How employers can adopt and maximise the hybrid working era

The past two years have marked the rapid expansion of hybrid working, where employees feel empowered to split their time between working from home, the head office, and a neighbourhood coworking space. Having experienced the benefits of hybrid working during the pandemic, employers are planning for a permanent shift to a hybrid model of work.

According to a recent survey by IWG, 49% of employees would quit if asked to return to the office for five days per week. Additionally, 72% of the survey respondents would prefer the long-term ability to work flexibly over going back to the office five days a week with a 10% pay rise. So, what should employers do in order to support the hybrid way of working?

It is important for employers to seek to integrate a network of spaces that support various work activities; the technologies that virtually connect employees with office resources and with each other; and a work culture that builds trust and encourages collaboration.

Innovative companies are already addressing how much space they need, the purpose that space will provide, and how they will leverage activity-based working.

How are companies adopting the hybrid work era?

Many employers have recognised that their employees really can Work From Anywhere (WFA) – all they need is steady Wi-Fi and a laptop. In this new landscape, everything from office geography to software to recruitment will need reviewing and reshaping.

A 2021 EY report identifies six distinct ‘resets’ for a workplace’s experience: real estate footprint, flexibility and wellbeing policies, remote work facilitated by technology, business travel and mobility, learning and culture, and workforce planning and analytics.

In reviewing these areas, the report finds that some 51% of businesses are redesigning offices or re-evaluating policies on shared spaces and meeting rooms, while 74% of employers are planning moderate to extensive changes to their real estate structure – a trend mirrored in other independent studies like those by Grant Thornton and Cisco Systems.

How can employers leverage the hybrid era?

The key to keeping the workforce engaged with a collaborative purpose is to have a network of spaces integrated via cloud-based, location-independent, and scalable IT platforms.

Instead of there being a binary choice between the office and the home as places of work, a hybrid employer will need to offer a spectrum of workplaces and styles. These range from “work as a place”, where the office is work, but many employees work from home, to “work as an activity”, where the role of the physical office is reduced, and space is fluid and virtual.

An employer’s workspace offering (the ‘where’ of work) must also be influenced by how employee activities are segmented – the ‘how’ of work, in other words, customer engagement, physical resource dependencies, pathways to knowledge sharing and learning, decision-making hierarchies, data privacy, and cybersecurity concerns to maintain normalcy.

The when and where employees choose to work from includes a mix of “prescribed rotation”, “prescribed flex”, “prescribed scheduling”, or “true flex” – the new buzzwords in recruitment circles that denote the different types of employee rostering. Facilitating all this will mean augmenting the availability of established city centres and home-based working with urban and regional flexspaces to accommodate a more fluid and mobile workforce.

Having an IWG membership, whether you are part of a multinational firm, a start-up or a self-employed freelancer, means that you – or your employees – can drop into any of IWG’s 3,500 locations across the world. With a presence in 120 markets, employees can operate from a professional workspace, from Regus 8 Rue Charles de Remusat, in Toulouse, France, to Spaces Exchange 106 in Kuala Lumpur and HQ Northriding in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The growth of these flexible workspaces highlights the extraordinary rise of hybrid working. Many companies have begun to fully embrace the idea of work from anywhere (WFA), with their employees travelling and working remotely, anywhere in the internet-connected world.

Attracting and Keeping Talent

In the new world of work, firms looking to hire the brightest and best talent will need to offer a way of working that’s built on trust, individual responsibility and productivity – not one that’s based on hours during which a worker must be desk-bound. Employers who embrace hybrid working will likely find they retain talent more effectively, too, according to experts.

Reducing the need for employees to commute empowers them to achieve improved work-life balance, reclaiming ‘wasted’ time that can be spent with family and friends or on vital self-care. People who feel supported in looking after their own mental, emotional and physical health are likely to feel more loyalty towards businesses and stay with them for longer.

A Watertight Strategy

As employers redeploy the workforce and redefine the spaces their employees operate from, there’s a legal framework developing, which addresses issues like wellbeing, employee safety, privacy, and data protection. Those who have embraced a hybrid model are reaping big. IWG found that hybrid working can save businesses over $14,000 per employee per year.

What does this mean for home to office strategy?

In IWG’s survey of Australian Generation Z workers, almost two-thirds (62%) would like the option to work some days during the week from a co-working space in their own suburb rather than travelling to their workplace 5 days a week. Giving employees the option to work from a nearby flexspace is a key way to ensure the long-term success of the hybrid model.

Having a ‘third location’ to work from – neither the home nor the corporate HQ – combines the best of both worlds, removing workers from domestic distractions but also freeing them from the rat race. Flexible and coworking spaces also offer advantages in terms of their potential for hosting meetings and encouraging networking. However, the corporate HQ still has a vital role in the hybrid future, with regular visits allowing for worker collaboration.

Forward-looking businesses are already considering how office space can be reconfigured, with rows of desks replaced by areas dedicated to creativity, active work and discussion.

 

Damien Sheehan is the Country Head of IWG Australia.