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Is Hybrid Working Still The Future?

Conversations about the pros and cons of hybrid working are everywhere. The CEO of Yelp called it a “hell of half measures'' and has moved his organisation to a fully remote model. Business leaders from Elon Musk to Alan Sugar and Government ministers alike are calling for a full return to the office. At THI we believe that hybrid working is still the future. Here’s why.

Is hybrid working the future?

What is Hybrid Working?


Hybrid working is a flexible style of working where people split their time between the workplace (typically an office) and remote working. In short, the style of working that many people have been doing since we started moving past the worst of the pandemic. 


New data from the CIPD shows that 78% of organisations currently allow hybrid working. Over half of respondents expect their teammates to be in the office for a certain number of days a week, around 2-3 days on average. This isn’t just a UK phenomenon either - in the US 58% of workers have hybrid working options. In continental Europe only 32% of Germans and 35% of French workers have returned to the office full time, as of time of writing. 


If Hybrid Working is so widespread where is the controversy coming from?


The Benefits of Remote Working


For many people, especially those with caring responsibilities, the main benefit of remote working is that they are able to balance care-giving responsibilities as well as other activities. Not having to run home at rush hour to get to school pick up time, being able to visit elderly relatives during the day when they’re awake, or simply being able to stick an extra load of laundry on. 


Saving on commuting time is also a great benefit for many. This time can be used for a variety of wellbeing-promoting activities. This could include exercise, mindfulness practices, or spending time with loved ones. And it’s not only health benefits! There are also environmental impacts - saving on the CO2 of commuting and instead doing lower impact activities like enjoying nature, cooking from scratch more often or even gardening. 


Remote working can also be more inclusive - whether that be of disabled colleagues, those with young children or who are breast feedings, those who have sensory processing issues and more. There are many people who have accessibility needs that their own homes are well set up to deal with in a way a communal space or office will not be. 


Some people also find remote working more productive. They find the peace and quiet helps them get their head down and focus for prolonged periods of time. Perhaps they can have the television going in the background. Or perhaps they can squeeze in a little more work time after the kids have gone to bed at a time that suits them. This won’t be the same for everyone, but the idea that everyone is slacking while working at home just isn’t borne out by the experiences of many - or the data! A study by Stanford of 16,000 workers found that working from home increased productivity by 13%. 


The Benefits of Returning to The Office


Here’s the thing - whether we want to return full time or not, there are benefits to being in the office. One of the clearest ones are the benefits of collaboration and social integration. We all know that sometimes we have moments of clarity as we chat to colleagues by the watercooler or over lunch. We know the importance of working in a diverse team to produce creative and effective results - being at home just doesn’t facilitate this as well. 


Working around other people can be particularly important for certain groups of people as well. For example, those who are newer to their jobs, or have less experience. In person days can be vital to successful onboarding efforts. This is particularly the case when it comes to training. A recent study out of the University of Iowa showed that in-person training had better learning outcomes than virtual training groups. Even outside of structured training sessions, collaboration is key for those learning new skills and they’re more likely to pick up tips and helpful work-arounds from working around other people. 


It’s also worth remembering that not everyone has a living situation that’s conducive to home working. Those living in small flats that don’t have space for dedicated desk setups, or individuals living in busy multigenerational homes. Some people will need dedicated office space in order to work productively, and safely. 


Studies have also shown that certain disadvantaged groups may also be penalised by remote work. A study by Deloitte has shown that almost 60% of women feel that they’ve been excluded from important work meetings and over half that they don’t get as much exposure to leadership. Both of these factors can be vital when it comes to career development and advancement. Being in the office means that people are more able to ensure they’re included. 


The Pros of Hybrid Working


Many people appreciate the flexibility of hybrid working - it allows them the best work-life balance meaning that they’re able to get the benefits of both being in the office and working from home. Since so many of us are used to working from home now, it’s a level of flexibility that many people are looking for when searching for a new job. 


It’s worth remembering as well, that it’s perfectly possible to mitigate the problems caused by working remotely AND by being in the office. Creating an inclusive physical office space, having open calendars so people can book in virtual time with leadership, having flexible policies and processes, and creating a robust training schedule can all support your entire team. 


Hybrid working can really help everyone get the best of both worlds. It doesn’t have to be a “hell of half measures” if you put sensible policies in place, and really listen to what your team wants and needs. 


#FreedomToBeHuman


We love hybrid working because it encourages the level of flexibility that really helps people achieve our vision of #FreedomToBeHuman. We encourage you not to look at hybrid working as a halfway house but as a choice you’re making. Ensuring that when teams are in the office, they’re able to work collaboratively, share training time and best practices and have social opportunities. When working remotely, help your people by funding dedicated setups where possible or helping people access shared working space near where they live. 


Listening to the individuals on your team and what they want and need can help you forge a path with remote working that allows maximum happiness AND engagement for everyone. Our guide to flexible working might help get the ball rolling when it comes to designing a policy that works for your team.

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Elle Whitehead-Smith

"Elle is happiest when given plenty of puddings, popular novels and, particularly, perfect grammar."

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