However, she questioned whether companies are using the hybrid method as a “quick fix” rather than seeing it as a “continual evolution of the workplace” and asked: “Is it time to stop waiting for a return to ‘normal’ and embrace workplace change, for the good of business and each other? Being half in and half out of hybrid working, turning it on and off as national circumstances change, or business needs change, isn’t conducive to a happy, functioning-on-all-cylinders workforce.”

She added: “The workplace is no longer static, and our working environments must continue evolving beyond the initial changes we saw when the workforce began to return to the office this year. Business leaders now have an opportunity to take stock of the strategies that worked well during the pandemic, and formally embrace the hybrid model and the renewed function of the office — with confidence.”

Vanessa explained that in pockets, this re-evaluation is already underway, with several companies dramatically reducing their desk space, committing to ‘digital HQs’. While some countries are launching pilot schemes to trial four-day working weeks.

She said: “The temptation to ‘wait it out’ will quickly prove damaging for organisations. We must refocus on how we work, not where we work, and take steps towards making hybrid working the new normal we’ve all been waiting for.”

Vanessa told HR Review that the onus is on leadership, explaining: “Leaders have opened relevant dialogues with their employees over the last two years, and how quickly everyone adapted is remarkable. There was no best practice guide to refer to. Managers and key business functions like HR have learnt on their feet, adapting their styles to get the best from their teamsand meet the expectations of business leadership. No easy task!”

However, despite the steep learning curve, Vanessa believes the remote and hybrid working experiments demonstrated that employees were productive and felt empowered outside of a traditional office-based structure.

She said: “In fact, it enabled individuals to work effectively, strike a healthier work-life balance and find an approach that focused on outcomes.”

According to Vanessa, it is this level of trust, adaptability and personalisation that must remain as businesses seek to solidify their ways of working.

She explained: “Simply rewinding time to pre-pandemic operations or reverting to five-day-weeks would be a huge, missed opportunity. As work-from-home guidance begins to ease, now is an opportune time for teams, in partnership with HR, to formally evaluate working approaches, and embrace the progress that has been made.

“Employees are looking to leaders to offer a clear path forward, an acceptance and enthusiasm for hybrid working and a commitment to adapt working styles, modes of communication and office environments to meet this commitment.”

Critical to this is a change in mindset and prioritising people across the length and breadth of an organisation, said Vanessa, who referred to MovePlan’s research conducted last year, which found that employees value ‘team, people, and culture’ over competitive salaries. Read more about our research here

“Business leaders, people managers and HR experts alike are now under the microscope to no longer see hybrid working as a means to an end but embrace it as our new working reality,” said Vanessa, adding: “The businesses that get this right will reap the benefits of retaining motivated, happy employees and attracting the best talent.”

You can read the full article in HR Review here.