Lockdown and furlough have changed the workforce and the way we work; employee expectations are for a more flexible model. Research from YouGov and the CIPD has shown that post-pandemic most employees would prefer a balance where they are in the office for some of the week and at home for the remainder, known as hybrid working.
The genie is out of the bottle and remote working will continue to be part of the mix for a large part of the previously office-based workforce. Those who can take advantage of flexible working options are likely to be more committed, innovative and engaged.
Research which analysed 20 million job applications found jobs with clear, flexible working options could attract up to 30 per cent more applicants than those that did not. Smart employers will look for ways to make the return to the office palatable; and flexible working is a vital tool at the disposal of employers who will need to attract and retain quality applicants in a competitive marketplace characterised by skills shortages and changing employee priorities.
Reshape the workplace
Managing through lockdown has afforded employee centred leaders a chance to reshape the workplace and reimagine work to accommodate professional and personal responsibilities and aspirations.
Hybrid working can support your diversity and inclusion agenda as improved workplace flexibility can open up opportunities to those who prefer not to work a traditional 9-5 working day. For working parents and those with caring responsibilities, flexibility is a boon. However, the hybrid model will need to be managed sensitively or it may lead to challenges around employees working remotely not being sufficiently included, recognised or having equal employee voice.
There is no one-size-fits-all hybrid solution, as every member of your team will have their personal preferences for future working patterns; some employers will need to experiment with a range of solutions to address diverse needs and concerns. The CIPD recommend that we consider:
- What work patterns individuals would prefer after the pandemic.
- Whether employees can meet any policy requirements long term, such as health and safety or data security procedures, and if they have a suitable space in which to work at home.
- Whether individuals have the necessary equipment or technology to work in a continuously hybrid way after the pandemic.
Connectivity at work
We have adjusted to virtual meetings and remote working but some managers may benefit from training to help them build skills in online communication, coaching, engagement, and management of remote and hybrid teams. Consultancy firm BCG found that employees satisfied with social connectivity at work are on average 2.5 times as likely to say that their productivity is at least as high now as it was before the pandemic.
A focus on meaningful objectives and employee empowerment can transform corporate culture to create an environment that eschews presenteeism and hierarchical ways of working and managing. We can be more agile and create engaged and empowered teams able to collaborate with robust cross-functional communication, rapid decision making and experimental and tailored working models to help each employee reach peak performance.
Hybrid work is part of our new reality and affords interesting opportunities to reduce property costs, enhance productivity and engagement, and negotiate new working patterns and flexible workplaces.