What is The New Working Ideal? Tips for Managing Hybrid Arrangements in a New Working Era
The last few years have seen drastic changes in working arrangements. Working from home, hybrid working, a return to the office and often a need to jump between all these varying methods of working! As pandemic restrictions continue to ease, and things begin returning to normal, many of us are wondering what this new normal looks like. We have been exposed to both the delights and challenges of working from home; we may have experienced a feeling of isolation and lack of social connection, alternatively we may have thrived in a quieter home environment whilst some of us may have felt less focused with home distractions.
What are the effects of home working?
Clearly the pandemic gave many business and industries no choice but to instruct their employees to work from home. Now research is building in this area, we are beginning to see a picture of the effects, both positive and negative, of working from home.
According to both research and our candidate discussions at MWA, people enjoy the many clear benefits of working from home. A more flexible arrangement, positive work-life balance and the opportunity to make considerable savings on transport expenses. There is less time spent in traffic on a commute and an opportunity to capitalise on fluid working methods, without needing to break off and return home in plenty of time to avoid rush hour.
Alternatively, there is also a more challenging side to remote working. One report1, produced by McKinsey & Company, highlights almost half of the respondents felt burnt out from working at home full time. Setting boundaries and not-overworking has presented a challenge. And, for some, loneliness presented a negative impact on work engagement2. Consequently, home working seems to provide a convenience for some and a hindrance for others.
A period of adjustment
Presently, there seems to be a diverse range of feelings on the topic of working arrangements. At MWA, we experience all types of candidate views. Some candidates are deterred by a role with full-time home working because they want social connections and collaboration with colleagues. Whereas, other candidates desire a role working solely from home, which would give them more opportunities to work from a different location and flexibility for their home life. Taking into consideration these rather polar views, it is understandable to see why many employers have chosen to adopt a hybrid working arrangement.
Tips for achieving a new ideal
- Hybrid arrangements – given the varying opinions on both working from home or the office full time, it is now difficult for employers to provide a blanket one-solution-fits-all scenario. Considering this, there is now growing popularity for a hybrid working arrangement3. One that would capitalise on a better work-life balance, as well as reduced travel costs and more. However, this would also provide an arrangement where employees could still maintain regular check in with their colleagues for both effective communication and socialisation, supporting team building.
- A communication hub – research is beginning to suggest that employers re-evaluate their office buildings and set ups4. And instead of providing separated individualistic workspaces, transform the office into a hub of collaboration and communication. Given the more isolating nature of working from home, employers should be promoting the benefits workers can gain when coming into the office5. Rethinking office layouts and allowing for discussion space, open communication and socialisation can promote staff wellbeing and allow for creative collaboration and discussions. Contributing to effective team working and balance.
- Plan working patterns across the team – given the communication and social nature of the in-work days, employers should endeavour to plan times/days when the whole team can be in the office. Having a few days when everyone is in the office will encourage others to join and reap the benefits. It will ensure teams are able to catch up, stay in touch and share ideas or updates. Ideally, all contributing to effective productivity and work success. Whereas an inconsistent arrangement with individual timetables, could lead to some people in the office on their own potentially feeling like they wasted money on a train ticket when they could have just worked from home!
- Create similarities in both home and office environments – Research suggests that creating a similar environment, both at home and in the office, can support a more succinct transition between the in and out of office days6. This can be things such as, aligning seating and desk arrangements or even setting up similar light sources and layout. These little, lesser considered, factors can then contribute to a smoother transition from home to office and back.
Here, at MWA, we too work in a hybrid arrangement. Albeit a small business, we try to follow advice from recent research and enjoy spending time collaborating and being together as a team when in the office. Similarly, assigning and splitting individual tasks to days working from home and shared tasks to our office days. We find this model affords the opportunity to reduce travel costs, balance work-home life and, as a close team, maintain a level of collaboration and socialisation, which is imperative to us.
As we begin planning to navigate this new era in working arrangements and expectations, we hope these tips from research and experience will be of benefit to supporting the success of your team.
1 A. Alexander, A. De Smet, M. Langstaff & D.Ravid. McKinsey & Company. Organization Practice: What employees are saying about the future of remote work. 2021. https://fortcollinschamber.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/What-employees-are-saying-about-the-future-of-remote-work-Final.pdf
2 M. Slavkovic, S. Sretenovic & M. Bugarcic (2021). Remote Working for Sustainability of Organization during the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Mediator-Moderator Role of Social Support. file:///C:/Users/Rachel/Downloads/sustainability-14-00070.pdf
3 B. Robinson. Future Of Work: What The Post-Pandemic Workplace Holds For Remote Workers’ Careers. Forbes. 2021. https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryanrobinson/2021/05/02/future-of-work-what-the-post-pandemic-workplace-holds-for-remote-workers-careers/?sh=57414b9a7f5b
4 D. Alfonso. 2022. To set up for hybrid-working success, pressure is on to make the office a compelling place to be. WorkLife. https://worklife.news/spaces/to-set-up-for-hybrid-working-success-pressure-is-on-to-make-the-office-a-compelling-place-to-be/
5 P. Robinson. Hybrid arrangements are new to us all. Working out how to divide our tasks between home and the office will be crucial to success. BBC – Hello Hybrid. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210716-hybrid-work-how-to-maximise-your-in-office-days