What does successful hybrid working look like?

Feb 21, 2022 Written by Rhino Team

It’s been made official. Hybrid working is now a dictionary term.

In amongst the latest entries such as cheugy, metaverse, pingdemic and NFT, the Oxford English Dictionary saw the addition of a new sense of the adjective; hybrid. And whilst we may find ourselves gazing at some of these terms with some scepticism, ‘Hybrid Working’ is one term we are all too familiar with.

As Mark Dixon, Founder and CEO of Spaces’ & Regus parent company IWG, recently pointed out;

“Every year, I’m fascinated by the words and phrases that are added to dictionaries. They invariably speak volumes about the times we live in. As 2021 approached its end, I was particularly intrigued to see that the OED, no less, had updated its definition of ‘hybrid’ to include ‘hybrid working’.”

Right now, we see workers rallying for a hybrid set-up, and companies experimenting with different types of arrangements. But what does successful hybrid working look like – and is it really the future?

Employers are ready to get back to significant in-person presence. But how do employees feel?

Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a fundamental shift in how and where people are working. According to new research by Microsoft, half (51%) of UK workers who currently have the choice to mix remote and office working would consider leaving their company if a hybrid option was removed.

Many employees valued their ‘work from home’ experience during the pandemic; with the ability to support focus work, and improvements to well-being and a work-life balance. Working remotely empowered them with the flexibility to manage their day autonomously.

However, it also made them value the physical office. Research shows that too much remote work creates its own set of problems, such as diminished knowledge transfer, decreased engagement, cultural disconnect, and a slew of new distractions.

But the most fundamental issue comes down to one ingredient: People. Whether you are introvert, extrovert, ambivert, grumpy or gregarious, apart from a very small minority of the population, we all need to connect. We need social contact to grow, learn, stay engaged and stay well, and although technology assists us, there is still a need to be with others for the stimulus that only person-to-person interaction can provide.

So whilst we are now seeing many companies opening their doors to welcome employees “back” to work, the employee preference for a hybrid model suggests that our time at the office should become more deliberate, targeted, and collaborative. The power the office can have as a social and collaborative place is primary, and companies that are incorporating these elements into their hybrid model are already benefiting from the “best of both worlds”.

Is Hybrid the answer?

Hybrid working is nothing new; employers have been using this model for years, with 70% of professionals working remotely at least once a week pre-pandemic. The suspicions about people ‘shirking from home’ have diminished, and the pandemic sped up digital strategies, allowing companies to speed up processes and become more sustainable. Employees proved that homeworking had many benefits to both themselves and their employers, including improved wellbeing and productivity.

Organisations are now questioning what suits them best, and the balancing act of work places between home and office has become the focal point of many difficult discussions.

The truth is, there’s no simple, one-size-fits-all solution to what tomorrow’s office should look like. Without considering what hybrid work means at a team and employee level, a generic ‘hybrid plan’ will not fix exhaustion or lead to a sustainable work environment – simply imposing a hybrid timetable (like some new kind of shift pattern) onto the pre-pandemic office environment is a quick way to reduce effectiveness and increase friction and frustration.

And while many organisations regularly update their IT systems to maintain their competitive edge, some pay little attention to the actual workplace – the physical tools that their teams need to deliver the best results. And as we have experienced a decade of change and advancement in the last 2 years, addressing the physical layout, and what is expected of it has never been more important.

The opportunity to reshape the way we work

By taking the time to develop their culture and understand their DNA, organisations can use this intelligence to tailor a workspace which promotes adaptation and attracts the right players. This will in turn boost employee engagement, motivation, and ultimately, businesses can flourish.

Hybrid working allows individuals to work in the environment most appropriate to their task or activity. This could mean that collaborative activities and innovation can take place in the office, while solo activities and focus work can be done remotely.

Hybrid working is…

  • Empowering
  • Collaborative
  • Iterative
  • Adaptable
  • Engaging

It empowers staff with the freedom to select where they will achieve their best outputs, and by definition, hybrid workplaces are designed to be flexible and easily adaptable, with a shift in focus from banks of desks to spaces which allow for quicker meetings, better collaboration, and easier communication. By applying flexibility to workspaces, furnishings, and tools, organisations can give employees the freedom to work in the ways that best suit them.

Company benefits of a hybrid workspace include:

  • Smaller workspaces delivering a reduction in real estate and running costs
  • Improved attendance/reduced absenteeism
  • Reduced attrition
  • Improvements in productivity
  • Prepared for any change
  • Greater employee inclusion
  • Widespread technology adoption

Employee benefits of a hybrid workspace include:

  • Improved wellbeing
  • Sense of achievement / improved productivity
  • Better work-life balance
  • Better communication
  • Greater flexibility
  • Empowered to work how and where they want
  • An understanding that their employer listens

But where do you start?

Before starting any planning or design, you may want to consult the experts. Undergoing a People & Place Study can bring a host of benefits to your organisation and is an essential first step in implementing hybrid working. Consultants will work with you to gain a better understanding of your business at its core, undertaking space occupancy research, staff surveys, observations, and workshops. This provides you with the crucial feedback you’ll need as you implement your hybrid office.

You’ll uncover things you never knew about your business, identify which areas your staff value the most, and discover what changes will support your team better, bringing the most benefits. 

Office Design

Your office design is what fuels how your employees work, making it the most important part of any hybrid workspace. Hybrid working is all about providing an adaptable, productive environment that inspires creativity, so your office design should reflect this. Aim to create spaces that cater for every kind of activity. Whether that’s internal meetings, collaborative work or private sessions – flexibility is the name of the game. Plan ahead to maximise the potential of your space and ensure the layout is optimised for quick, seamless access to everything it offers.

Design your office with future growth and collaboration in mind and the rest will follow.

Talk to one of our workplace consultants today about space planning, design schemes and options to future-proof your workspace for hybrid working.

“Working with Rhino has been a true partnership. They listened to our requirements and refined the initial concepts to match our requirements and aspirations with regards to a new way of working and the importance of sustainability." | Ross J Lee - Business Development Director | Barcode Warehouse

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