Could a hybrid workspace model benefit your company?

As September arrives many of us will be planning a return to work and potentially the  office.  With schools reconvening this month and growing confidence in town and city centres it would feel natural that workers will be encouraged to make the commute back into the company HQ.  How frequent these visits are will be subject to the structure adopted by the business and the practicality of working from home.  It’s to the noted that only an estimated 50% of the UK workforce were able to work at home over the last 5 months. ( 1. ONS )

Companies have had to adapt during the lockdown to trade effectively, embracing new technology and giving greater trust to their employees.  Early indications are that productivity has not shown signs of declining as workers have enjoyed ditching the commute and making the most of home offices.  However, its noted by many that whilst this adoption has been a success in the short term it will not be sustainable in the future as team work and profitability will inevitably suffer.  How can companies safely welcome back team members and prosper during the Autumn?

Here are 3 tips that could be used to help

Effective scheduling – True agile working will involve respecting safety limits in the workplace.  The reduced capacity can be managed by having defined days in the company HQ with a team in / team out strategy.   The office day would be collaborative involving departmental and project get togethers with focused, ‘marquee’ meetings.

Design – Fewer conventional desk seats would free up space for break out areas and more collaborative spaces.  Reduced office capacities could results in companies looking for alternative venues including coffee shops and coworking spaces with transferable membership within teams.

Technology – Video conferencing has widely been adopted.  In December 2019 Zoom had 10 million daily meeting participants which then exploded to 300 million in April 2020, at the zenith of the lockdown.  (2)  This has empowered many but there have been calls of presenteeism and general ‘Zoom fatigue’ which could be eradicated with a new etiquette on the  video call. For example, shouldn’t it be acceptable to view a second screen when topics that aren’t relevant to the individual worker are covered?

The sudden nature of the March shutdown has left many managers feeling unqualified when supervising teams.  Around 40% of business leaders reported that they didn’t feel equipped to support their employees during the pandemic according to Adecco (3).  This needs to be addressed by increased support for the remote worker whether it’s through investments in technology and infrastructure or more individually focused emotional support.  It’s crucial to make amends for the deprived face to face contact that workers have encountered to ensure that wellness concerns are met as the days get shorter.

There will be much to learn and adopt over the remainder of 2020. Most importantly we need to recognise that it’s not a simple case of home working for all.  The demographic and industry led differences between this entitled position should be researched so that a tailored, safe workspace can be provided for all employees.

    1. Office of National Statistics (2020)
    2. Wired ( Sept / Oct 2020 )
    3. Adecco Group ( 2020 )