The Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the traditions and norms of work, which had been largely unquestioned for decades. Now, hybrid working is being hailed as the new era.
The part time office and part time remote model is set to dominate the working world, with an overwhelming majority (82%) of leaders planning to allow their employees to work in a hybrid arrangement moving forward, according to research by Gartner.
But there’s a problem with how leaders are thinking about hybrid working.
They’re working with a simplistic definition solely based on the number of days that work happens at the office and the number of days that work happens remotely.
Hybrid working is not just about where people work. It’s about when and how they work too.
The vast majority of employees want flexibility of both where (78%) and when they work (95%), according to the Slack think tank, FutureForum.
Yet many hybrid strategies solely focus on the physicality of hybrid working.
Applying office rigour to remote working doesn’t work, similarly applying remote working practises in the office also doesn’t work. It requires a shift in when and how we work too – or hybrid working fast becomes the worst of both worlds.
There are 3 common challenges beginning to emerge:
1. Unintentional policies damaging the employee experience.
Increasingly, employees are being encouraged to go back to the office.
Yet once they get there, they simply do the same work that they could have had remotely. It’s just them, sitting at a desk, tapping away on their laptop and using tools like Slack and Zoom to communicate. But they’ve commuted in, spent money on their travel and bought a floppy sandwich from the cafe downstairs.
In these cases, it’s clear that the demand for more flexibility over where work happens is being considered (alongside other organisational factors like reducing cost of office space and expanding talent pool).
However they aren’t considering the realities of the employee experience. They are not taking the opportunity to change how work happens–just where it gets done.
It leaves employees asking, “Why specifically am I in the office today?”, with even the world’s biggest companies like Google and Apple struggling (Team Blind).
As a result of these location-based policies, work-related stress and anxiety is at its worst since late 2020 (FutureForum).
2. Attrition among underrepresented groups driven by synchronous working.
Hybrid working as we know it is in the messy middle. It’s neither 9-to-5 full-time in the office nor work from anywhere, whenever you please.
Many hybrid working policies expect employees to be in the office a few days a week, and work remotely the rest. But wherever you work, it’s often still bookended in the 9-to-5.
But this has total disregard for work’s new integrated position when it takes place within the home. For many, a working day now also consists of caring duties, school runs, distractions from the mounds of ASOS deliveries to your door and Wi-Fi issues–the list goes on and on, and it’s totally unique to you.
In the hybrid working era, the expectation for your teams to be in perfect synchronisation is misguided.
This is echoed by women and minority gender groups, non-white people, working mothers and your younger employees. 58% of women want to work flexibly at least three days a week compared to 48% of men, while the number of working mothers who say that they want location flexibility is now 82%.
Compounded with the accidental favouritism driven by proximity bias, you risk losing these people by solely seeing hybrid working as a physical change (BBC). Workers with little to no ability to set their own work hours are 2.6x as likely to look for a new job this year, compared with those who have flexibility on when they work.
3. Cross-functional collaboration is faltering.
One of the crucial things that people said we would miss about the office is the impromptu conversations across the office floor between departments, age groups, genders, seniority–and the casual, culture-forming, conversations at the water cooler or on your lunch break.
Yet many hybrid working policies and the return to office are based on the department that employees work in.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, it may be Sales, Customer Success and Marketing. While on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays it’s HR, Operations IT and Engineering.
It makes sense, to an extent, to go into the office at the same time as departmental colleagues because they can work on common projects and build a sense of cohesion within the team.
But companies taking this approach are missing out on cross-functional collaboration. As a result, they miss creativity and learning opportunities, information flow is slowed and pathways remain in hierarchical structures, while individual networks are limited and engagement falters.
Right the wrongs of hybrid working
Simply continuing the traditions and norms of office-first life in the hybrid working era doesn’t work–nor does applying the habits of remote working across the board. Hybrid working requires a fundamentally different approach.
There’s no rule book that has to be followed. Instead leaders should see the opportunity to totally reorganise how work happens, and how teams, technology and whole companies work together.
But it’s easier said than done.
To make the best decisions about hybrid working locations, flexibility, synchronicity, employee collaboration, cultural development opportunities and more, you need to understand what’s currently working and what’s not.
Workplace analytics enables leaders to use data from various cloud-based technology collaboration platforms, CRM platforms, workplace management tools, employee systems and surveys to understand how their company is working.
Continuous, real-time analytics help leaders gather insight on the impact of their decisions and break down by various demographics over time.
There are 4 pressing questions that workplace analytics help companies initially address:
- When are my teams working?
- How is information and knowledge shared throughout the company?
- What is the usage and adoption rate of our workplace tools?
- How connected and aligned are our employees?
At Temporall, our workplace analytics platform answers these questions for you within weeks.
We are the leading hybrid workplace analytics company.
Our purpose-built platform helps you understand where your hybrid company is and how to be more intentional with your company’s time, effort and resources.