We should not JUST return to the office, but embrace the future of work
Majority of companies have planned their hybrid workplace strategies, and are now enforcing or encouraging their employees to "return to the office". To make sure the return is safe and efficient, companies utilise technologies that limit contagions and continue to use systems that allowed virtual meetings during the lockdown. This approach sounds simple yet comprehensive enough to adapt to the changing situation.
However, we should do more than just adapt - we should rethink the way we can work, shape it to our benefit, and thrive in the future ways of working as people and businesses.
In this article we summarise the key themes affecting hybrid work, and how instead of just adapting or returning to the good old office, companies can take the advantage of the situation and grow.
There is no one way for productivity or hybrid work.
All of us can agree that there are pros and cons for both working in an office or at home, and that these forms of working suit and benefit people differently. Some can be productive in the calmness of their home, while others are struggling with productivity as they are constantly interrupted by their family members, whether those are little kids or other remote workers having a meeting in the same room. Some have a professional set up at home, while some are working from kitchen tables. Time saved from commuting benefits many in their busy family lives. Even though we are all different, there are similarities in the way that generations experience and benefit from hybrid work. While the older generation and employees with families are more willing to spend time at the home office, over half of the youngest and newest employees have stressed the importance of working in a professional environment (Bloomberg, 2021).
These young employees are missing out on the opportunity to learn and create connections, and are maybe even struggling to reach their professional potential. They are deprived of the benefits that would have come naturally just by being present in their work communities. These benefits, like learning how to communicate within your professional field or observe the qualities of good and bad leadership, have been taken for granted by their older colleagues.
Instead of iterating and transforming, we need to unlearn and reimagine.
While diversity and inclusion are important societal goals, diverse and balanced teams also outperform their homogenous rivals financially (Rock & Grant, 2016; McKinsey Report, 2020). Like we described above, productivity means different things for different people, and this is especially true for diverse teams - each team member might need a different kind of a hybrid workplace in order the be productive.
In order to support these teams achieve balance, we need to unlearn the old ways of working, like cramming into the office with a 9 to 5 schedule, everyone working the same way. What many companies have done is to iterate the old daily itinerary or in the case of pandemic, transformed the old ways of working into different digital platforms. To support productivity, and thus the employees and the business, we need to reimagine the way we work, and whom we work with.
A hybrid workplace strategy takes into consideration the employees' possibility of working at home or at the office with tools tailored for that purpose. A good hybrid workplace strategy provides people options to work where they are most productive, like a third location that minimises the commute while giving a professional working environment. A superior hybrid workplace strategy empowers teams with a people-first approach, understanding that the same set of rules does not apply to all of the employees. And if you are designing your hybrid workplace strategy by what the majority wants, you are doing it wrong.
To create a superior hybrid workplace strategy, you should do whatever it takes to enable learning in your organisation.
How to achieve that?
Get the right people, not all people, in the same place. Focus on enabling collaboration within teams and for the employees who want to learn and those who they want to learn from, preferably in the same space. However, unless you are in a very small company, your employees don't need to collaborate with each and everyone of their colleagues on a daily basis. This can be reflected in the decreased size (and costs) of your office, as long as you can answer to the demand peaks (our memberships can help with that).
Support organic teaming up. Make it visible who is going to be at the office or a third location and when, so that your employees have a flexible way of coming together. Create opportunities to connect outside the office as well. It is crucial, especially for the youngsters, to learn the unwritten rules, values and culture of the company. Leading by example is one of the most impactful ways of teaching.
Enable productivity for all, but not in the same way. You definitely need to create opportunities to work at the office, safely (we have a solution for that as well). Enable working from third locations near home, with proper company guidance and information security. And create an inclusive workplace culture for people staying at home, so that no one is left out.
As a result of the people-first approach to hybrid workplace strategy, people will be more committed, engaged, open to learn and eager to push towards an inclusive working environment, whether you work from home, from the office, or somewhere else.
If you are interested about the services we offer, or you would like to simulate the effects of using third locations as part of your network, you can book a meeting with our hybrid workplace experts.