It was sometime last year, in the trough between one of the many waves of the pandemic, that New Narrative announced a basically indefinite move to a hybrid work policy, giving people more freedom to split their time between office and home.
The idea was to ensure our close-knit team would again collaborate in person while also allowing room for the joys of logging in remotely from studies, kitchen tables, cafes or staycation hotel rooms. As it turned out, there have been no missed meetings or deadlines so far, or clients left wanting and waiting. We’ve even managed to add a few new services to our roster.
We like to think we’re early adopters, but clearly we’re not alone. Roughly six months later, this hybrid workweek arrangement or variations of it have become the go-to solution for companies looking to strike a balance between allowing formerly office-bound employees the flexibility of working from anywhere – something many of us have gotten used to, and come to prefer – and reclaiming at least a version of our pre-pandemic work lives, when colleagues and clients got to interact face to face.
Research has found that most employees want both remote work options as well as the opportunity for more in-person collaboration after the pandemic. It’s this quest to achieve the best of both worlds that is driving corporations of all shapes and sizes and across a range of industries to what Colliers, a global real estate services company, calls the Hybrid Ways of Working (HWoW).
As companies look to redesign their office space for hybrid working the decision has been made easier by more evidence that people can be as productive working from home as they are at their office desks – if not more so.
In fact, the act of getting oneself from home to work and back every day can be a drain on productivity and morale. And allowing people to ditch this long-standing routine may only benefit the enterprise. Fewer employers are requiring their staff to subject themselves to the torment of the morning commute every day.
But while a hybrid model looks like the happy middle ground on paper, there are various issues to be considered - for both employer and employee - in order to make it work at scale.
First and foremost, this will usually require new HR policies. Step one is clarifying exactly what the hybrid model entails, and when employees are expected to come in and how many days they can work remotely. Leaving this open to interpretation can be an invitation to chaos.
Managers, who will have their work cut out for them, will need fresh and clear guidance on appropriately evaluating the performance of a distributed workforce based purely on output. Trust will come to play an even more critical role as bosses review staff they see only a couple of days in a week. Empathy, positive reinforcement and data-driven objectivity will also be key to making sure people’s efforts are fairly recognised.
And of course, the entire exercise will need the buy-in of the senior leadership - many of whom remain unconvinced about the remote-working concept, and are seen as having fallen out of touch with the needs of their workforce.
Companies will also have to invest in bolstering their technology platforms to cope with increased video traffic as well as beef up their IT systems to handle the heightened risk of a breach as more employees log in from remote networks.
As the world collectively looks ahead to a time when the pandemic will be truly behind us, it seems clear that when we do get there a lot of things will not go back to the way they were. Our work lives seem destined to be among the daily routines that may be permanently altered. But if our experience is anything to go by, with the right amount of planning, this can be one of those changes that leaves us all better off, in a way, than we were before.
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