Hybrid Working Is More Than A Temporary Fix

Despite the fact that we’ve been working from home for about 18 months now there is still some vague expectation that at some point in the future, we’re all simply going to go back to the office full time. And while lockdown induced cabin fever may make this seem appealing at the moment, the reality is that many workers are reluctant to give up the flexibility remote work allows. 

The hybrid model, a now-widely accepted term for the system whereby employees work from home some of the time and from the office the rest of the time, is regularly put forward as the in-between solution. “It’s a best-of-both-worlds solution that caters to the needs of both employer and employees – it allows for the flexibility that we all crave when it comes to working hours, while still making room for the interactions and other benefits of being in the same workspace as colleagues,” says David Seinker, founder and CEO of The Business Exchange.

And while the hybrid model is the best “compromise” we have at this stage, there are still concerns about some of the potential drawbacks, most notably related to productivity, company culture and the temporary nature of the solution. 

Productivity levels will decline 

When the world went into lockdown in March 2020 and employees were sent home, one of the key concerns was around productivity. It soon became clear that we can finally disengage desk time from productivity, and evaluate performance based on output. 

In fact, a recent Stanford University study found that working from home increased productivity by 13%, highlighting that peering over an employee’s shoulder is neither desirable nor productive. 

“By now we know that productivity has little to do with being in a controlled environment between the hours of 9am and 5pm, but has far more to do with a culture of trust and accountability,” Seinker says. 

For employers it’s a mental shift that needs to happen. “If you like and trust somebody enough to hire them, you need to trust them to do the work that needs to get done. And your company culture will be better for it if you can get it right to trust people to do what they are employed to do,” Seinker highlights. 

Company culture cannot be maintained

Much of what has commonly been understood as company culture had to do with the result of in-person interactions, or gimmicks and gadgets that contribute to the look and feel of the workplace. But if we rather understand company culture as a “set of values, goals, attitudes and practices that make up an organisation”, as per the BuiltIn definition, it becomes clear that company culture is more deeply rooted than the trendy artworks or artisanal coffee the company boasts. 

“A hybrid model can actually promote a positive company culture because it offers workers the best of both, demonstrating an understanding of their need to have the flexibility of WFH but also a space to go to meet with colleagues, network, collaborate or just simply work somewhere other than home,” Seinker points out.

He continues: “The purpose of company culture is to align on a common vision and goal.  Culture is a set of values, and how employees are recognised, appreciated and compensated for their contribution is a key part of maintaining a favourable company culture, irrespective of whether they are working from home, at the office or a combination of both.” 

The hybrid model is a temporary arrangement 

While the term “new normal” will be remembered by many as the most over-traded term of 2020, there is no better way to describe the hybrid model as the new normal or simply normal. 

“Hybrid is here to stay, we’re just taking some time getting used to it,” Seinker says.

“A hybrid model, when approached with structure and thoughtfulness, can be very successful. It’s a progressive way of working, and should be embraced and enjoyed. In my experience, when people feel comfortable and understood, they deliver some of their best work,” Seinker concludes. 

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