Companies that enforce remote work policies reported having less turnover and are more attractive to employees, particularly young workers, said JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle), an American commercial real estate services company. Many companies believed that office is “where the magic happens.” For these organizations, they believe that collaboration, collision, and collective energy leads to innovation. Some employees choose to work outside the office as working at home (or in any place) help them accomplish tasks uninterrupted and have a greater sense of work-life balance. But we cannot discredit the challenges of working remotely. Some workers crave social interaction while others might feel lonely. Perhaps the future of work lies in creating a hybrid workspace.
The Shift to A More Hybrid Workspace
Newable, which operates flexible workspace brands like Citibase, surveyed 1,600 SME decision-makers, finding that 69% of UK SMEs were enjoying working from home whereas 38% had reported no change in productivity, reported Allwork Space, an online source that publishes content on flexible workspaces, coworking, and more. Only 33% had seen a rise in productivity. Fewer than half of participants would like to permanently work from home if given the choice, citing lack of human interaction (49%), team contribution (34%), and daily routine (30%) as one of the things they would miss the most. The findings implied a “flight to flexibility” as some companies shift to hybrid working styles.
55% said they preferred having office contracts of less than three years and 42% saw a bright future for the flexible office industry (versus 16% of those who don’t). 42% deemed flexible, short-term contracts as the most important option when considering an office, along with the ability to easily change the size of the office space (40%). Adrianna Dahik and colleagues of BCG (Boston Consulting Group), an American management consulting firm, found that 63% of US respondents who reported their satisfaction with social connectivity said they were as productive or more productive prior to the pandemic (versus 37% of those who were less productive than pre-pandemic).
In Germany, 50% of respondents who reported satisfaction with social connectivity were as productive or more productive than pre-COVID-19, so as those who reported being less productive (50%). In India, 58% of those satisfied with social connectivity as they were as productive as or more productive than pre-COVID-19 (versus 42% of respondents who were less productive than pre-COVID-19). 60% of participants said they want some flexibility in where and/or when they work in the future. Breaking this figure down, 8% wanted some flexibility in where they work, 40% wanted some flexibility in both when and where they work, and 12% wanted some flexibility in when they work.
BCG’s findings suggested that the future of work will be hybrid, ushering new challenges and opportunities in the office. Some examples include reimagining the employee experience that will help them thrive in a less office-centric workspace. Newtable’s CEO, Chris Manson, highlighted the need for human interaction. For many businesses, it is not always possible to make 100% of the workforce go to the office 9-5 under the new normal. Manson commented, “Hybrid working is likely to take off and we expect to see conventional office portfolios shrink as space is revaluated and repurposed to be more flexible.”
How to Create A Hybrid Workplace?
1. Set the Tone
A hybrid workplace undoubtedly comes with new barriers that could make it harder for employers to develop, coach, and connect with their employees, stated Ben Kalevitch and Jasmine Jones of Human Resource Executive, a site that analyzes strategic HR issues. Empathy is a skill that a leader must have when setting up a hybrid workplace as people experience more heightened emotions due to economic uncertainties and less body language to read. It is advisable to retrain leaders and managers on how they can adapt their style, bring their values to life, and execute their firm’s business strategy. Having a set of guiding principles can be used as a reference for leaders to help them adjust and align themselves with the future of work.
2. Promote Inclusivity
For instance, it is easier for employees to forget to include co-workers they spend less time with in the office. Leaders should understand the challenges that have arisen (or that can arise) upon creating a new virtual setting for employees. Celebrate your employees’ differences at all levels. Encourage them to interact and connect with their co-workers. Sharing stories to colleagues can also help humanize leaders.
3. Change or Rework the Culture
Which culture and traditions will be adapted to the hybrid workspace? Which ones should be left out? Does the company need to create new cultures and traditions? For example, team-building activities such as happy hours, working sessions, and milestone celebrations will need to be reconsidered or reformatted to guarantee inclusivity and connection between the physical and virtual workforces. Leaders should find ways to keep their traditions alive online or add a virtual component. For example, organizations may consider moving an annual office talent show to Zoom rather than canceling it.
4. Establish New Ways of Working
How will employees behave to foster connectivity and facilitate productivity? What past behaviors should be stopped or changed? Organizations can revise the expected behaviors of leaders and employees to those that support virtual and hybrid work. Some examples include increased communication and transparency. Companies can have informal check-ins in hallway chats or encourage teams to pick up their phones or log into a video conferencing software. Leaders and employees should understand the challenges they are experiencing and collect best practices on how they can work through them.
The Office of the Future
Change will not happen overnight. However, small steps can be taken to establish a strong hybrid workplace. Quick wins can be celebrated as the office transitions to a more hybrid setup. Digitization will distribute the workforce, allowing employees to work anywhere they want. The future workplace will evolve into something less structured, more organized, and more geared towards ensuring employee well-being. Balance is key, despite the ongoing debate between remote and in-office work. It’s not about where employees feel more productive, but it’s more about the space that provides more focus, JLL said. In order for a hybrid workplace to function, companies and employees should consider how to provide an engaging experience without compromising focus.
A hybrid workplace will be the future of work. Leaders should ensure that every employee feels belonged and establish clear expectations on employee behavior. It will take time before offices can adopt a hybrid setup, but every small victory should be celebrated.