Hybrid working is here to stay and here's why

The sudden shift to remote working in the wake of the pandemic was an entirely new experience for many. It’s been almost three years since that upheaval, and we’ve learned a lot since then.

While the mute button still eludes some, countless have found creative ways to communicate effectively and maintain meaningful connections with colleagues online.

When the UK reopened for business, many companies adopted a hybrid working model. But now, some are backtracking and demanding that employees return to the office full-time.

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is a flexible working arrangement allowing employees to work offsite and at home some of the time and in the office the rest of the time. 

In May 2021, almost 50 of the UK's biggest employers declared they wouldn't bring staff back to the office full-time.

And employees largely were on the same page: 74% believed a mix of office-based and remote working to be the best way forward post-COVID.

Our own research backed this up, revealing that the option to work flexibly was now a top priority for Brits.

So to us and the rest of the UK, it seemed hybrid working would be around for a little while longer (at least).

Fast forward to now, there's evidence that hybrid working is still going strong. The new 'office week' reportedly runs from Tuesday to Thursday, with employees choosing to work from home on Mondays and Fridays.

But large companies like Disney, Getir and Twitter, are demanding that employees return to work in their offices full-time. Namely, over fears that productivity takes a hit when staff work from home. To which the likes of Elon Musk and Malcolm Gladwell agree. 

It looks like for the foreseeable future, hybrid working is here to stay. (Much to some people's dismay). Now, hybrid working isn't a suitable arrangement for all companies and all employees.

But when it is possible, what's the best way to go about it?

Hybrid working: best practices

Effectiveness in totally remote teams is one thing. Discover our helpful tips for remote teams here.

But hybrid working is a little different, so what’s the right way to approach it? (Should you choose to go down the hybrid route).

1. Rethink the office space

When we say ‘office space’, we mean all spaces where colleagues communicate and collaborate, both physically and virtually.

As well as thinking about hygiene, social distancing and good ventilation, prime your physical office space for collaboration.

Employees need an inclusive space to share ideas and strategize together in real time, even if they aren’t all in the same room. Regardless of where they’re based, employees should feel included.

A strong, secure internet connection is essential, as is access to screens or any other devices they may need.

As for your virtual spaces, are they working in the way you want them to? Applications like Zoom and Slack are popular, but there might be alternative software out there that better suits the needs of your team.

Now is the perfect time to assess the efficiency and usability of the software currently used. 

2. Build the right tech stack

Do your team have the tech they need to work effectively? Before adopting hybrid working, take the time to figure out if the software you have currently is up to the job at hand.

Is your CRM up to scratch? Could marketing automation software make everyone's lives easier?

And whether it's for communication or project management, ensure that all employees know how and when to use each tool effectively.

Everyone should follow clear guidelines when using communication tools like Slack to avoid too many distractions or information overload.

It's worth giving guidance on tone and transparency to help minimise any miscommunication. (We're human - it happens).

Project management-wise, online time-tracking tools like Minterapp are ideal for startups and SMEs wanting to track the time spent on projects so they can bill clients appropriately.

For creative businesses especially, collaboration is key.

Applications like Google Docs and Retrium allow users to contribute ideas and edit content in real time. Configuring the appropriate privacy and share settings in these tools is pretty simple too.

Is your data management the best it could be? Consider the integration of apps and how knowledge is shared in the business. Optimise those processes.

A video call is the next best thing to seeing someone in person but be wary of ‘Zoom fatigue’.

Our brains have to work much harder to concentrate during a video call to process the non-verbal cues we tend to pick up in person. So, avoid organising too many video calls and schedule breaks in-between.

There are also tools you can use to check in to see how everyone is getting on with hybrid working and how they're feeling in general. We use CharlieHR to send out anonymous surveys to the team. 

And finally, nothing impacts efficiency like a slow machine; it’s the worst. Update equipment if needs be.

3. Reinforce positive company culture

With employees here, there and everywhere, maintaining a sense of cohesion and camaraderie is crucial. Remote and hybrid teams have to work a little harder to instil a positive company culture. 

If you haven't already, start by determining your company's (and team's) core values that will underpin everything you do.

We think trust, transparency and training plays a big part. Teams want to feel trusted to do their job and do it well. They want to know what’s going on in the company and how that might impact them. 

Another way to align a distributed team, is to collectively motivate them. An employee share scheme is a great way to do this.

That way, no matter where they are, they're driven by a shared goal to help the company succeed - because when the company succeeds - they get a literal share in that success.

Book a free, no-obligation consultation today to find out more.

It's also worth keeping in mind that many employees missed out on vital training opportunities because of the pandemic, and even now, might still be playing catch-up.

With so many courses and webinars online, there’s no reason why training can’t be prioritised. And be sure that those returning to the office have access to the resources and support they need to make that transition easier.

Wellbeing in the workplace is no longer just a buzzword or quirky office perk. Remote working can feel isolating, but equally, those heading into the office more often could feel apprehensive.

Check in to see if there’s anything the company can do to maintain positive mental health and wellbeing among teams. A survey is a great way to gauge this.

4. Plan events

Providing everyone’s keen, plan regular in-person meetups. It could be a monthly catch-up or a yearly team retreat, just get a date in the diary.

Meetups are a prime opportunity to reconnect, remind everyone of the company values and share common goals. In-person meet-ups are particularly important for new starters to help them put names to faces and build relationships.

That being said, virtual events are also an option. Though widely considered as a temporary online solution to live events, virtual events have proven to be very popular.

So if an in-person meetup isn’t feasible, perhaps look into hosting a virtual event with virtual teambuilding exercises and fun activities. Not all activities at events have to be work-related. 

Is hybrid working here to stay?

In the words of CEO Jon Holt: “The pandemic has proven it's not about where you work, but how you work.” If employees can work well offsite, then why shouldn’t they? 

Having the choice and the flexibility to choose where to work is an attractive prospect. 

We used to have a physical office space so we understand the pros and cons of both. One thing’s for sure, the pandemic has dramatically changed and continues to impact the way UK businesses operate.

Updated 12/01/23