Hybrid working – what next?
Throughout the week my colleagues and I have been examining different aspects of hybrid-working, from the pros and cons and strategy to differing generational attitudes to working from home.
Today we look at some of the feedback we have received and examine some of the more creative forms of hybrid working that we have seen from our research this week.
Hybrid working – your thoughts
The majority of the feedback we have received this week has been in the form of agreement with our view that hybrid working is the new norm, for most ‘office-based’ professions at least. It appears that the biggest challenge employers are currently experiencing with hybrid working is maintaining office attendance and, in particular, adequate supervision of junior staff. As we discussed in our first post, it is difficult to mimic face-to-face supervision over Teams or Zoom. There is still something to be said for learning through osmosis. For junior members of staff, just being in the same room as more experienced colleagues offers the most valuable learning experience. They pick up on how to interact with clients, learn how to deliver advice together with more general transferable skills. This is obviously lost when working from home as individuals are isolated.
As hybrid working is here to stay, employers need to find more creative ways to manage supervision. Here are some of our top tips:
1. Schedule regular catch ups with your junior members of staff. Where juniors may not now always have the luxury of 5-minute windows in the office to ask for help, it is important that time is deliberately set aside and allocated exclusively to supervision each week. Sometimes it is hard to maintain this when workloads get in the way but supervision is a necessity for fostering the next generation of workers.
2. Invite juniors to attend video or telephone conference calls (with client permission of course!). Even if you are not in the office, getting juniors involved as much as possible will always pay dividends.
3. Manage in-office days so that there are senior members of staff in the office with juniors at all times. As our colleague Richard Woodman has said, “We all need to recognise that the happy resolution of commuting or child-care issues for more senior people does not necessarily trump the need for junior staff to feel embraced as part of the team and wider firm or to benefit from access to supervision and support from experienced colleagues.”
Another common issue faced by those working from home is the blurring of lines between work and home-life. As discussed in our first post, where individuals are working from home they are essentially living at the office. This blurs the line between work and home life and can make it difficult, particularly for more junior employees, to switch off. This can conflict with the core benefit of hybrid working, which is flexibility. For new parents, being able to work flexibly around childcare, which might mean emailing after children have gone to bed, is a wonderful thing. However, some might not appreciate emails late into the evening.
They key for employers to manage this conflict is communication – both between the business and workers and between colleagues. Staff should be encouraged to work together to manage their hybrid working to achieve the best results and to set boundaries that work for them. It is important for the business to communicate that just because Job Bloggs finds emailing late into the evening helpful to manage their workload around their homelife, does not mean that others should feel obliged to respond.
Hybrid Working – let’s get creative
Post-pandemic, the requirement to work (literally) from home no longer exists. What we are now seeing is an increasing number of workers using “third workplaces”. Perhaps to avoid the monotony of living and working in the same place, or even the lack of space, workers are finding third places to work, which includes for some their local pub! Many pubs, particularly in rural areas, are relatively empty during a weekday and therefore provide an opportunity for people to work quietly. They also offer an opportunity for socialising outside immediate networks if there are others in the same venue doing similar activities. It seems that even when working remotely, many individuals crave community and “third workplaces” can provide that.
If a pub is not your workplace of choice (perhaps the temptation of a lunch-time drink is all too great), there is also the option of co-working spaces, working in cafés and even using local libraries.
From a more practical perspective, we advise employers to ensure that their remote working policies factor in procedures around working in public places to address issues relating to confidentiality and data protection.
We have also seen an increase in company policies permitting staff to work abroad for a set number of weeks per year. People Management online recently reported that a study of 1009 hybrid workers found that:
“The majority (88 per cent) of workers are planning to work from anywhere this year, while two thirds (67 per cent) said that they can perform their job effectively while working abroad.”
To attract talent, employers are incorporating “work from anywhere” policies into their hybrid working models. In practice, this means that a family could go on holiday for two weeks but one of the parents might only take 1 week of that as holiday – and use the other week to work, just from a different venue. In effect they get the best of both worlds: the holiday atmosphere with saving on annual leave because they are still working. For others, without children, it gives them the opportunity to travel without losing their day job and income. There are clearly potential issues with such policies, such as monitoring staff to ensure they are actually working and avoiding distractions. However, if sufficient boundaries are in place to ensure that staff manage their time, this could be an effective way to retain staff. It could also be a fairly cost-effective benefit to implement.
We do advise that employers seek immigration advice before putting in place such “work anywhere” policies, or, at the very least, advise their staff take advice before taking advantage of the policy. Even though workers would be working remotely for a UK company, certain countries may still require a work visa.
We do hope you have found these articles helpful in your navigation of the hybrid working sphere. Ultimately, the biggest take away that we have found from this week is that one-size does not fit all. There is no right or wrong answer to a successful hybrid working model and communication with employees is vital in establishing a model that works for both parties. Perhaps this is not the most ‘concrete’ answer you were looking for but we hope that it assists employers in finding a hybrid model that suits their business best.