As the world slowly starts to emerge from the restrictions put in place to combat the transmission of covid-19, employees will begin to return to the workplace. It is widely considered that the working environment will not return to normal straight away, with the much talked about shift towards hybrid working likely to become reality.
What is hybrid working and will it become the new normal?
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.
For iaconnects employees and others in our industry, being in the office, travelling to partners and customers, and attending events were all undertaken on a regular basis. However, the past 12+ months have allowed many of us to understand which meetings and subsequent travel, are necessary and which ones can continue to be done from home. Having spoken to a range of partners and customers about their preferred working options in recent weeks, one option the overwhelming favourite:
Use the office and travel to customer or partner offices for necessary meetings in person, but continue to work from home when undertaking day-to-day tasks or meetings which can be just as productive remotely.
Claire Campbell, Programme Director at Timewise, has written an article on how to make a success of hybrid working including the benefits, issues to watch out for and how to get it right. Some key elements which stands out is that employers must focus on fairness, inclusivity, collaboration and innovation, and inequality. To read the full article, click here.
What other factors should be considered by employers and employees?
Anxiety about going back into the workplace
The pandemic has caused many people to change their way of life, such as having children or pets making unscheduled appearances on zoom calls or adjusting to permanently working on your kitchen table and apologising for your poor Wi-Fi connection. The new stresses from working at home full time have started to become the norm, but one article on LinkedIn suggests that many workers also feel a sense of dread and anxiety about returning to the office. Employers should not underestimate the fact that a percentage of their workforce will have genuine anxieties about being thrown back into the hustle and bustle of society, and make allowances for this.
Bringing WFH traits to the office
Employers and employees alike have had around 12 months to get used to remote working and a lot of organisations have found they can trust their workforce to be productive when working from home. Many of us have had conversations about what the new normal will be in a work environment may look like, and the general consensus is that more flexibility around working hours and remote work should be here to stay. One factor which has contributed to this way of thinking is there is now much more transparency about our home lives, and an understanding from employers that on occasion, someone will need to finish work early at short notice and, unless it becomes a regular fixture, will be acceptable.
Zoom free Fridays?
Citigroup, one of the world’s largest banks, is trying to start a new end-of-week tradition: Zoom-free Fridays. As exciting a prospect as this is, in reality it will be extremely difficult to eradicate video calls for a full day a week, however it does raise an important point. During the pandemic, we have been able to join call after call but when the world opens up again, this will not be possible. Commuting to and from work, travel time between physical meetings and a lunch hour where you actually leave the office will all make it impossible to continue with the same amount of video calls. Using this transition period to establish which calls are critical versus those that could be handled via email or IM, will go a long way to helping organisations achieve optimum productivity going forwards.
Collaboration spaces and flexible desks
Reconfiguring the office to incorporate more collaboration spaces, and less permanent desks is being considered by many organisations. Being able to collaborate with colleagues during scheduled or ad hoc sessions will be key to keeping productivity high. Many hybrid working solutions suggest a mix of office based and WFH days during the week, but it may not be that simple. Diane Hoskins, co-CEO of Gensler recommends crafting, studying, and testing hybrid strategies before implementation to achieve the right balance. Using the right IoT solutions can help organisations understand how to organise the workplace not only in the short term, but also provide long term value.
To find out more about how iaconnects can help your organisation define your workspace, please contact us here.