Hybrid Working: Blended or conflicted ideals?
As lockdown restrictions ease, new hybrid models of working are looking like givens for office-based workers. A mix of time spent between remote working, either at home or a local office hub and time in the employer’s office clearly has advantages for many employees, especially when the commute is to one of UK’s major cities.
But there are disparities between those whose homes are spacious and easily equipped for remote working and those working in cramped spaces with constant interruptions. If a local office hub is available then this may be a solution, but not necessarily for the employer with unused office space.
For those managing child care, remote working could be a blessing when dealing with the school run, but maybe not if the child is at home and has the tantrum to end all tantrums in the middle of a conference call. Certainly, there’s not a one size fits all model.
Developing the hybrid working model is surely a work in progress. The idea that it is an accepted reset brought about by the pandemic, sounds a little too neat.
Compare London with Copenhagen where it’s more affordable to live closer to the city centre with its cleaner environment and easier commute. Then couple this with a long-established flexible hours regime and affordable childcare. A blended solution for the Danish worker and employer that’s going to be difficult to replicate in London.
Recent research by McKinsey highlights the UK as foremost in global economies for exploiting the potential for remote working. Another survey, again by McKinsey, among 800 CEOs found that after several months, productivity increased for those remote working compared to previous office based working. So, some positive indicators for the employee and employer.
The impact of technology platforms such as Zoom and Teams on communications within our work network and beyond has already happened. One of the consequences is an unlikely return to the same volume of face-to-face business meetings.
Long drives to meet a new business contact for a face-to-face meeting will need to be justified. If that contact is working remotely, along with another who wants to join the initial meeting then forward planning is critical for the best outcome. Its already evident that Zoom and Team meetings involving 2, 3 or 4 persons can be a more efficient use of time compared to all the hassle of face-to-face arrangements.
Sure, all things being equal, most people would prefer to meet face-to-face. And the collaborative benefits of all being in the same room are more difficult to reproduce online. Also, the sales representative demonstrating their products in person to the retailer will continue to have the upper edge….for now.
The spectre of unused office blocks and the death of the city centre are greatly exaggerated. It may take some time for all the pieces of the hybrid model to fall into place and in time, not just for office-based workers. Some companies in manufacturing have accelerated facilities that reduce the need for customers and suppliers to visit in person. Examples include internet-linked close circuit tv for demonstrating processes and products in operation.
Whatever the longer term impact of hybrid working, the need to keep employees engaged and connected as well as supporting their mental well-being will be critical for a truly blended solution.