The onset of lockdown in March 2020 undoubtedly marked a crucial turning point in the way thousands of businesses and their employees operate on a day-to-day basis. Home working and Teams meetings have become the new norm for many, and with that has come conversations and deliberation about the longevity of remote and ‘hybrid’ forms of working. Whilst many have adjusted to the realities of pandemic-era working, organisations emerging out of Covid are now going to have to navigate both a return and re-definition of office working.
Hybrid – The 2021 Buzzword
Organisations adopting a model of hybrid working will essentially empower employees to work more flexibly than ever before by permitting a mixture of both home and office-based working across the average week. The benefits of this increasingly popular model are well documented, with industry experts pointing to boosts in employee well-being and motivation, time / cost savings for commuters and improvements in staff work-life balance. With these benefits having played out in real-time over the past 15 months, it is hardly surprising that an estimated 63% of employer’s are considering introducing permanent hybrid working policies over the next 6-12 months. As well as this, the shift to hybrid seems to have also attracted widespread political backing, as demonstrated by the introduction of the Flexible Working Bill to parliament in June 2021. If passed, the legislation will allow all staff entitlement to flexible working arrangements from day one of starting a new job. So, with the trajectory set for the future – what will slimmed down hours of ‘in-person’ working actually look like?
An Opportunity to Create Sustainable and Staff-Centric Workspaces
To future-proof workspace in the hybrid era, organisations are going to have to consider a re-definition of traditional office working. Of course, a natural consequence (and benefit) of hybrid working is a reduction in demand for physical office space as staff work increasingly from home. Companies have already begun to grapple with this reality, with industry giants such as KPMG investing £44 million in technology upgrades and the transformation of its offices into “collaborative spaces”. PwC, ITV and Domestic & General are the latest in an ever-growing list of companies following a similar path.
Re-purposing isolated desk areas into spaces which place a greater emphasis on collaboration, teamwork and training could be a significant tool to help drive forward innovation during reduced hours of in-person working. Furthermore, adequate connectivity between remote and office workers will be crucial so that exchanges between the two flow seamlessly, in turn ensuring productivity levels are retained. While no two solutions will be the same, it is clear that firms now have the opportunity not only to reduce office space but pioneer new environments which harness the benefits of both home and in-person working.
Ensuring Success During a Moment of Great Change
Introducing and sustaining effective hybrid working arrangements will undoubtedly be a challenge for organisations in the post-Covid era. There will never be a ‘one size fits all’ approach to hybrid working and workspace – flexibility and adaptability will be essential. As there is still so much unknown about the hybrid future, organisations are going to have to look inwards in the coming months in order to establish positive and sustainable change.
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