It is fascinating when talking to people about the pros and cons of a hybrid workplace. However, there is no one solution that fits all. Your hybrid workplace can differ from your competitor's. Much depend on your business requirements and employee preferences.
As such, the business culture determines the success or failure of your hybrid work arrangments.
You need a lot of dialogue, flexibility, trust, and creativity to make this work. Additionally, you need a huge PR and communications strategy.
It is important to remember two things. First, you need to manage a massive behavioral change that comes with this adoption. Second, you need to define and agree upon what success will look like. Whatever the outcome, one thing is for sure, trying to please everyone will lead to failure.
Also Read: How to make hybrid workplace fair for all?
There is a considerable possibility of dysfunctional working and discontent involving the employer and the employee. A lot will depend upon the company's culture as it has been in the past, as it is now and what it hopes to be in the future.
While I hear lots of rhetoric about adapting a full time hybrid workplace culture, what some companies mean is allowing employees to work two days from home as a way of compromising without making any other adaptations or changes.
Others I am told are using passive-aggressive communications to encourage employees back to work. At the same time, some have introduced new benefits and incentives such as complimentary snacks and refreshments at work. Furthermore, there are those who wish to return to pre-Covid normality.
But employee law is changing, and everyone will need to adapt and do so willingly.
Bonus Read: Hybrid workplace challenges & solutions
Every individual is unique and has different needs. These change according to their circumstances.
I know people who were working remotely achieving an outstanding work-life balance. They could spend more time with their kids. They were more productive, got the job done, and enjoyed the family life. They feel healthier and more satisfied.
Research shows that no commute can save from £5k to £8k annually.
Now that remote workers return to the office, there is a rise in distractions. Stress levels are high as a result of impromptu meetings.
Then there are the people who don't want to commute every day and don't want to work from home either because they don't have the facilities or have too many distractions. These people are now paying to go to local Business Hubs by booking desks and meeting room facilities.
Recommended Reading: 5 tips to manage meeting rooms
In reality, everyone needs to collaborate. Both remote and on site workers need to be in the office at certain times depending on the type of work. The trick is to achieve the best combination of employer and employee to ensure productivity and profitably. In my experience, employees are the greatest asset that any business has, and how they are treated significantly affects the performance of that business.
From my perspective, I believe that the hybrid workplace offers many positive opportunities for both the employer and the employee. When I look back on my 49 years in business, it is all about moving houses and disrupting my family life.
I also thought about the amount of time I spent commuting between my home and the office. Adding to that, I have potentially wasted four years of my life commuting on a train or in a car. I have maybe spent a small fortune on season tickets and fuel.
If my employer had a hybrid office, I could have been more productive.
Even when we did have hot desking, it was still a gamble if you got a place to work as there were usually five times as many employees as there were workspaces. The uncertainty of wasted journeys and lack of meeting room availability led people to avoid the office entirely and meet up in hotels, coffee shops, and restaurants. Not a very secure environment for meetings! I have heard many confidential competitor conversations this way!
Also Read: 7 hot desking essentials
However, now the possibility of re-imaging physical spaces and increasing utilization effectiveness is possible with a combination of creativity and technology solutions.
There were fixed desks in numerous places I have worked. Few meeting rooms were available for cross-functional project meetings, planning sessions, training, departmental briefings, clients, etc. Being able to obtain a meeting room was not only a chore but hard to achieve. The result led to many formal meetings being held offsite, usually in hotels.
There is an industry-created need for meeting space partly because office space with a fixed desk policy created inefficiencies. The amount spent on offsite meetings by businesses was eye-watering.
I believe that creating a hybrid work model requires a place that inspires people to work.
The office environment and company culture will feature more prominently in recruitment campaigns. Just think of the possibility of hiring talent across the UK without relocating or performing a daily commute. Why restrict your talent scouting to the immediate vicinity of your office location?
Providing Memberships to local Chambers of Commerce with meeting facilities or Business Hubs would solve the problem of daily office attendance and working at home if the environment there isn't suitable.
Bonus Read: Recruiting for a hybrid workplace
Imagine an office designed around collaboration, output, and achievement as opposed to hierarchy and departments. How many times have you been involved in cross-functional projects that took an age to deliver? All because priorities were not aligned?
Perhaps better to allocate workspaces for a substantial period of one or two days/weeks to drive momentum with people sitting together to plan, execute, review, and repeat. Plus, you achieve the by-product of inter-departmental respect and trust. For instance, that new three days in the office arrangement could instead become 12 days in a month.
An ex-British Army officer, currently the Head of Facilities Management for a huge multi-national investment bank, said, "plan the work and work the plan!"
Today needs leadership, collaboration, and a technology solution to do the "heavy lifting." Had I been able to prebook a workspace or a conference room, I would have saved so much time and money.
Businesses can save money by creating a flexible workplace. Reducing the floor space or redesigning it can be the start. Adopting solutions like WorkInSync can allow managers handle their spaces better.
This immediate period following lockdown is going to be very interesting to follow. We need to see how this potential clash of requirements is resolved. Had I now been a CEO of a business with ample office space, I would be driving a transformational change to make my hybrid working environment a competitive advantage. One that my employees feel great about and customers admire.
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Capt. (Dr.) Sukhwinder Kaur is an experienced facility management professional and is currently empl . . .
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