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Hybrid working - Striking the balance between office and home-based working

Read part 2 in our series on hybrid working and productivity - businesses must embrace the world's new way of working post pandemic.

In our first blog Adopt a structured hybrid model to maximise productivity we looked at how the hybrid working model may impact on business productivity. In this blog we discuss what systems and processes organisation will need to set up to look after the individual and the business.

So the business headlines report that some of the big guns in the City are not enforcing a 100% return to the London jungle. However, there is still recognition that a part-return to the office environment is beneficial. Whilst the pandemic has proved that companies can continue to operate even if staff are not all in the same building, there are concerns that the flow of creativity, personal development and social interaction is severely compromised. 

According to a survey of 61,000 Microsoft employees, creativity and collaboration have been thwarted by remote working. Reported in ZDNet ‘Remote working is making productivity and innovation harder’, outside of immediate teams, interaction and the exchange of information has been significantly affected.

Following on from Microsoft’s findings, it’s important to consider how communication must evolve - it’s not just about ensuring Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams and the like can host online meetings. Employers will need to take proactive measures to try to help employees acquire and exchange new information across teams and working groups, so that productivity, creativity and innovation are not impacted.

The challenge, argue social observers resides with managers and how they embrace hybrid working to maximise productivity. 

A balance between the two - office versus home working will, however, do more to prevent burnout through working long hours, especially for the twenty-somethings just starting out on their career path. As we all know - working long hours does not always equal a job well done. And by offering some degree of workplace experience companies will offer much needed routine and structure - especially to school leavers and new recruits.

David Spencer, a professor of labour economics at Leeds University argues the point:

“A culture of presenteeism is not good for employee wellbeing, it’s not good for productivity either.” Establishing a hybrid working policy would “present an alternative to that sort of regressive, toxic culture.”

Developing a structured hybrid working model

In an article on the Harvard Business Review website, Let’s redefine “Productivity” for the hybrid era, business leaders are encouraged to adopt a structured hybrid model to address the issue of collaboration. Teams should be allocated compulsory time slots for collective office working. The flexible working model remains in place but with some caveats. Perhaps at the start of a major project, where team members are required to brainstorm, think creatively, problem solve and exchange or transfer knowledge, then in-office, face to face meetings are mandatory. In essence, managers should be looking at “optimizing the conditions that spur innovation.” By all means offer flexible hours; teams can agree days and times that work for them as a group but don’t adopt a ‘come and go as you please’ work model.

And in conjunction with the structured hybrid model, managers should be working with their HR team to develop management support initiatives whereby regular and effective communication with direct reports is implemented and maintained. Establish with individuals their workstyle - how and when they like to work - when are they at their most productive? 

Managers should encourage regular breaks, time away from the desk for physical activity, appreciate childcare and family commitments. As we all know, productivity is severely impacted upon when individuals are struggling with feelings of isolation and morale is low. We don’t want to find ourselves back in Stage 2 when employees were experiencing feelings of burnout.

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