Making the right call on hybrid work

When hybrid working is done wrong, there are consequences: business suffers, and people leave.

Many companies are shifting away from remote working in an attempt to get the 'right' balance - for their business, their people and even their culture.

And while it is always good to reconsider your strategies, all too often decisions about hybrid working are made for the wrong reasons.

A recent poll found almost half of respondents (45%) stated if they were asked to return to the office five days a week, they would think about leaving.

Read more:

Is your hybrid work model working for you?

Employers warned to mind the gender gap in hybrid work

Hybrid working: building a sustainable long-term strategy

The statistics were even higher for London-based workers, with nearly three-quarters (73%) saying they would leave their job if they were no longer able to work from home for some of the week.

So how do you get it 'right'?

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula or three-step process, but there are some important factors to consider. Here are four I use when discussing and helping companies make these critical decisions.


1. Understand the needs of your people

The starting point is to understand your people - what do they need to get their work and job done?  And what do they need to support their personal life?

Consider the following:

  • What percentage of work is done independently? For example: working on spreadsheets, answering queries from customers, etc.
  • What percentage is done collaboratively?
  • What kind of collaborative work is being done? For example: creativity, brainstorming, or knowledge sharing.
  • What percentage of teams are based in one location and can come together in the office? What percentage work remotely or are based in another office?
  • What percentage of employees have family commitments (like young children or elderly parents) requiring them to need flexibility in supporting them during the working day?
  • What disabilities do your employees have that are impacted by where and how they work? e.g. As highlighted to me recently, open plan offices can be a sensory hell for people with some disabilities, making them not only uncomfortable but unproductive.
  • What type of social interaction is required and requested by your people in order to develop and maintain relationships and maintain your culture?

Without information such as this we can make the wrong decisions.

A friend recently shared that her company was asking people to start coming in five days a week.

As she explained, only 20% of her team were based in the UK, so these few people were being asked to come in only to sit on virtual calls all day with colleagues. Does that decision really make sense?


2. Understand the needs of your business

It’s also important to understand your business – what does it need in order to achieve and meet your objectives that impact the success of the business?

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What are the key objectives of the business? Where and how best can they be achieved?
  • How and where can employees be most productive, effective, etc.?
  • What will best drive employee engagement, which has been proven to drive business success?

For all of these, it’s important to challenge your thinking, not jumping to a decision based on past practices.

Be purpose- and objectives-led to set your business and people up for success.


3. Understand your physical office

The next factor has to do with your office itself, which is often overlooked when decisions are made in respect to hybrid working arrangements.

Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What kind of space do you have to support the kind of work that will be done? If a large percentage of work is done collaboratively, do you have the space to support this, or is the majority of the office set up as open plan?
  • What kind of technology do you have to support the new ways of working? Do your people have the right technology to be effective working from home? Do you have computers in meeting rooms so that people can dial in remotely? Do you have noise cancelling headphones in open plan areas?

It’s important to consider these factors so that employees can be effective and productive when they’re in the office, and at the same time, not be frustrated or put off as it doesn’t meet their needs.


4. Understand what others are doing

And finally, it’s important to understand what others are doing. Although each company is different, and their approach to hybrid working should be different, I’m a big believer that we can learn and be inspired by others.

For this reason I conducted a poll on LinkedIn to find out what companies were doing. The results were promising, as it not only showed variety, but showed a trend towards a more flexible approach to hybrid working, something I’m a big fan of in the right situations.

Let me end by encouraging you to take the time to answer these questions to help you come up with the “right” hybrid working arrangements for your business and people.


Debra Corey is founder of DebCo HR