Hybrid work: What to consider before making the leap

Asam Akhtar, Channel Manager, UK & Ireland at Envoy, discusses the benefits and pitfalls of hybrid work, and shares his insights on how you can lean into the benefits of this style of work and prepare for the possible downsides.
Asam Akhtar, Channel Manager, UK & Ireland at Envoy, discusses the benefits and pitfalls of hybrid work, and shares his insights on how you can lean into the benefits of this style of work and prepare for the possible downsides.

In September, the London Tube reported its busiest morning since the pandemic. Commuters packed the trains on their way to offices abandoned more than 18 months ago.   

At the very least, from Transit for London’s perspective, life is back to normal.

But we’ve learned from those who’ve already returned to the workplace that the transition can be a fantastic experience, a frustrating one, or somewhere in between. The quality of the experience depends a lot on how well companies have thought through the return experience.  

Even with a thoughtful, employee-focused plan, happy employees are no guarantee. Offering people the option of flex days in the office or at home has helped many ease their way back into a regular work cadence on-site. And while hybrid work has many benefits and opportunities, it also has its challenges that may impact your workplace. Here are a few considerations: 

Employee morale

If we’ve learned anything since the pandemic, it would be that flexibility promotes employee satisfaction. Given the choice, most want to go into the office in some capacity – and a majority would choose a hybrid work model, splitting time between in-office and remote. But here’s the catch: employees also want the flexibility to set their own schedule. 

According to Gallup, the UK has the lowest employee engagement in the world at 11%. 

Leo Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The same can be said for employees. Which is to say that every employee has unique family circumstances, pressures, career goals, and so forth which will play into any dissatisfaction. 

In order to make the work space a place where people want to be, rather than a place they need to be, you’ll have to be intentional. Listen to your employees. Survey them to understand their specific needs. This simple act creates a sense of partnership and produces wonders in terms of increased engagement and morale.

Company culture

Some say that hybrid work models can erode a company’s culture – which understandably is a top concern. 

Take steps to preserve your culture and community through workplace incentives, group socials, or rewards to ensure teams feel seen and recognised. Social support is just as important as technical support.

This is the perfect opportunity to examine and reassess your culture. Does it still make sense and align with your company mission and objectives? Even though employees are returning to old workplaces, it doesn’t mean that the goal should be returning to the status quo. Instead, look to allow your culture to evolve into something more inclusive, progressive and healthy.

Remote employees 

Thanks to the pandemic, distributed working was adopted at speed. But unfortunately, it’s become standard industry practice with no infrastructure to properly support it. While business leaders went to great efforts to keep teams connected and aligned while physically apart, there are clear trends that suggest working entirely remotely isn’t sustainable. Almost 4 in 5 (78%) employees who are exclusively remote have felt close to burnout, according to Envoy’s UK Return to the Workplace report). One reason: employees miss the in-office camaraderie and social interaction.

And with most returning to the office, remote employees may feel further isolated. Consider investing in collaboration technology that supports and gives visibility into individual and collective projects for seamless collaboration, whether in the office or at home. 

Develop best practices for Zoom meetings and rethink how you host all-employee company events. These seemingly small actions can help remote folks feel more included.

Visibility – who’s in the office and when

With the increase in flexible schedules, you’ll need to know who is in the office and when. Now is the opportunity to reflect on how you can tune operations so that employees have time for heads-down work as well as a better experience when gathering to collaborate. 

Consider a workplace platform that makes desk booking easy if you have downsized office space or have hired more employees than you have space for. Hot desking helps balance capacity and ensures everyone has a space to work. And the right desk booking software gives employees (or administrators) the power to coordinate office schedules around the people they need to work with. They can see exactly who’s coming in and when so they can book desks near teammates or a book space specifically designed for collaboration, day-of or months in advance.

Workplace platforms provide a wealth of data that can aid planning. Inputs such as conducting employee pulse checks and analysing aggregated, anonymised data on how often employees are coming into the office can provide vital insights into space planning and policy setting.

This kind of data-driven decision-making will be critical to rebuilding an office model that works for everyone and offers employees the right resources to do their jobs effectively.

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The most successful companies will be the ones that invest in an employee experience that exceeds expectations and that helps employees become their most productive and content selves. It takes planning but looking long-term, an investment in the right technology and processes will be more than worth it.

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Amber Donovan-Stevens

Amber is a Content Editor at Top Business Tech

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