Business Transformation

What is hybrid working and what does it mean for my organisation?

What does hybrid working look like?a

It seems as if everyone is talking about hybrid working right now. As organisations and businesses are re-awakening after lockdowns and stretching their way into the world where the pandemic still has a presence, senior leaders and managers are working out how to balance the demands of productivity, employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

What is hybrid working?

One way to satisfy competing demands seems to be hybrid working as this report of a Gartner survey in 2020 shows. ACAS describes it as follows:

Hybrid working is a type of flexible working where an employee splits their time between:

  • the workplace
  • working remotely

This definition has been mostly embraced by organisations with large office working spaces. The ability to create rotas where employees work two or three days in the office and the remainder from home is becoming popular. Why wouldn’t it? Employees say they’re happier and more productive when they work remotely. Those organisations with capacity to make this happen – in both workforce and workspace - are likely accelerating activity that was already in place. For employees already used to working remotely, this didn’t create significant challenges. However, the ability to use digital tools, access to good quality internet connections, and the willingness to work in a different way, will limit the potential of organisations to work in a more hybrid way.

Hybrid working: culture challenges

The definition of hybrid work above doesn’t relate to all workers though. For people who work in offices, the opportunity to work in a different location will be an incentive that may not be available for those engaged in ‘skill work’. This is an exceedingly good opportunity for some employees. For those employees who are required to work in specific locations, e.g. hospitality, retail, care, nursing, etc, knowing that some colleagues have more flexibility than them can create tensions and culture challenges in those organisations with a mixed workforce.

A hybrid location-only arrangement won’t suit everyone though. During lockdowns, people were able to be more flexible in the hours they worked. The removal of the commute meant people had more time that they could use more flexibly. This was particularly noticeable for women with families who, throughout the lockdown, took on more childcare duties. Having this flexibility led to asynchronous working. The ability of people to work anytime from early morning to late evening has lengthened the working day. Employers must take note that some employees will be working outside the usual 9-5 and create opportunities for people to work in a way, and at a time, when they can be most productive.

Similarly, the adaptability that digital tools create means that employees can be more flexible in the way their jobs are done. The learning industry, for example, had to lift and shift their face-to-face, in-person offerings into a digital model when the pandemic took hold. This redesign of learning took some organisations by surprise as they realised that simply re-creating the face-to-face course in an online meeting room didn’t work. Some fundamental redesign of learning approaches was required to make learning more effective and inclusive.

Employer priorities for hybrid

So what do you need to do to manage these changed expectations from a diverse and engaged workforce? The CIPD reported that employers had three priorities.

Firstly, review your policies on how, where and when people work. What’s important is that you develop fluid guidelines more than fixed ‘rules’. As Mark Nolan of MSD said about their hybrid policy development:

“One thing I really liked was we didn’t get very rule-specific about it. I think it helps increase our trust-based culture because it’s not about where we do the work, it’s about the work that we do.”

Next, you need to have online guidance and support for hybrid employees. That means making it as easy as possible for people to access all the help they may need at any time, from any location. 

Lastly, improve your technology. This is where better technology, more flexible to the needs of the hybrid workforce is required.

5app: a hybrid platform for hybrid working

No matter where people are carrying out their work they are all supported by a digital workplace. One which provides the tools and technologies they need every day.

Organisations need to provide a simple and easy-to-use place to find and share important information and resources in order to support the creation of a culture built on trust and transparency. This is the bedrock to a hybrid working strategy and one that provides resilience in the face of hybrid working culture, systems and process challenges.

5app is designed to improve the employee experience in the digital workplace by making it easier to connect people with what they need to know when they need to know it. And what’s more, it can be rapidly deployed to meet a range of needs within your organisation. Part digital learning platform, communications and knowledge sharing hub, it is a hybrid platform to meet the needs of our increasingly hybrid workplace arrangements.

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