Expert Panel: Hybrid working – What is the best model to move forward, how should time be split between home and office?

The hybrid working model is a location-flexible arrangement, allowing employees to combine onsite and offsite work as they and their employers see fit. Following the lifting of COVID lockdowns worldwide, a wide range of hybrid arrangements have emerged, granting employees flexibility that was seldom offered before.

We set out to understand the value of hybrid work, and its impact on employees’ general feelings towards their places of work, productivity, and wellbeing during the pandemic. To do this, we surveyed top-level HR and Recruitment professionals and business managers across all industries who had continued working throughout COVID/lockdown, managed their teams and now are delighted to share their experiences in this Expert Panel.

Kyle Blockley

MD – Phoenix Global Search

A Hybrid Model of working is now commonplace and in hindsight something we should have been looking at years ago. Being part of this technological revolution, it is sometimes hard to keep up, but employers who do not move with the times will be left behind as individual chose to join organisations that offer remote and hybrid working models.

As a recruiter running a business covering APAC, ME and UK and Europe we now see a lot of candidates asking what the remote working set-up is. It is no longer a world where the candidate gets offered a take it or leave it role – they now negotiate their working hours, working location and how often they want to go to the office (if at all).

The best solutions obviously depend on your business but for those companies that can rotate staff and be flexible, I would advise them to offer a hybrid model that brings staff together in the office 2-3 days a week with the other days working from home. It is super important to continue to have some time in the office so that you can continue to build a company culture, teamwork and importantly help the staff build friendships with their colleagues.

When required face to face Team meetings are very valuable – people will actually enjoy getting out of the house and travelling to work to engage with others. They value the days they work from home as they gain hours not commuting but then they are more engaged when they go to the office and physically interact with the rest of the team/business.

I had thought the biggest challenge would be monitoring performance but from most of the research, I read it appears people are being a lot more productive now than they ever were before. Begs the question – what were people doing in the office before! 😉

Katherine McCord

President, Titan Management

My company has been fully remote for seven years, and we love it!

Keeping a strong team culture is both simple and complicated simultaneously.

It is simple from the standpoint that with the available technologies and programs, it is easy to team build, stay in touch, share workflow, and hold meetings.

It is complicated in that leaders must learn to respect and rely on individualism as opposed to “drones”. They must let go of the need to control, and instead embrace open contribution. This is difficult for many leaders and business owners.

The way to success in a remote setting is quite similar to the way to success in a face-to-face setting. Either way, everyone must be treated equally, but not the same. They must be led as individuals. Keep this notion at the forefront.

  • Set daily 15-minute huddles (do NOT go over). The huddle is designed to share a general update and find out any issues which must be addressed separately throughout the day.
  • Set weekly 1 hour meetings designed for collaboration, and add a 30-minute team-building meeting per week. Play team games, do trivia, share personal experiences and accomplishments, etc… This allows the teams to feel bonded, as will a liberally used internal instant messaging system.
  • Make sure to provide ongoing training both as a team (I recommend once per month), and set self-paced learning opportunities for individuals.
  • Treat people like adults. Unless you are running a call center (or similar), there is no need to track breaks, lunchtimes, etc… As long as the work is getting done, you are succeeding!
  • Finally, set clear expectations and provide modern, user-friendly tools to your team to help them efficiently meet expectations.

These are the basic guidelines for running a successful, remote team. If you follow them, you will reach success!

Peter Cook

Managing Director at Human Dynamics

Whilst I have worked from home for 28 years, it’s also fair to say that I chose to do it.  Many of our current challenges at work are forcing the issue of working from home and it is not for everyone.

Aside from this, in businesses that do complex things or where there is a high need for human interaction and teamwork, some level of face to face communication is essential.  Zoom et al just does not cut it where there are nuanced issues that need to be addressed and where these are essentially human in nature.

I have been made aware of the awful consequences of trying to run a business using only virtual means in this case study from Manpower.  This example is one of a kind and offers lessons to us all.

Each business and every individual must strike their own balance between the trade-offs and advantages of hybrid working.

Diane Rysdale

Head of Recruitment

Hybrid Working should be about balancing peoples’ working and home life, whilst making conscious decisions on where is the best place to conduct the work. Office time should be for collaboration focus meetups, team connection days and relationship building. Some progressive work which is shaping type work often has better results in a collaborative workspace. maintenance or focus work can be completed more efficiently at home.

Talent is being hired more geographically wide and the days in office need to matter. Keeping the culture and connection to it is key for any business in this hybrid working environment.

Snehmayee Kodilkar

HCL Technologies UK

The global health crisis has definitely brought a burnout wave globally. Everyone is vulnerable and mental health has taken a priority, this being the most significant contributor for #TheGreatResignation as well.

During this time, most organisations are trying to create a balanced work environment, the hybrid model is here to stay. Some organisations are able to provide flexible hours or unlimited time off or remote work by choice, but it doesn’t work for everyone.

The key is to find a balance between the office discipline and flexibility of remote working. Organisations need to get creative in ensuring employees enjoy working at the office and find it a welcome change.

Terri Foulston

Global Talent Director, Alcumus

I think there are two ways of looking at this question- what works best for the business, and what works best for the individuals- and there likely isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

In my experience, flexibility within your flexible working policy is the best solution- i.e. a set of guiding principles that empower managers and their teams to agree on a local level what works best for them and the customers they service.

My advice to managers would be to start from a position of trust and be really clear with expectations. Deal with the small percentage of people who may abuse this trust on an individual basis, rather than building a policy and approach around these people.

Sebastian Pampanini

Director Of Operations / Talent Resourcing at DiverseJobsMatter

Ultimately, the primary word employers and workers turn to when discussing the hybrid model of office working and home working is ‘flexibility. That working from home or at least having the option has provided innumerable benefits such as saving money on travel, food, and clothing and not having to pay for childcare provisions. 

However, workers have a diverse range of conditions and requirements concerning work, which are significant to address, particularly social care and child-rearing.

With an array of working circumstances, it is safe to say that there is no one universal model for deciding which model is best. Regarding childcare, female leaders and women’s groups have pointed out that the model of hybrid working may be precarious for working mothers, mainly if they are single mothers having to juggle childcare and working simultaneously. 

Yet, there may be more benefits, as parents/ guardians may have an opportunity to be more involved with child-rearing, education, and development. In this regard, some parents will not have to battle a trade-off between working and child- care. 

Yet, in this hybrid working model, women may burden the majority of childcare, so whilst they may not entirely have to give up working, they may have to compromise with lesser working hours and or more strained working conditions compared to their male counterparts. Though this may model and pattern may be different with couples from the LGBTQIA+ community.

Moving forward, picking a single working model may be an overly streamlined and ‘one size fits all approach that will not be widely applicable to people of different genders, sexualities, cultures and family, health, and care commitments. 

Rather than assuming if there is one approach that unilaterally presents the best model for working, an organisation or company may have to decide, depending on their number of employees and other exogenous factors, what the practical implications of each model would be be on work output.

Raf Uzar

Head of Communication & Development, Penteris

Unlocking Hybrid

The key to unlocking “hybrid” is understanding the real reason for wanting to implement it. Are we offering a hybrid working arrangement to pay lip service to a growing swarm of irritated employees demanding more flexibility or are we genuinely interested in providing staff with the opportunity to mould and shape their working environment?

Chicken Soup

This dynamic – between the employer and employee – is fundamental to planning for a labour market trend that is now being dubbed “The Great Resignation” (or “The Big Quit”, if you prefer). Four million Americans decided to leave their jobs in September 2021. More pertinently, recent 2021 Gallup research suggests that 48% of working Americans are actively job-hunting; according to the Microsoft Work Trend Index for 2021 this figure is as high as 54% for Generation Z. Similar trends can be seen worldwide.

Peeling back the layers of the Great Resignation reveals (amongst others) two reasons for its genesis: 

(1) employees are not adequately supported; and 

(2) employees crave more flexible working hours. 

Tackling one without the other is like trying to treat an infectious pandemic-like virus with hot chicken soup – it may make you feel better but it won’t solve the problem.

Read the full article to find out more about a Strategic Plan 

While there are many working models available, with their relevance depending on the nature of work, we conclude that companies able to offer their employees hybrid models of working, combining working from home and working onsite, are providing the optimal work conditions for their employees in the current climate, and for the foreseeable future.

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