For a long time, employees have believed that work should be centered around what you do, not where you do it. This progressive thinking may have been put on the agenda by millennials, but the world of work has changed exponentially since COVID-19. Employees of all generations are now embracing the future of work and many are looking for more options on where they get the job done.

Many employers have been forced to shut their physical workplaces for months, generating a mass shift to remote working. As the COVID storm has started to calm, organisations are choosing to embrace hybrid working models to manage employee expectations, business needs, social distancing, and a balanced approach to shaping the new cultural norm.

Hybrid working is perhaps one compromise, where employees retain flexibility and employers still feel like they can operate effectively and meet customer needs. 

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is a flexible working model which enables employees to choose to work from a variety of various locations. It aims to seamlessly blend office working with work done in other locations. In many cases, hybrid is popular as a compromised way to work that is not either fully remote or full time in the physical workspace.

Whilst hybrid working has been gaining in popularity over the past decade, the take up from organisations has been historically relatively small. Enter a global health pandemic and hybrid working has accelerated as a preferred working model across the globe, allowing workers to feel empowered to choose.

Many organisations are rethinking their corporate real estate footprint and rebranding as ‘work from anywhere’ to give them the agility to respond positively to the ever changing economic climate and desire for employee flexibility. Hybrid working models do not replace an employer’s obligations to provide flexibility under legislation.

10 things that hybrid working has taught us so far

Some organisations have experienced remarkable success and others have had more of a bumpy transition; however, hybrid working has already taught us some valuable lessons.

1. Employees do not need to be seen to be effective

Presenteeism cultures have had a rude awakening as hybrid and remote workers have shown that they can not only survive – but thrive in various locations. The focus has shifted from hours at the workplace desk to overall output and performance measures. Hybrid models require clear competency models and employees who share the company values and vision.

2. Technology is non-negotiable

We can all remember a time when we dialled into a meeting and only managed to hear one person speak and participants forgot you were there. In a digital age, it should be a given that the right meeting tools are enabled so that all employees have a consistent experience. Hybrid moves from the mentality that the person at home is ‘unique’ and empowers employers to use technology to effectively blend the physical and virtual workplace.

3. Employees must be engaged in the transformation

Some employees are creatures of habit and others thrive when there is change. It should not be assumed that all workers will approach the ‘new way to work’ the same or that everyone will be thrilled with the business decision. Generating employee surveys to understand preferences, concerns and suggestions is critical to designing the right level of flexibility and striking a balance that works for both the employer and employee. When only one group’s needs are met; success will not be achieved.

4. The end of Friday night drinks

Culturally, there are many proud businesses that invite employees to celebrate a productive work week with the sharing of a few drinks and a pizza. This has been a tradition for generations that has come to be valued by many. Hybrid working patterns have shown that employees prefer to visit the office mid-week and work from home on Fridays. This has presented challenges for employers to devise new and inclusive ways to come together virtually to keep bonds strong and celebrate success.

5. Hot desks are no longer ‘hot’

Hot desking has taken off in the last decade with a certain freedom of workers not being tied to a particular workstation. This has been cost effective for employers and in many scenarios increased collaboration and inclusion. Hot desking may be the answer logistically to run hybrid workplaces, however with that comes safety concerns and additional layers of cleaning that detracts from its popularity.

6. Picking common office days is key

If hybrid workers are picking different days to come the office, then it is a false economy. If the benefit to physically coming in is to build bonds, collaborate, harness the company culture and brainstorm without technical glitches; then you need to pick some common days when teams are invited in. Perhaps the marketing team are in together each Wednesday and HR spend Thursdays in the office. Coordination is key for collaboration.

7. Hybrid still includes remote working

Hybrid working is cool and highly desirable, but it is important that employers understand that hybrid is simply combining working remotely and in the office. It is therefore critical that there are the appropriate protocols and practices to ensure that the ‘remote’ element is effective, seamless, safe, and set up to embrace inclusion and collaboration.

8. It is time for ‘business comfort’

The 90’s were famous for power suits, but just as these have gone out of fashion, so too has the need to dress formally. There is growing research that employees not only want to choose where they work, but also what they wear to work. While no one wants to see gardening clothes in the workplace, do we really need a shirt and tie to get the job done? The ability to ‘dress for your day’ empowers employees to make choices that work for business and personal needs and don’t act as an unnecessary barrier to come into the physical workspace.

9. Cancel the ‘table tennis’ table in the lunchroom

Employers pre pandemic were showing great imagination on designing workspaces that blended the line between work and play. Table tennis, bean bags, Zen dens and even PlayStation became part of the physical workspace. Some would say these were introduced to build cultures, but cynics would argue they are designed to make workers want to hang out in the office longer. In a world post COVID-19 there is no longer the foot traffic to justify these expenses, and no one wants to use shared facilities. This has created an opportunity to reallocate these budgets into something productive for a true hybrid business.

10. The talent pool just got a lot bigger

A physical workspace requirement has applicants usually within an hour commute. When you have a truly dispersed workforce, you can cast the recruitment net well beyond traditional geographic boundaries. Clearly, this benefits employees, but the real winners are employers who will no longer suffer the same skill shortages based on their own remote location.

Your invitation to a new world of work

It is a myth that workers need to share the same workspace each day to be successful. It is possible for creativity to flourish in online meetings and collaboration to be enhanced across suburbs or even states. Two years ago, hybrid working models may not have been on the agenda but today it is driving new ways to work that generations to come will thank us for.

Further information

For assistance with your workplace matters, Members of Ai Group can contact us or call our Workplace Advice Line on 1300 55 66 77 for further information.

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Why hybrid work is here to stay 

Georgina Pacor
Georgina is Senior Content Writer and HR Specialist – Publications at Ai Group. She is an accomplished Human Resource professional with over 20 years of generalist and leadership experience in a broad range of industries including financial services, tourism, travel, government and agriculture. She has successfully advised and partnered with senior leaders to implement people and performance initiatives that align to business strategy. Georgina is committed to utilising her experience to create resources that educate and engage and is passionate about supporting members to optimise an inclusive workforce culture that drives performance.