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As working practices continue to evolve, hybrid working is the phrase on everyone’s lips. What is it, how will it benefit your business and what’s the best way to implement it? Here’s what you need to know.
By Claire Campbell, Programme Director, Timewise
If there’s one phrase I’m hearing more than any other right now (apart from “You’re on mute”), it’s ‘hybrid working’. In meetings, in articles, in podcasts, everyone is talking about it; it seems it’s one of the main strategic priorities of 2021.
But despite all the discussion, not everyone seems to agree on exactly what it means – or understand how to do it well. So, here’s the Timewise lowdown on what it is, why it matters and how to make it work.
Hybrid working has always existed, but its prevalence has been turbocharged by the pandemic and subsequent remote working experiment. There isn’t yet a definitive definition, but at its core, it’s an arrangement in which an individual, team or organisation work part of their time at the workplace and part remotely.
In the brief periods in 2020 when office workers were allowed back into the workplace, the need for social distancing meant that most only went in for part of their working week. As a result, many employees experienced a hybrid pattern for the first time – and the evidence suggests they’re keen to stick with it.
At its best, hybrid working is about matching the task to the location, and doing the right work in the right place; there are numerous examples of people saying they work more productively on certain tasks from home. And from an employer’s perspective, there are many positives too.
Hybrid working, like flexible working in general, offers huge benefits for employers who take it seriously and deliver it well. These benefits are well-established by now, but here’s a recap of the main ones:
Thanks to the leaps that have been made in technology, it’s possible to be present in, and contribute to, most meetings, even when you’re elsewhere. And for those of us who have long been interested in flexible working, it’s worth noting that the focus on hybrid working, and the changes as a result, are hugely beneficial for part-time employees, as well as full-time hybrid ones.
However, while the benefits are clear, hybrid working isn’t risk-free. Here are some of the issues you need to consider:
What these issues clearly show is that this isn’t something you can leave to chance. Just telling your people they can split their week between home and the office and then crossing your fingers and hoping it will work itself out won’t wash.
Instead, you need to work to develop a hybrid culture, in which:
Already, different organisations are finding new ways to tackle this; for example, in some workplaces all meetings take place digitally, so that those at home have equal representation to those in the office. And some leaders are taking this as an opportunity to completely rethink what their HQ is used for, such as remodelling the office as a place for relationship building and collaboration rather than producing work.
There’s a lot to think about, certainly – but if, as seems likely, hybrid working is the future, it’s worth investing the time and training to get it right. We can help; as well as running a series of workshops on all elements of flexible and hybrid working, we have also created a new Flex Positive programme, to help employers design and develop future-fit workplaces. If you’d like to know more, please get in touch.