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The future of work is now: making hybrid work for your business

remote working
(Image credit: Image Credit: llaszlo / Shutterstock)

Hybrid working is one of the main talking points at the moment, with offices reopening and employees starting to return on a part-time basis at least. Hybrid offers a flexible approach to where and when employees do their jobs, with no company-wide mandate telling employees they must work from home or they must come to the office every day. The hybrid work model empowers employees with choice. It asks them where and how they would like to work subject to the task or output required and gives them the tools and resources they need to do so effectively.

The beauty of hybrid working is that it offers so many different combinations, with complete flexibility to change depending on your employees and organizational growth.

Widening the talent pool 

By allowing employees to work from home at least some of the time, an organization is widening the talent pool they have access to. This is particularly effective for global businesses with customers across different time zones. Offering the opportunity for remote working opens the door to hiring a more diverse and effective workforce.

Hybrid work doesn’t mean completely dropping physical office space, as a face-to-face collaboration where needed remains important. Hybrid work models cover all the bases without limiting who you can hire. We don't need to tell you just how revolutionary that could be for your business, especially if you need employees with high-level, specialist skills.

Increased agility 

Many businesses had to change the way they operate as a result of the pandemic. In a lot of cases, this change was quick and imperfect, due to the change needing to be rushed.

This whole experience has proved that being agile is key to thriving in the most challenging circumstances. Hybrid working enables this agility and provides the workforce with the tools they need to handle change, making a change to operations far easier for businesses.

Cost savings 

The move to hybrid can also have financial savings for businesses, that no longer have to spend as much money on office space. The fact that more employees will be working remotely means organizations can afford to downsize. The money saved should be invested in to working tools and technology that enables a hybrid workforce and supports continued growth or adapting the office space to be more flexible for the needs of those in it.

For businesses looking to grow, cost-savings on office space can free up much-needed budget to invest in more talent and upskill their current workforce.

Promoting a healthier work/life balance 

Empowering employees to work from a place of their choice improves their work/life balance, which only benefits businesses in the long term. By allowing employees to be flexible means they can better organize their work schedules and prioritize things in their personal lives, such as their health or childcare.

This has benefits for the business as well, as a better work/life balance leads to more motivated employees, higher productivity, less staff turnover, and a better all-around employee experience.

Despite all these benefits, like any learning curve, making the transition to a hybrid work model comes with its challenges.

Inequality between remote and office employees 

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that, between 2013 and 2020, employees who mainly worked from home were 'around 38 percent less likely on average to have received a bonus compared with those who never worked from home’. And employees who worked mainly from home were less than half as likely to be promoted than all other employees.

There is a real danger that, when employees are working remotely, they get forgotten. To prevent this, business leaders and HR teams must ensure remote employees are as engaged as possible and equal to their on-site colleagues. This can be achieved through better internal communications, utilizing a digital workplace, ensuring regular appraisals, and promoting workplace collaboration.

An impact on culture 

Culture for most organizations has traditionally centered around physical offices and what they believe employees value. They have gone to great lengths to offer staff ping-pong tables, fancy coffee, gyms, after-work socials and much else. So what happens when the office is no longer the center point for businesses?

As we move into a multi-modal work environment where some employees will be in the office and some won’t, how do you unify the culture? How do you nurture human connection, reimagine culture and make it work for everyone? There is now an opportunity for businesses to retain the best of both worlds and find the technology that allows culture to flourish beyond the constraints of an office building. It’s time to invest in technology that works for people.

If we refer back to the global organizations that have turned to hybrid working most recently, we can see very clear roadmaps supported by culture and core values. Therefore, hybrid working (or work from anywhere) initiatives should be built around your corporate culture to ensure nothing gets lost in translation. 

Technology overkill 

There is no doubt that technology will be key to enabling an effective remote workforce. Without the right technology, employees will struggle to communicate and collaborate, which will obviously damage productivity. All physical office spaces should have video conferencing capability to create seamless and enjoyable hybrid meetings and this should be considered when thinking about layout. For example, setting TVs to table height so that those dialing in are not being stared up at! But, beyond this, we should also look at the effectiveness of the technology employees are using. 

The pandemic has caused digital burnout for many employees. Many feel that tech is dictating their working life rather than enabling it. Some CHROs recognize that too – 48 percent stated that their current HR technology solutions hinder, rather than improve the employee experience, according to Gartner. This requires business leaders to take workplace technology choices much more seriously and think of them as a strategic investment in the future and health of their people.

In short, for a hybrid workforce, sometimes the answer isn't necessarily more technology. Rather, it's making the most of the technology you have and presenting it in a more intuitive, user-friendly way while promoting the right to disconnect and create their work-life boundaries.

Nicky Hoyland, CEO, Huler

Nicky Hoyland is the CEO and co-founder of workplace technology company, Huler.