A hybrid workplace combines all the benefits of remote working with those of an office. And to do it right you need a combination of technology and innovative business practices.
Welcome to the hybrid workplace
We had remote working, we had flexible working, now we have hybrid working. The buzzwords just keep on coming and as you’d imagine, hybrid working is a combination of many practices, all enabled by digital workplace solutions.
What’s the difference between modern workplace and hybrid workplace?
If the modern workplace is the philosophy that embraces the realities of how people want to work, a hybrid workplace is the practical result of that consideration.
A hybrid workplace is generally defined by its core objectives:
- Operational flexibility
- Workplace democratisation
- Healthier work-life balance
- Enhanced collaboration
These objectives reflect the opportunities and disruption technology has had on our workplaces to improve the way businesses run.
The benefits of the hybrid workplace
After a year of enforced remote working, the world has come to realise the benefits of a decentralised workplace. Remote working makes people more productive and happier. It reduces overheads and demonstrates just how obsolete an office can be.
For the tens of millions of us who spend most of our days sitting at a computer, the pandemic proved that remote work is just work.
Remote workers broaden your employment pool geographically so you can find the skilled talent you need. It allows you to expand your business beyond your property footprint so you can hire as many people as you like without worrying about where to put them all.
But hybrid working doesn’t just enable home workers, it lets people work wherever and however they want. So, if you’re on the go you can still do your job as well on your phone or tablet as you can at your home office.
Hybrid workplaces also reimagine the office structure. They offer flexible options such as desk booking and hot-desking to give people who want to work in the office all the tools they need.
When remote workers are the exception to a business, it’s hard to hear their voices. This is something many people are coming to realise as staff start to return to the office.
When you have a meeting that has four people around a table and two dialling in remotely, the people in the room tend to lead the conversation. This impacts collaboration, culture, and relationships within a business.
The hybrid workplace seeks to democratise working conditions, so everyone’s voice is heard no matter where they are. There are two elements to this:
- Technology. Cloud-based tools like Teams and Slack enable decentralised teams to collaborate more effectively. Many teams find that they need something more flexible and immediate than email to get their best group work done.
- Process. Not all meetings are created equal. Effective hybrid workplaces have policies that determine what types of meetings require what types of attendance. For example: If it doesn’t need to be an in-person meeting, even people in the office should meet digitally to keep it fair for those who aren’t.
Healthier work-life balance
Allowing staff to work when and where they want is not a license to expect them to work above and beyond. A hybrid workplace should make people’s working lives easier, by letting them fit other commitments around their job.
This means rethinking the 9-5 and having a clear policy that ensures that people are working as much as they should and no more. This requires effective and confidential channels of communication so you can support your people no matter where they are.
Hybrid workplace models make better use of the traditional office space. Plenty of work can be done at home, but not all of it. Sometimes you need to work closely as a team. A hybrid workplace is a group hub with more focus on meeting rooms and collaboration spaces than desks.
The hybrid office isn’t a cage to keep your workers in, or a place to keep an eye on everybody. It’s a functional space that encourages and facilitates collaboration. By recontextualising the purpose of the office in this way you’re able to get more out of the space without a complete renovation or costly office move.
Challenges of hybrid working
When your staff can work from anywhere, you need to stay in touch. This means having the assets and technology stack to handle that. This includes everything from device management to cloud-based productivity tools and storage.
Many businesses run on legacy systems that they can only access on-site. So businesses in that situation need to think carefully about how to sustain productivity.
Maybe you need to migrate and rebuild your application in the cloud. Or maybe you need to formulate working policies to accommodate your limitations.
People are outside your safe, ISO-accredited workspace and their devices are outside your firewall. So not only do you need to set everyone up with secure devices and manage them remotely, you need to risk assess people's home working conditions.
Decentralising the workplace makes maintaining a strong sense of community very difficult. Some employees can go weeks or even months without seeing a teammate in the flesh.
Businesses that adopt hybrid workplaces must work hard to foster business culture by making sure everyone is engaged. You can use the physical office space to facilitate this, but there needs to be a dedicated effort to make everyone feel involved.
Are hybrid workplaces the future or a fad?
We believe hybrid working is the future. Not only do the results speak for themselves, but with skills across many sectors in higher demand than ever, it’s an employee’s market. The next generation of skilled talent wants to work for a business that puts people first.
And when it’s done well, that’s what hybrid working does.