Defining Hybrid Working
Hybrid Working is treated as the best of both worlds between working in a ‘traditional’ office environment and working at home, or in leased premises. Some organisations refer to this as Work From Anywhere, or Agile Working.
In practice this has its own technical challenges but the main issue firms may face when adopting Hybrid Working will be cultural – is the organisation ready to accommodate the fact that staff may be working in a setting where there is less oversight, control and inherent IT Security risks?
From a sustainability perspective Hybrid Working also has certain challenges, as the scale of a fully utilised office is often lost, meaning it produces greater emissions per-head of staff present.
If you liken an office to a double-decker bus, you will note that where it is half-full you have half the economy of scale, all the while retaining the fixed-cost of running the office (be it monetary or environmentally). This double-decker bus will invariably be more environmentally-friendly than a fleet of taxis each with a single person in them.
Injecting Culture into Hybrid Working
Culture also plays a big part in Hybrid Working, and while it can be a major improvement for some staff, it can also create division within the workforce. Every IT system influences culture, such as having large amounts of downtime meaning staff are more stressed and less productive over time.
As a result of firms rightly wanting to retain their unique culture and connections within and across teams, many have named days where staff are enticed to visit the office. This can be an all-hands meeting, a lunch or breakfast paid for by the company, or a day some other event – it does not need to be mandatory.
Weekly social events within a firm can help staff build knowledge about their colleagues and the operation of the firm, and pairs quite well with compressed hours or Flexible Working (where staff can shift working hours around to accommodate their personal circumstances).
Creating and sustaining the culture that your organisation wishes to inwardly-project does take time, investment and involvement some from your workforce.
Culture is not a top-down activity, and we strongly advise consultation with stakeholders to agree and actively work to embrace your culture. The book Be More Pirate may offer pointers on this.
Injecting Culture into your daily activities requires a considerate approach and active effort for implementation, it also requires involvement from a range of stakeholders from IT to HR and Legal functions.
A culture of exclusion may be in breach of The Equality Act: not all cultures are inherently good (or legal) and this needs to be taken into consideration when trying to identify how you wish to operate in future.
Making the most of Hybrid Working
Implementing Hybrid Working well can greatly widen the pool of talent that your organisation can draw from, and improve retention of staff.
If coupled with a defined approach to Flexible Working, being able to seamlessly move from a home-office to a standard office can also improve productivity. This does come with security risks which need to be mitigated.
It is a double-edged sword though, as many firms have found that Remote Working is not a lift-and-shift exercise, and that they lose staff who enjoy working in an engaging office environment. Furthermore some studies have found that people work longer hours when working from home, and so working hours must be enforced to some extent to protect the health of your staff and suppliers.
Hybrid Working adds complexity to your workplace, which also comes at a cost. Consider that your IT Estate will require significant investment to go from a secure-office environment to perhaps dozen of secure, sometimes mobile, office environments perhaps across a range of geographical and regulatory jurisdictions.
It is nonetheless the case that Hybrid Working and Flexible Working offers significant opportunities to improve productivity, diversity and inclusion and the output of your organisation. Hybrid Working done well can give a firm the competitive edge it needs to retain staff and customers.