The successes and challenges of hybrid working in Hong Kong
5th December 2023
Hybrid working has gained significant popularity in recent years with many seeing this working practice as positive and the ‘new norm’. Our Hong Kong team recently held a roundtable event looking at the challenges presented by hybrid working. While this working concept is similar across companies and regions, the implementation varies significantly.
Here we consider the ways hybrid working is impacting business life in and around the Hong Kong region.
Hybrid working: same but different
Issues around the provision of equipment and a suitable office environment at home is a key challenge in the area. While generally there hasn’t been a strict enforcement of rules regarding office working, remote staff are being encouraged to work in the office at least three days a week. This has led to more workers returning to the office, with around 70% attending the workplace on any given day.
With around 70% now attending the workplace on any given day, communication is key...in supporting and managing hybrid working
Naturally, there are challenges associated with having large numbers of people in the office on the same days (which is generally Tuesday, Wednesdays and Thursdays). Space utilisation studies are being used to understand the demand of working in the office on Mondays and Fridays and recommendations given to mitigate these issues. To combat this, some companies are reducing senior desk allocations and the number of days spent in the office. Others are tackling similar issues by preventing staff from working at home on Mondays and Fridays, lessening the overcrowding that often happens from Tuesday to Thursday.
Overcoming resistance to hybrid working
Other challenges include employees lamenting not having their preferred seating zone every day, often due to the hybrid unassigned seating/hot-desk policy causing a first-come-first-served approach. Many are finding teams reserving seats for teammates by arriving early and placing items on desks.
How do you combat this? Communication is key in enforcing rules – and a booking system plays a crucial role in supporting and managing hybrid working, especially in the region where people work irregular hours.
Change causes resistance, and regionally there are numerous surveys and articles suggesting hybrid work is not functioning as intended, with many workers preferring to return to the office. Often this is down to personal needs not being met. While there is no unanimous agreement on how hybrid working should be implemented, these surveys indicate that the younger generation – and often new starters – prefer working in the office, while those with families prefer working from home.
To combat resistive forces, many businesses are introducing “experience ambassadors” to enforce proper etiquette and assist with finding suitable workspaces that allow individuals to choose the place that suits them. Furthermore, dedicated collaboration floors to accommodate the overflow of workspace demand helps to reduce disappointment and frustration when desk space is limited on busy days.
With current hybrid working design focusing on providing a variety of workspace options, staff should have the flexibility to choose the space that best fits their work. However, existing booking systems may not fully support this approach, limiting staff to book a space for the whole day, rather than different spaces based on specific hours or time slots. This is an area ripe for innovation.
IT and HR roles in a hybrid working environment
The IT team is an important one when it comes to the integration and successful takeup of technology to support an effective hybrid working policy.
Yet many workplace initiatives are still in the exploratory stage, particularly as technology rapidly transforms, significantly impacting the overall understanding and working model of hybrid working. As a result, the current hybrid working setup is not the end state of the workplace; it is still in the early middle stage of transformation.
While facilities management, IT and corporate services are still key players in managing hybrid working, the role of HR is crucial in supporting hybrid and remote work. This business function is responsible for managing the workplace experience, addressing dissatisfaction or expectations, and determining the right balance between office and remote work. As a result, it plays a new and significant role in supporting staff and contributing to the success of hybrid work by empowering them to work from home without feeling guilty.
Hybrid is driving innovation in the workspace
For the Hong Kong region, hybrid working is the norm, despite the challenges being experienced. Focusing on delivering spaces and working options that suit personal styles, promote a sense of belonging and work-life balance, and supporting productivity, hybrid working is proving to be a successful way of working in the region, while laying open areas for innovation in the workspace.
To discuss your workplace needs in the Asia region, please contact Terence Fung, Workplace Project Director: email@example.com