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Hybrid Work: Next Normal or Next Better?

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Hybrid work is something we hear a lot of lately, why? The global pandemic of Covid-19 was the about time for many companies to ask their thinking and create new working environment. The hybrid work model is the Next Normal, which many businesses are adapting to. It is a chance to work flexible while staying safe and being productive. But hybrid work is not just a name or a new trend. It is so much more and touches on multiple aspects of our lives.

Rise of the hybrid work

The Coronavirus pandemic has given companies the opportunity to change existing standards and redefine working practices. For many of them it meant to alter their usual work to a hybrid model. Features of the hybrid work format include:

New work models. Work practices give employees flexibility to choose the time and place of work.

Performance-oriented work. The focus of companies is shifted from the factor of time and place to productivity and the end result.

Optimization of investments. When you go outside the office, you can create a personal workspace using collaboration technologies.

Hybrid workflow models are based on a combination of remote and onsite work. An office can be considered truly hybrid if at least 30% of employees are transferred to the new work format. A hybrid work is more difficult to organize than a purely remote or standard office, both in terms of the interaction and from the standpoint of management: how the life and work of employees is changing, how it is possible to maintain a balance between work and personal life, etc. Organizing this kind of work is a real challenge for today’s leaders, because it means providing a comfortable work environment to achieve performance for completely different people with different needs.

Advantages of hybrid office:

1. Expanding the range of efficiency. Fears of telecommuting are not justified. Many companies note that with a full transition to remote work, the productivity of their employees only increases. The hybrid office is focused on delivering business results with the convenience and safety of employees.

2. Ability to recruit employees from regions. The hybrid office makes it possible to fully cooperate with talented specialists from other cities and for this purpose introduce asynchronous work schedules.

3. Increasing the motivation of belonging to the company. Up-to-date workflow practices show employees that management is in step with the times and cares about the safety of all team members.

4. Optimization of office space and costs. Employees continue to work in the office or visit it temporarily only when it is necessary and justified both from the point of view of the production process and their personal safety.

Today, many companies are testing hybrid schedule with partly remote work. Here you can take a look at the examples and get more familiar with hybrid model in general. For now, let`s discuss this type of work considering the multiple sides it affects.

Hybrid work and company culture

Companies need to embed fundamental habits in their team cultures to bring hybrid work teams together and provide an environment in which employees can speak up. Teams should be flexible, resourceful, ethical, and responsive. To fulfil this they must include the following features:

Inclusiveness. Diverse teams work better, but it’s important to be able to accommodate and appreciate each other’s differences. Tolerance is vital for good cooperation.

Asking questions. Not personalized management style is not efficient for everyone. Employees will react differently to hybrid work, and managers must learn to find new information, be curious and ask questions.

Purposefulness. We see too wide range of work goals, so focusing on the main purposes will serve as a compass in times of change and help create more effective work practices.

Hybrid work and mental health

Global lockdown has strongly affected people in many ways. Drop of mental wellness (27%) occurred in all industries since the pandemic begun. This happens due to uncertainty in future and quarantine measures.

Many workers have felt isolated while being forced to work from home only. Employees who work solely onsite feel that they are not trusted by their companies. And they also feel vulnerable in matters of health because commuting still possesses a risk to get infected. At the same time, those who combine in-office and work-from-home reported to be generally fine. Hybrid work allowed them to attend office when necessary and stay home the rest of the time. This kind of flexibility is showing that managers rely on their workers enough to let them decide.

However, another source shows that 64% of business owners find their workforce skeptical about hybrid work. People want to be sure what is next and how the company is going to deal with it. Role of HR during the implementation of hybrid work model is highly important. You cannot just announce going hybrid and to give a free rein to it hoping that workers will figure everything out on their own. 81% of HR leaders admit the need of coherent approach to employees` wellbeing in all life fields to keep their workforce happy.

Hybrid work and wellness

An option to stay home is great, but for someone it blurs the line between work and rest and can cause a burnout. To maintain efficiency while working from home everyone should remember about such routine like plugging in and off at the right time, having breaks and meals, and preserving good hygiene habits. It is important not to ignore basic needs to stay healthy.

Actually, hybrid work enables people to use advantage of telecommuting. When employees save time while working from home they have a chance to focus on their wellbeing. Many of these workers have finally found a minute to exercise, which is obviously great. Additionally, downsizing the amount of rides to the office we also reduce the risk of infection, which is critical point right now.

Another positive aspect of working remotely is ability to be independent of the company location. The best specialists are allowed to live where they want, and this is not always the city or even the country where the office is located. Previously you needed an extra budget to pay for the move and other expenses, not mentioning the stress generated by leaving your home and regular life. Today, people can perform their duties outside the office. It affects many life`s areas and even saves families.

Self-care started to be a thing long ago before Covid-19 crisis but nowadays the focus has increased. As a trend people will prioritize their time and health and be glad to work from home. But there is still a need to find a perfect balance of remote and onsite work.

Hybrid work and productivity

Today’s talented youth are not ready to exchange the most active part of their life for office discipline. And employers should use that as motivation! Flexible schedule and choice of location allows setting only one requirement for employees – key performance indicators or KPIs.

Not everyone is meant to work remotely even during pandemic. For some it is too difficult to overcome distractions caused by roommates or home atmosphere. Still, commuting every day is time-consuming and this barely leads to good work results.

The study shows that there is a significant increase in productivity among those who were working from home being able to occasionally attend office. 69% of respondents stated to be productive during telecommuting if they are allowed to come to office from time to time. Those who practice WHO also described their level of efficiency as high.

The aspects of mental and physical health mentioned before are contributing to productivity. It is vital to choose the best conditions to work in and hybrid model is great for this. To achieve the highest results the team should be concentrated on cooperation wherever they work from.

Hybrid work and office space

Creating the conditions for employees to help them work productively and smoothly is essential for the new era of hybrid work. Today we can work from anywhere, but most surveys confirm that the physical workspace improves personal relationships, speeds up work processes and gives birth to new meanings. Ideas often appear behind a shared desk or ‘hot desk’ that allows a product to grow faster and more efficiently than if it was discussed in Slack or an endless email chain.

The adaptability of space must be embedded in the company’s processes to ensure a healthy culture. The employee can work in the way that suits him\her, respecting the agreements, and this gives the best results for the organization. You can adjust the level of noise, lighting and the amount of space for team or individual work using furniture and mobile partitions.

Co-working spaces start to prevail. Organizations will further invest in co-working spaces outside of expensive cities to attract talents. Group collaboration and social ties with colleagues will lead to mutual fruitful cooperation and, as a result, the development of innovations. And while experiments prove that productivity is independent of the number of hours employees spend in the office, the line between home and work will blur. Not only giant corporate buildings are changing. Home offices are receiving the same attention as the business ones. They will become even more ergonomically organized and inspiring places to work in the future.

Cityscapes will change, too. This will happen due to smaller need of office buildings as they will be shared by several shifts or even companies. We will probably witness much more sustainable spaces with technologies and nature smoothly bound together.

Business owners may reorganize office buildings as they will not need all this space for hybrid teams. This leads to money saving on rent. Today “hot desk” is a popular solution for offices. Outsourcing in everything for the reality we live in.

Hybrid work and technology

We cannot deny that technological advancement has altered our workplace drastically. Technology plays a big role in shaping the “next normal” as it stimulates new workflows between people and enables seamless communication and collaboration. Therefore, employees in a virtual environment remain motivated and involved. If we respond to modern challenges and invent new approaches to work, we will be able to constantly evolve with any changes.

Due to urgency to change fast the working environment to the remote one many businesses faced the giant gap in technological supply. The research conducted all over USA presented data where only 28% of respondents were satisfied with tech support they had while being ought to work from home. And more than 56% are now investing into technologies to provide enough resources for telecommuting with 40% directing their budget to provide tools for hybrid work.

You cannot simply send half of your workforce home and expect them to function relying on instruments they had before. Importance of communication tools is undeniable, especially for hybrid teams. Of course, Internet with 24\7 connection is a must. But companies should also invest into software enabling workers and managers to track task, time and productivity. And what is more important, there is an absolute need to provide communication channels where people can interact for working and informal purposes.

How to make hybrids helpful rather than harmful

To successfully transition to a hybrid work, first, you need to have a good understanding of your own business model, define your business development strategy and segment your departments. Secondly, you need to focus on the result. And finally, you must develop and implement an appropriate technological platform. It should be borne in mind that building a hybrid office involves not only providing employees with the physical ability to switch to “remote work”, but also building a special ecosystem considering the following points:

– change in management style, development of empathy;
– development of corporate culture;
– changes in the processes of remote training of employees;
– digitization of all other processes.

Moving to a hybrid office format can be challenging for executives. These problems themselves may indicate that the company is not fully prepared for such a step.

The development of empathy and close bounds with the team is the primary need and just a necessity for good leaders. Since empathy through digital video is a more complicated task, its formation cannot be done without personal communication with many employees and this requires at least extra time, understanding and effort. In addition, digital empathy presupposes the correct use of the appropriate tools (for example, it is better for someone to write, for others only to call).

Another point is occupational health, the need to prevent fatigue and burnout of employees. We need to convey to them that it is wrong practice to score all day with video meetings, regularly recycle and discuss working moments after the end of the working day and on weekends. Additionally, it seems unethical to write to your employees after the end of the working day and on their spare time. In a hybrid work format, the work ethic is still in its infancy.

For hybrid work cultural changes are also taking place in management models. Many managers find it difficult to delegate tasks online, to give their subordinates the right guide. Many managers struggle to maintain a common information field with their employees. To do this, it is important to correctly use all available digital tools: messengers, Trello and other instruments, regular video meetings with employees, strategy sessions.

Not all companies are successfully addressing the digital security challenge immediately when switching to a hybrid work. The categories and types of the relevant threats remain generally the same, but their scale grows significantly. It is important not to lose sight of this aspect: pay attention to who and how disposes of corporate data, which of the employees has access to data, what systems of remote access and file storage are used. It is recommended to use corporate computers for remote work as this gives at least partial control over how employees deal with information. Alas, such control in the conditions of the formation of a hybrid office is becoming necessary today, also because employee fatigue also increases their susceptibility to data fishing and possibility of other mistakes.

Control might be scary for your workforce at first. But you definitely need it. To find a compromise with your workers explain your goals and have a meaningful conversation on security issues. Communication is everything.

Conclusion

Our future is a flexible work environment that meets the needs of all employees, providing a comfortable working conditions and allowing them to maximize the value of their work to the organization. The need to create a hybrid office is obvious today. Fortunately, the pandemic will not last forever. But the hybrid work as a new format for organizing the workflow will probably stay with us for a long time.

Once the COVID-19 is over, the hybrid remote office will become a place for meetings, strategy sessions, department meetings and various other events. In the digital space of the hybrid office, it will be possible to exchange thoughts, insights, and experiences. And today we need to learn how to competently build the work and communication of managers and subordinates within a hybrid team. This combined working model is already bringing positive outcomes, though we should keep on developing it. Taking into account every area of business we still need to remember that human wellbeing is a priority here.

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