The Future is Hybrid
22nd November 2021
“So, how are you finding going into the office again?”
The question on everyone’s lips, amongst employees and business leaders alike. The answer, on the other hand, is harder to agree on.
We’re all in a period of honest conversation, experimentation and iterative change as organisations across sectors seek to define a hybrid programme that is relevant to today’s new working environment. Business performance with choice is the ultimate goal, but there is no crystal ball or step-by-step programme to get there.
On Tuesday 19th October, MovePlan hosted a roundtable discussion with a group of clients from sectors including technology, financial services, pharmaceuticals, and education. They shared their experiences managing complex change management projects and the common hurdles that crop up along the way!
Here we share the highlight takeaways from the discussion.
Employees want the best of both worlds.
Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index reveals that 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. 66% of business decision makers are consequently considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
Further to this, we know from our recent Future of the Workplace research that with 34% of employees questioning whether their current career is right for them, a thoughtful approach to hybrid working is critical to retaining and attracting talent.
Defining new workplace norms
Buildings are intrinsically linked to culture. By increasing the performance of a space, it not only boosts cognitive functioning but also has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing.
Defining the business and employee reasons for wanting (or not!) to be back in the office is important, and central to creating a hybrid programme that will work. For example, if you come to the office to collaborate but end up sitting at your desk all day not talking to anyone, then your working model may well not be working.
We should make the most of the office space we have, and ensure it works hard for us in return. Long neglected conference rooms and furniture can be adapted and redeployed to encourage greater collaboration and fast-track decision-making. Every available space should be multi-purpose and adaptable, alongside unassigned ‘touch down’ desks and dedicated ‘deep work’ areas for quiet concentration and focus.
We must make sure our footprint is as high performing as our teams, and do everything we can to reimagine and revitalise what we already have. It is not just about cost saving. Now is the time to make both physical and operational changes that will excite and inspire your employees, and fundamentally make hybrid working a reality.
Top tip: a variety of stakeholders helping to create the hybrid plan is critical for success. Bring together a multi-disciplinary support team (from across facilities, real estate, human resources, technology to name a few) to review and refine the components of your hybrid program as you go.
Creating hybrid programmes that work
Engage with employees early and often!
According to Leesman, 70% of workplace leaders are actively crafting their hybrid working programmes, yet only 36% have communicated it out to colleagues. We must bridge this communication gap and bring employees along on the journey.
Ultimately, we want to help people to do their best work. To make this happen, business leaders and managers must be actively encouraging honest conversations. By understanding what people need to do their work (e.g. specialty equipment, security, IT etc.), as well as their personal preferences and pressures (e.g. as parents or care givers), talent managers can start to pinpoint the elements that will make their hybrid model successful.
Embracing a ‘continuous improvement’ mindset is crucial. Nothing is set in stone. Make it clear if you are going to try something, actively listen to feedback and make adjustments as you go.
Top tip: people managers need to be given the tools and training to engage in such guided conversations. They must feel ready and supported to lead hybrid teams and not fall into the ‘presenteeism’ trap.
Learning from experimentation
It is ok if you don’t get it right the first time.
The next few years are for experimenting and incremental change. But we must learn as we go, and central to this is the collection of both hard and soft data.
Top tip: compare pre and post pandemic hard data, e.g. badge swipe data, meeting room bookings, service utilisation, alongside soft anecdotal feedback to assess occupancy and utilisation. This data will enable informed decision making and may also help you identify trends or habits that you might not have known existed.
COVID has been a huge catalyst and motivator to shed old habits and try out new ways of working. In an employee’s market, the businesses that embrace this hybrid opportunity will quickly realise the benefits by retaining and attracting the best talent.
The next time one of your employees is asked “So, how are finding going into the office again?”, we want them to be able to say with confidence that “it is good to be back!”