Wow, what a difference a year makes. COVID-19 changed lives and work at breathtaking speed. Businesses adapted quickly, ensuring the safety of employees whilst maintaining productivity.

From years spent encouraging employers to fully realise the benefits of a flexible working approach, to, in a matter of weeks, hybrid working entering the vernacular and becoming the mainstay of global business.

Overnight, employees were working remotely or working to a loose hybrid model and now, with a return to work roadmap starting to fall into place a straightforward ‘return to the office’ mandate does not seem so clear, with different organisations sharing their different approaches.

So what exactly are we saying about the post pandemic future of work?

Latest research from McKinsey highlights how complex Future of Work models can and will be. They recently surveyed 100 executives across industries. Nine out of ten organisations will combine remote and on-site working. Pre COVID-19, employees were largely on-site as a business requirement. Now executives are “warming up” to hybrid models of combined remote and office working (for roles that aren’t essential to perform on site):

    • We can expect to be on site between 21 – 80% percent of the time, or one to four days per week
    • Two thirds of companies don’t have a clear plan in place with employees feeling anxious as a result
    • 90% of C-suite executives report improved productivity, customer satisfaction, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion
    • Connecting with employees via ‘micro transactions’ increases productivity: discussing projects, sharing ideas, networking, mentoring and coaching
    • Supporting leaders with remote management skills is key
    • The pandemic is forcing a rethink on hiring and talent

Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, describes this time as a “tectonic shift”, citing that ‘work is no longer just a place’ and that bringing flexibility “helps people adapt to the realities of modern life.” To reflect this, Google has recently revealed its Future of Work plans, with 60% of employees returning to the office a few days a week, 20% will work in a new office location and another 20% will remain working from home.

As we know, Google has thousands of employees, all needing clear instruction and understanding on how their hybrid approach is going to work long term. And that’s the key point here. How is it going to work?

Ok, so Google’s HR team is large enough to manage and drive this change. But, as a growing business, with not quite the same support as a corporate HR team, how do you make this way of working sustainable over the longer term?

We look at what your organisation needs to do to ensure an effective approach to hybrid working.

Agree your approach

There are many ways to be flexible in the workplace now:

  • Mixture of office and remote – set days
  • Office and remote – personal choice
  • Part-time fully remote
  • Full time remote

Be clear from the outset

Transparency and clarity are key. If you’re opting for personal preference, then ensure you gather that information as soon as possible. It will also help you map out and shape your hybrid working model.

It’s important to engage employees and keep them informed. There are so many ‘unknowns’ at the moment; employees may have return to work anxiety, some may want to continue working remotely and others may be ‘champing at the bit’ to get back in the office.

Gauge sentiment

Regular feedback surveys will help you gauge employee sentiment and engagement. Google has been running employee surveys since the beginning of lockdown to build a better picture and understanding of what employees want.

It’s easy to fall into the thinking that everybody wants to work flexibly, but that may not be the case. At the beginning of lockdown, Google’s employee survey showed a huge spike in people wanting to work remotely. By September last year, this had levelled off with 62% wanting a hybrid approach.

Research has also shown that younger employees are keen to return to the workplace, especially those under the age of 35. As you can see, there are many variables at play!

The role of the office

Adopting a hybrid approach doesn’t start and stop with employees either. It covers technology, homeworking guidelines and the role and purpose of the office.

Ask yourself: will the office be a meeting point, a fully functioning office or a hub for a set number of employees per week?

Other elements to consider:

  1. Are you happy with the technology in place right now? Does it support and respond to agile working approaches?
  2. What support are you providing to your leaders? How comfortable are they with new ways of managing their teams?
  3. What guidance and requirements are in place for working remotely?
  4. How are you hiring and onboarding new talent?
  5. How are you managing employee engagement and keeping the company ethos going?

What’s best for the business

There are many elements to consider when it comes to embedding a hybrid approach. As a leader, you want what’s best for your employees AND your business, so make sure you trial everything before you commit long-term.

Like everything at the moment, nothing has to be cast in stone immediately, but there does need to be a plan or a shape of a plan to get hybrid working well for your business.

Need help?

There is a lot to consider when moving to a hybrid approach. Even knowing where to begin can be challenging, as everything seems like a priority.

If you’d like to talk through your organisation’s plans for the future and discuss how hybrid or flexible working could help you deliver your business strategy, please get in touch.

Ongoing discussions

Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates remote working and Future of Work group is a global think tank that explores, challenges and suggests practical developments on the future of work to help businesses succeed in a post-pandemic world. If you’d like to join us, please contact me or Zoltan Vass.