Hybrid Working

A guide to establishing new ways of working

The pandemic has permanently reshaped our lives and is influencing a great reset in the workplace. Experiences of working from home – the good and the bad – are driving what employees want and expect when offices reopen.

Prior to the crisis, data from the Office of National Statistics shows only around 5% of employees worked mainly from home. Yet, Microsoft’s 30,000 participant-strong Work Trend Index indicates 73% of employees want flexible remote options to stay. Similarly, when asked in September 2020, 79% of UK leaders saw a hybrid model as the most likely approach going forwards, compared to solely office or home based.

Businesses who’ve shown themselves to be responsive, resilient and resourceful under quickly evolving legislation have thrived most during this turbulent period. This presents the opportunity for companies to establish new ways of working, with the focus being on a hybrid model.

What is Hybrid Working?

Allowing employees autonomy over how and where they work has long proven to significantly increase productivity, engagement, and innovation. A hybrid working pattern gives employees the power to arrange their day around tasks and outcomes, rather than habit and obligation. Remote bases provide focused zones and enable a better work-life balance, whilst offices become central hubs for collaboration, coaching and networking.

This shift will require a significant culture change and policies to support it. Experiences of working from home will be completely unique and it’s important employers distinguish between those that are specific to the crisis and which lessons can be taken forward.

Now more than ever, employees are expecting business leaders to empathise with problems and reach currently unmet needs.

There is a direct correlation between an employee’s satisfaction with their homeworking situation and their engagement and productivity. The mandated overnight shift to homeworking didn’t allow for careful planning or choice. These are challenges to be learnt from, rather than factors used to judge the effectiveness of homeworking arrangements in “normal” times. Going forwards, effective communication prevents poor information flow, knowledge gaps and barriers to team collaboration.

So, how do you make things more hybrid?

Utilise Technology

Technical skills have a maximum shelf life of only five years yet recently, many organisations had to build their employees’ digital capabilities rapidly. A review of the systems and equipment available is advised to understand where additional training is necessary.

It is essential to offer all employees the same opportunity to collaborate and contribute. Consider whether meetings are held online by default, ensuring all parties can be involved, or whether regular in-person meets replace this. To enable everyone to access the same files, consider Cloud-based software and at the same time ensure all relevant data protection safeguards are installed on all devices. At the core of hybrid working is ensuring the same interfaces are available remotely as they are in the workspace.

When integrating AV equipment, office design needs to support this. For example, our Boardroom is complete with acoustically-sound glass, ceiling baffles and fixed absorption wall panels.

Alongside improving sound quality, this provides reassurance the conversations taking place remain private to the outside office, where necessary. Our careful space planning also allows easy navigation and consistent good visibility for screen viewing. Adjustable lighting prevents issues with eyestrain and screen glare.

When the office acts as a flexible base, synchronising team schedules becomes a priority, as does careful space management. Online room and desk booking systems can simultaneously reassure employees ahead of making the journey in and ensure occupancy levels are monitored. Visitor management systems can offer the same monitoring, gather helpful data for future workspace planning and provide a streamlined, contactless sign-in process.

At The Hive, we use digital signage to communicate key information, such as social distancing messaging to encourage compliance, as well as display welcome messages for visitors. Similarly, wayfinding has illuminated our way through the pandemic. Consistent and clear signage reduces decision making fatigue and allows both employees and visitors to easily familiarise themselves with, and navigate through, your surroundings.

A hybrid working pattern gives employees the power to arrange their day around tasks and outcomes

Facilitate Social Interaction

It’s important to remember people are social beings who thrive better amongst others. Spontaneous interactions can help problem solve and spark ideas, helping to build a strong community culture. This can be difficult to recreate virtually but hybrid working provides a complex interplay of online and in-person networks.

Time spent in meetings has more than doubled this year. Creating spaces for social capital to thrive, both in the workplace and virtually, provides a balance. Ensuring meetings are well-planned and purposeful, with all participants included, strengthens social ties. Providing a range of physical meeting spaces serves the varying needs of teams.

Within The Hive, our Project Room hosts a selection of portable, free-standing or wall-mounted whiteboards to showcase documents and annotations, visualise concepts and assist with pitching. Alternatively, our Auditorium space is perfect for group video calls, training sessions and brand partner showcases. AV equipment allows remote individuals to participate, and careful space planning ensures those within the office have an uninterrupted view.

Similarly, our Work Café transforms the traditional corporate cafeteria into a dynamic space that can be utilised for not only refreshments but collaboration, focus and relaxation.

Ergonomic Support

The thought of working from our sofas may have seemed appealing, but the lack of posture support soon caused the novelty to wear off. Experiencing discomfort at your workstation can lead to more distraction and less productivity.

Advocating for employee wellbeing benefits morale and engagement, provides a healthier and more inclusive culture and minimises sickness absence. Whether you’re moving to a hybrid model or remote onboarding, ensuring all employees have access to a comfortable and supportive setup means health and wellbeing are not lost at home.

There are a wide range of products ideally sized and suited for the homeworking landscape. The surge of blending ergonomically-sound comfort with aesthetically pleasing design allows task chairs, desks, monitor arms and screen risers to seamlessly integrate into a residential surrounding. There are also ‘toolbox’ solutions that merge desktop risers with storage space, making even the most impromptu workstations ergonomically sound and uncluttered.

Overall, an expected shift is designing spaces to help mitigate disease transmission, to offer employees autonomy over where specific tasks take place, to build an inspiring and connected culture, and to easily adapt to change. Workplaces are likely to require a mix of collaboration, meeting and focus zones, in addition to spaces that facilitate informal interactions.

The continuation of hybrid working appears key for organisations looking to attract and retain diverse talent. A reported 66% of business leaders are already considering redesigning their office spaces to accommodate this. To find out how we can help you implement a seamless transition strategy, contact us today!