As the term hybrid working enters the dictionary, Suki Reilly explains why everyone needs to speak the same language
14th March 2022
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) and Collins English Dictionary (CED) have both welcomed the term ‘hybrid working’ this year after many businesses adopted the new model during the pandemic.
The definition given by CED is ‘the practice of alternating between different working environments, such as from home and in an office’.
In the OED it states: ‘Of employment, education, etc: providing flexible models for working or learning, specifically by using digital communications technology to allow effective remote access and home working in combination with or in preference to traditional office or teaching environments.’
MovePlan’s Suki Reilly explains that there is much more to the concept of hybrid working than that given by the dictionaries, and that organisations need to communicate exactly what it means for their company when adopting this model.
Suki, who is Regional Director for US East and Canada, said the term became a “buzz word” in 2021, with many businesses announcing plans to adopt hybrid working permanently.
But what it means to work in a hybrid way could be completely different for different businesses.
“I looked at Collins and Oxford and they are both different definitions and both open for interpretation,” explained Suki, adding: “Businesses need to make sure that everyone is speaking the same language and decide what hybrid means to them. Simply, it means you work in more than one place. But how does that work in practice; is it structured, individual, or team choice? You need to be clear.”
For example, some organisations may decide to plan office days on behalf of individuals and teams, or allow individuals or teams to plan this themselves.
Suki said: “This can result in people coming into the office and being in virtual meetings or doing focus work all day. Either way, intentional leadership is required to ensure that we are thinking about ‘how’ we work not ‘where’ we work. This means defining and planning what to do to enable everyone to do their best work.”
“Many organizations have come up with their own branding for their hybrid working programme, giving it a unique name, which can help with identity and adoption. It’s important to explain the why and the what. Deliberate communication and engagement is needed to achieve this and for the programme to be effective.”
She explained that the challenge lies in defining what it means for your business: “You have to balance individual choice, team choice and business choice. Businesses need to provide some direction so that teams can come together and collaborate, but the choice needs to be there as well to work for individuals. Many of our clients are providing their teams/individuals the opportunity to work out what is best for them and that’s when we are helping them navigate this.
“When we talk about hybrid working everyone assumes that people want to work from home some of the time. However, for some people home is not the best place to work. They want a place of work to go to. Organisations need to think about these people too, and provide space for those who prefer to work in the office or need focus space when in the office.”
Adopting hybrid working also has knock-on effects for other operations such as HR, facilities, service partners etc, meaning business also need to assess the impact on all areas of the operations as well as on its workforce.
Suki said organisations must consider the space provided in the office and how that works to support the workplace of choice.
“People think of the office now as a place for collaboration. However, when team members are in the office for a day there is always a time, whether it be an hour or more, when heads down time is needed. The importance is creating a variety of flexible spaces,” she said, adding: “Spaces need to have the technology to easily connect people who are not in the office. It is likely that teams may not all be present at the same time.”.
Suki said organisations need to be clear and communicate exactly what hybrid working means to them, explaining: “Whatever term you use, it still needs to be explained – we all need to speak the same language. I therefore prefer to use the term ‘workplace of choice’ which is to work where you can do your best work, whether that’s being in the office or elsewhere.
“There is no right or wrong interpretation as long as it is intentional and communicated clearly. Although hybrid working is now in the dictionary and the term has become internationally accepted, it doesn’t mean everyone is talking about the same thing. Even the dictionary definitions are different depending on which you look at.”