Hybrid working is the new normal in the post lockdown workplace

The covid-19 pandemic has triggered a transformation in the working environment, with many businesses forced into remote working as a result of lockdowns across the UK. Of those who worked from home in 2020, 86% did so as a result of the pandemic.

Despite the challenges of working from home, the pandemic has demonstrated that large scale remote working is possible and can be more efficient than working in the office. As the UK begins to transition back to normality as the end of lockdown approaches, many businesses are adopting a new way of working- the hybrid model.

What is the hybrid model?

The hybrid model involves the process of integrating remote working with in office working. This work model gives employees the flexibility to work in a way that allows them to be as productive as possible. There are three variations of the hybrid model which include; Remote first, office-occasional and office first, remote allowed.

Remote-first

The approach of the hybrid model involves operating almost entirely remotely, defaulting to digital communication and typically only allowing limited employees in the office if their job requires their physical presence.

One company that has effectively applied the remote-first hybrid approach is Steaklocker. An American company serving a niche market. Steak Lockers products are manufactured remotely. Stock in warehousing remains remote using remote warehouse management software and all of the marketing, customer service and sales are done from home.

‘‘The hybrid model has proved extremely successful here at Steaklocker.com, we have continued to apply the remote first approach after lockdown demonstrated that the team were equally, if not more productive when working from home. After consulting with the team, we all agreed that remote working should continue to be implemented for the foreseeable future and already we are seeing the results.’’ Nadia Bruno | Steak Locker

Office-occasional

The next approach is being applied by many businesses as the UK comes out of lockdown and starts to return to normal operations. It generally involves a loose policy where office spaces are open for employees, but gives them the flexibility to come in when it suits them.

Our Digital Team, a South Manchester based digital agency are currently working with the office-occasional approach where staff work remotely but have the option to work in an office which remains open Monday to Friday as a collaborative space which can be used whenever employees want or need to come in. This has proved effective in increasing productivity for employees and giving them a good work life balance.

Office-first, remote allowed

Finally, the last hybrid model approach focuses on keeping or returning employees to the office but allowing a small number of staff to work remotely. This approach was used more commonly prior to the pandemic but changes in the work environment have seen a rise in the remote-first and office-occasional approaches.

The office-first, remote allowed hybrid alternative approach has been integrated by Victory Colours, a British paint manufacturer. This approach is necessary because it is near impossible to manufacture paint on a large scale remotely, so in this instance the other hybrid models are not applicable. However, remote is allowed for some members of staff for example, the marketing team and customer service staff.

‘’As a paint manufacturer it has been difficult to apply a remote first model to hybrid working throughout the pandemic and lockdowns. However, by adopting an office first- remote allowed approach, we have been able to give some employees, such as the marketing team, the opportunity to work remotely. This has enabled us to maintain the highest standards of our manufacturing and production, whilst giving some employees the flexibility to work from home.’’ Victoria | Victory Colours

The variation in approaches to the hybrid model will differ between each business, but ultimately the benefits are the same.

What are the benefits of a hybrid model?

The benefits of applying a hybrid model to your business is that you get the combined benefits from remote working and the benefits from office working. Reports show that many employees want a balance of in office working and remote working for the following reasons and a staggering 77% of UK workers claim to see the hybrid model as the way forward:

Increased work life balance

The hybrid model gives employees a better work-life balance. Firstly, by minimising stress and reducing the likelihood of a burn out. The hybrid model does this by reducing time and money spent on commuting to work and gives staff the flexibility to work in the office when suits them. The time saved on commute is often useful for employees to invest into spending with their family and friends which leads to the next point:

Improved productivity and motivation

As employees feel more valued and trusted by being given the flexibility to work from home, this has a knock-on effect by improving their productivity and motivating them to want to work hard for their organisation.

Better collaboration (work relationships)

Although remote working has proved successful, a key challenge that many organisations and individuals struggled with is the lack of face-to-face communication between one another. Arranging meetings on platforms such as zoom often added time to processes that in the office could be resolved in minutes. Remote work and meetings also created the issue of technical problems.

Furthermore, many struggles with the lack of human contact and conversation that an office work space creates which has had negative impacts on people’s well-being. This is another one of the benefits of the hybrid working model- it provides the opportunity to work from home, when possible, but allows employees to come in for face-to-face meetings.

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