As everyone is well aware, we are going through a shift in the way we live and work. It’s not just businesses that have had to quickly adopt new ways and methods but also families, friends, schools, freelancers and everyone in between.
How we manage these changes is essential to get back to a sense of normality and in the cases of companies it’s of high importance in order to retain business continuity.
Flight to Flexibility.
Properly are in the business of connecting companies with office spaces that meet their needs and even before the COVID-19 pandemic we were seeing a move towards flexibility. Even law firms who have run a particular model for many years whereby every senior lawyer had an office which they shared with one or two juniors, were starting to think this wasn’t what employees wanted and perhaps not the most collaborative way of working, looked to adopt a more open plan and in some cases, even hot-desking model.
The move towards a more flexible working life was not only being seen in the physical workspace but also in the hours employees were working and the traditional 9-5 was becoming less necessary with the advancements of technology.
We feel the pandemic has simply accelerated this movement and the year of 2020 showed us that we have the skills and tools to effectively work from anywhere. It also showed us however that fully remote working can be very difficult, lonely and sometimes very stressful.
What Do Employees Want?
A recent study carried out by Boston Consulting Group UK used a sample of 2000 employees across the UK and it revealed that nearly 70% of those working remotely since COVID-19 want to be able to adopt a ‘hybrid’ work model in which they spend part of the week at home and part of it in the ‘office’. We use the term ‘office’ lightly as the way employees wish to collaborate with their teams is changing too and gone are the days of rows and rows of desks, each with a nameplate on and a picture of one’s children and loved ones as used to be the way in so many places of work.
We now talk of ‘workspaces’ and in particular Destination Workspaces as they need to be designed and managed in a way that actually entices employees into towns and cities instead of their kitchen tables where they have no commute, no dress code and no distractions. Where it may differ from the old model is that the physical workspace doesn’t need to be in one building but perhaps spread across multiple sites providing places for employees to go that are convenient for most, such as major City transport hubs which perhaps eliminate the need to use the more cramped methods of travel such as busses and tubes.
So what is hybrid working?
It is whatever a company makes it and how it runs depends on the needs of a particular company. For one business it might mean splitting the workforce into teams and run a week-on / week-off model, for others, it might mean most employees are in a few days a week but can work from home when they wish and for others, it might be almost fully remote working but coming into a shared space once a week / month / quarter for team meetings.
Essentially it is what you make it and getting it right will likely result in happy teams and high productivity. However, the sheer fluidity of it and the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, makes it difficult to implement and will certainly involve some trial and error before getting it right.
What is the best way to run a successful hybrid model?
How can those who run businesses balance employee needs with broader business objectives? We believe the most important factor is the ability to understand what employees actually want and the only way to do this is to ask them. In small firms, this can be an honest face-to-face discussion and in larger firms by way of an all-employee survey. We know you can’t please everyone all the time but in this case, leaders need to know what their employees want and to try to find a solution that caters for most whilst still achieving business goals.
The general trend we have found is that many employees want the freedom to work from where they want but still be able to collaborate with teams, seek advice from senior staff members and socialise with colleagues after work. They also want to avoid busy and long commutes on a daily basis and perhaps use that time to exercise, pursue out-of-work hobbies or simply sit down and have a meal with their families.
So let’s say the surveys have been carried out and the results show everything suggested above. What next? Changing to a hybrid model needs to start with a new way of thinking. It’s not just swapping out a few desks in the office for comfy sofas but a whole new way of thinking. This needs to come from the top down so that younger employees know the firm has the confidence in them to make good, honest choices about where and when they work.
There needs to be a change in attitude for all with total buy-in, an embracing of technology, offering multiple options to staff (but not too many), and total honesty, all whilst maintaining a company culture that has taken time to build. Leaders need to have regular check-ins with employees including those who prefer to work remotely rather than just those they may sit close to in the office. Just because one employee wants to spend more time at home than another doesn’t mean they should be overlooked for promotions if they are still producing results.
Essentially the adoption of the remote model will initially be labour-intensive for leaders as they navigate through a myriad of employee needs but once in place and running smoothly we feel it it will boost employee energy and productivity, galvanise teams, allow for more work-life balance and potentially realise cost benefits as we move away for the one-desk-per-employee way of working. It’s an exciting space to be in and we believe the companies that nail this will see great results. For advice on how to adopt new ways of working and of course to find an amazing new home for your business that caters to these new business objectives, get in touch with Properly who will give free consultations for all companies from 1 desk to 1000 desks.