangement had the opposite effect, as it provided a better work-life balance for employees, ultimately boosting productivity and collaboration. In fact, 78% of people who worked from home at least some of the time said they had a better work-life balance. But is the hybrid working here to stay?
According to a recent survey conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 78% of organisations embrace hybrid working models, with only 13% of businesses stating that working from home isn’t suitable for their sector. The majority of senior business leaders (59%) also agreed that organisations are far more likely to trust their employees to be more productive when working from home, compared to before the pandemic. And yet, the future of hybrid working remains uncertain. Will organisations revert back to traditional pre-pandemic ways of working, or will they continue to embrace the hybrid working model and create new ways of working?
What’s in this article?
- What is hybrid working?
- What are the benefits of hybrid working?
- What are the challenges of hybrid working?
- 5 ways to make hybrid working models successful
- How to futureproof your business with hybrid working models
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working is a flexible working model that allows employees to work partly from home and partly in another location. It combines the option of remote working from home and working in the office or other public locations. Hybrid working from home often promotes a better work-life balance for employees and gives them a newfound autonomy that they may not have had before.
What are the benefits of hybrid working?
It is difficult to determine whether the hybrid working arrangement is suitable for an organisation without fully understanding the impact it can have, both advantages and disadvantages. The hybrid working model is not a one-size-fits-all approach that will benefit all businesses, especially as it’s just not feasible with some roles, such as Biomedical Engineers and Environmental Scientists, for example. However, it’s important to understand how the flexible working model can affect your organisation and how you can modernise your current working policy to reap the rewards.
Here are some of the benefits of hybrid working for both your business and your employees.
1. Improved collaboration & stronger working relationships
It’s no secret that in-person collaboration is more accessible, but what happens when it comes to hybrid working? The lack of everyday contact in the workplace that employees would normally experience, such as chatting during tea breaks and brainstorming ideas, encourages colleagues to collaborate in other ways. Collaboration tools, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, provide an open platform where colleagues can discuss their work and share useful ideas with ease during working hours. However, these interactions are not the same as they would be in person in the workplace setting.
A hybrid working model provides the best of both worlds, allowing employees to develop working relationships and collaborate effectively while enabling them to work independently when deep concentration is required. Providing that the workforce is equipped with the right modern technology tools, employees can unite and engage with one another from any location.
2. Increased job satisfaction & improved well-being
Hybrid and remote working provide employees with more flexibility to manage their own time more effectively, and it’s this freedom that can dramatically increase their job satisfaction. Having more control over their working schedule and home life is directly linked to improved well-being, an increase in employee happiness and reduced employee turnover.
Whether it’s something as simple as being able to make time to go to the gym or visit a loved one during their lunch break, flexible working models often provide the respite that employees need to refuel and become more productive. Forbes reported that 75% of employees found that hybrid or remote working has improved their work-life balance, while 56% have seen improvements in their mental health.
3. Increased productivity & more efficiency
Many employees feel that they work at their best when they have no distractions; however, this is not the case for everyone. For every person who works well at home, there are those who need the office to be productive. The working from home hybrid model provides the perfect solution that strikes a balance between the two, enabling employees to utilise the best of both worlds.
It’s true that the office can come with its distractions, but so can working from home. For some employees, working from home can be problematic - perhaps they don’t have a strong internet connection or a suitable workspace, for example. But it’s not just the lack of equipment that can have a detrimental effect on employee productivity. Feeling lonely and separated from their colleagues can put a strain on employee productivity.
Hybrid working can help bridge the gap between working in the office and at home, in order to meet the needs of all your employees. According to CIPD, the number of employers reporting an increase in productivity since adopting a hybrid working model has risen from 33% in December 2020 to 41% in November 2021. Giving employees the choice about when, where and how they work can have a significant impact on their engagement, well-being and productivity.
4. Effective salary increase
Commuting to and from the office can be a costly expense, especially if the commute is a long distance. Hybrid and remote working helps minimise travelling expenses throughout the year, which can amount to thousands of pounds of savings. These savings are effectively a tax-free salary increase that can be used for other things, such as holidays or saving for a house, for example. This is especially important as the UK prepares for the ‘cost of living’ crisis to worsen, as employees will be looking for ways in which they can save money, even if it means finding a new job that does have a hybrid working policy.
5. Improved retention rates
Many organisations worry that a hybrid working model will negatively affect their retention rates - if employees aren’t going into the office every day, then they will no longer share the company’s vision! This is simply not true. In fact, it is far more likely that businesses that don’t offer hybrid or remote working will lose their employees to companies that offer more appealing benefits packages.
Hybrid working post-COVID is an attractive prospect, especially for top talent who can help close the current digital skills gap that many companies are navigating. Although 91% of employees showed interest in wanting to work on-site at least two days a week or more, 4 in 10 people want complete autonomy over how many days and which days they spend in the workplace. Hybrid working models will look different for every organisation and team, but it is vital to assess, adjust and reassess your company’s policy to ensure the arrangement works effectively for both the business and your employees.
6. Larger talent pool available
Recruiting top talent is no easy task, especially in a candidate-driven market. Hybrid and remote working can widen the talent pool available to your organisation if it is open to hiring from a larger range of locations.
Hiring from an office-based model limits the business to attracting talent within a certain distance from the office, which can have a negative impact on the company’s growth if the office is in an area where top candidates are hard to come by. Whereas, hiring under a hybrid and remote working model can widen an organisation’s recruitment strategy to include candidates from further afield - maybe even the entire country. Increasing the talent pool available to your business will enable you to hand-pick candidates who are vital in achieving your company’s goals.
7. Reduced operational costs
Hybrid working presents the opportunity to reduce operational costs, as there is less need for workplace utilisation. Organisations that are tied into rental agreements can save money by downsizing office space and reinvesting the money into the business elsewhere. It also means that there are no restrictions on the company’s headcount and subsequent office costs, which enables businesses to expand at a much faster rate.
What are the challenges of hybrid working?
Unfortunately, hybrid working isn’t all fun and games for everyone. In fact, it can take its toll on employees and managers alike, creating challenges that you wouldn’t normally face with everyone based in the office full-time. What are the most common challenges of hybrid working? Let’s find out more about the disadvantages of hybrid working and how these issues can be overcome.
1. Faster employee burnout
The dreaded burnout culture can easily creep into a workplace, even more so in a hybrid model. Employees are less likely to take regular breaks and finish on time when working from home, than if they were on-site. In fact, they may feel guilty about taking breaks throughout the day and are more likely to overcompensate by working late into the night. According to the mental health charity Mind, 69% of employees working from home during the pandemic experienced symptoms of burnout.
On the other hand, those commuting to the workplace can soon get tired of long commutes and rearranging their family’s schedules to make it possible to get into the office. Creating flexible work schedules that enable workers to find a schedule that suits them, whether they are in the office or at home, is vital to help prevent employees from experiencing burnout.
Organisations should strive to encourage a culture where employees feel comfortable speaking up when they feel overwhelmed and need to take a break. Not only will it help fight burnout, but it will also make the workforce more efficient and productive in the long run.
2. Not suitable for all industries
Hybrid models are not suitable for every industry, as some industries require the workforce to be available on-site in a full-time capacity, such as engineering, construction and agriculture, for example. Many job roles require employees on-site to maintain customer service interactions or people’s safety, without which, could jeopardise the reputation of the business. The lack of face-to-face interaction with company representatives can also have a detrimental effect on the future growth of the company.
Companies with fewer than 50 employees are also less likely to adopt hybrid working when compared to businesses with 250 or more employees. Organisations that are still in their infancy will struggle to adopt the hybrid approach, particularly during key periods of growth, as team collaboration is essential. Many smaller companies will prefer in-person interactions, especially during brainstorming sessions and meetings.
3. The collapse of company culture
Maintaining the company culture while adopting a hybrid remote working model can come with its challenges. The company culture is a significant part of any organisation and without it, employees can become misdirected and businesses can lose the support of their employees. It is important to reinforce the business’s core values regularly to ensure that remote and on-site employees are aligned with the company’s vision.
It may be the case that your organisation needs to revisit its company culture and philosophies before adopting a hybrid approach. This will ensure that the business is able to adapt to a fast-paced environment and encourage a healthy culture where the employees come first. The days of going into the office for the sake of it are over and businesses must incentivise employees to return for a specific purpose. However, this does present a rare opportunity for organisations to reinvent their company culture and reshape their corporate values.
4. Breakdown of interpersonal relationships
Establishing and maintaining relationships with co-workers can be extremely difficult when working remotely. Although the hybrid working model enables employees to work on-site part-time, reduced in-person interactions can lead to poor interpersonal skills, which can negatively impact working relationships. Organisations that embrace the remote working arrangement must create a hybrid working policy that helps employees strengthen their working relationships, rather than weakening them.
5. Cybersecurity risks
Working outside the office can create vulnerabilities in a business's cybersecurity, especially if employees are using their personal devices or are connecting to unsecured networks. It is vital for companies to ensure that all employees meet the remote working security standards during the days when they are working from home.
6. Miscommunication between teams
Although hybrid and remote working provides employees with more autonomy, it can sometimes be at the cost of collaboration. It can often lead to miscommunication between employees who are working in the office and those who are working remotely. Many companies still find challenges with their digital collaboration tools, which can prevent co-workers from communicating their ideas and perspectives successfully. HR News found that 65% of workers reported that they have at least one problem with their current digital collaboration technologies, as they do not find the tools user-friendly.
But it’s not the technologies that contributes to miscommunication. Hybrid working can present a challenge for employees who are uncomfortable with virtual meetings or are not as forthcoming as their colleagues. The survey by HR News also uncovered that 56% of people admit that virtual meetings are dominated by the loudest, most influential voices, while 53% of workers think that virtual meetings fail to capture the perspective of all participants. Managers should ensure that the virtual sessions are flexible and give each employee the opportunity to express their opinions.
7. Endangers collective creativity
Without the office to bring teams together, hybrid working risks endangering collective creativity. Brainstorming and problem-solving are an essential part of working life and without regular opportunities to generate ideas through fluid conversations, creativity can soon be jeopardised. Although employees can collaborate and brainstorm via virtual meetings, it can prevent organic conversations from taking place. Sometimes there’s nothing quite like working intensely on solving a problem as a team and kicking ideas around.
5 ways to make hybrid working models successful
Establishing a successful hybrid working culture consists of more than just organising hours and locations. It is a combination of embedding behaviours and values that create a positive employee experience, whether in the workplace or at home. More importantly, hybrid working is about how you bring people together.
Here are 5 ways companies can make hybrid working models successful:
1. Trust your employees
Imagining a highly-functioning hybrid working model can be difficult, regardless of the statistics that state otherwise. However, being able to adapt to a working environment that embraces interacting with a face on a screen can prove to be advantageous. Organisations that have successfully in implemented a hybrid working model have willingly transitioned from a controlled working style to a more modern and people-centric approach, which puts the trust in the employees to achieve results. Developing a philosophy where “the project is the boss” allows employees to organise their schedules and get work done when they want, as long as the project deadline is met on time.
2. Listen to your employees
Hybrid remote working can make it difficult to build empathy with your employees, so it is important to be conscious of this when meeting with your co-workers virtually. The lack of visibility with managers and senior stakeholders can contribute to employees feeling as though their full potential is not being realised. Likewise, hybrid working also brings opportunities for people to connect who wouldn’t ordinarily get to work with one another due to locations or timezones, for example.
Successful businesses understand these challenges and are aware of the opportunities available to maintain the trust of their employees. Organisations should strive to acquire employee feedback on a regular basis, whether through surveys or open feedback sessions. Establishing an open-door policy enables employees to speak freely with their managers without feeling the need to self-censor.
3. Treat remote & in-person employees equally
With some employees working regularly from the office and others from home, it can be easy for individuals to become overlooked, especially if they don’t get much face-to-face interaction with managers. In order to make the hybrid model successful, manager must ensure that all employees are treated equally and promotions are not affected by their choice to work remotely. Employees should not be left behind just because they take advantage of the hybrid working model.
However, it’s not just promotions and payrises that managers need to consider. Employees whose roles don’t permit them to work remotely may feel that hybrid working is unfair to them. During the Great Resignation, one of the biggest contributing factors for people resigning was the lack of flexibility in their roles. Organisations that are looking to adopt a hybrid working model should ensure that it is fair to all employees and on-site workers are given as much flexibility as their counterparts.
4. Empower your employees
Unfortunately, it is all to common for businesses to prevent their employees from having a say and the autonomy to organise their own schedules. These companies are often the ones that don’t succeed because they are too afraid to let their employees lead and help co-create a more modern workplace. Giving employees the flexibility to prioritise their personal lives and embrace their roles has a positive effect on their engagement and well-being, ultimately increasing employee retention.
Companies should strive to work with their employees to gain diverse perspectives on the ways of working and how the hybrid working policy could be improved moving forward. Your employees are your strongest asset, so take advantage of that and find out how you can utilise their ideas and opinions to create positive change.
5. Clarify expectations with your employees
Living amidst uncertainty is exhausting and it’s not a good experience for anyone. Although hybrid working is not a new concept, it’s important for organisations to provide clarity around their expectations for remote working to ensure consistency from all employees. A lack of consistency can significantly impact employee engagement, productivity and well-being.
Organisations that have found success by introducing a hybrid working model outline their expectations regarding how work gets done, how meetings should be organised and how to collaborate to ensure teams stay connected. Clarifying the business’s expectations provides a consistent experience for all employees, regardless of seniority.
How to futureproof your business with hybrid working models
So, the questions remains - is hybrid working here to stay? In the short-term, most definitely. But when it comes to the long-term, no one can definitively say whether hybrid working models will continue to be effective in the future. The world of work will continue to change and adapt as we find new ways to overcome the challenges we are faced with.
Now, more than ever, the focus is very much on the psychological impact of hybrid and remote working and the blurred lines between personal and professional lives. Striking the right balance between managing teams and supporting employee growth is an essential part of the hybrid working model. Organisations who are actively creating a multigenerational workforce have to embrace these fundamental values or risk falling behind the curve.
Keeping the communication and culture alive in a hybrid model is the key to success, but it is also one of the biggest challenges companies face. It is vital to find the equilibrium between getting the right number hours in the office for in-person collaboration and giving employees the flexibility to determine their own schedules if businesses wish to remain agile.
At FDM, we recognise the challenges organisations face when it comes to hybrid working and the impact it can have on employee retention. We support our clients by giving them access to the latest skilled talent across a range of services, while ensuring that our consultants are exposed to a range of real-world working environments to ease with the transition.