Strategy is conspicuously missing in many hybrid working approaches

Dr Sean Gallagher. Director of the Centre of the New Workforce at Swinburne University of Technology

While most workplaces acknowledge that they need to offer hybrid working, very few have a strategy to implement it to maximise productivity and worker wellbeing.

The Centre of the New Workforce at Swinburne University of Technology has found that every single worker who had a work-from-home experience wants to convert to flexible working.

Swinburne University’s hybrid working research

Director of the Centre of the New Workforce, Dr Sean Gallagher says, “As we begin our return to office, organisations should not be rushing to resume normal programming.”

“This survey has given us an opportunity to rethink our working models as what makes sense for hybrid approaches today might not be as effective in six months’ time.”

While remote working can be effectively leveraged as it is well suited to individual productivity, this scenario does not necessarily correlate to organisational productivity.

The Centre of the New Workforce research found out that flexible working is currently the least productive working model as compared to office based or fully remote.

The Centre of the New Workforce’s data suggests that when compared to home-based and office-based workers, flexible workers have the logistical challenge of where and when to work.

They are least likely to know what to do in addition to also finding it most difficult to be creative and collaborate. However, flexible working is emerging as a deal breaker.

“The Centre of the New Workforce surveyed workers and found out that every single worker who had an experience of working from home wants to convert to flexible working.”

“Further more, the data showed that only a pay rise might convince them to stay, which could be very expensive for companies unwilling to shift to new ways of working.”

Key findings from the Swinburne research

Swinburne researchers are working on a blueprint for new models of work that meet employee expectations and create value for companies navigating the increasing uncertainty.

The Centre of the New Workforce’s research findings

  • Some remote working is likely to boost productivity
  • Office time is ideal for building relationships, maintaining connections and learning
  • Flexibility supports better work-life balance

Designing a hybrid working 2.0

Co-design is essential

It will be essential for companies to understand their workers’ experience, expectations and aspirations around flexibility and hybrid work and the role of the office.

Diversity and inclusion implications should be at the fore front of the work strategy.

This aspect is essential in ensuring that hybrid working operates as fairly for female workers as for their male counterparts, across the generations and for the minority groups.

Program human-interaction activities in the new office

Our research found that in-person interactions in the workplace are the main way workers learn at work. And workplace learning leads to more positive attitudes towards a person’s job.

It is vital for collaboration and creativity not to be lost by failing to prioritise these aspects.

Companies should establish rituals that develop the right in-person behaviours to ensure employees don’t fall back into old in-person work habits. A ‘set and forget’ approach will fail.

Organisations should consider the following aspects

  • Designating set spaces for certain collaborative activities
  • Starting a certain day each week with a brainstorming session
  • Ensuring major project kick-offs occur in the office
  • Holding ‘meet and greets’ with new employees

Design the right space for the new office

Offices of the future will be characterised by fewer individual work spaces as opposed to more spaces that will serve to facilitate employee collaboration and socialising.

Future offices will experience a more greater focus on multipurpose spaces, suited with reconfigurable workplace settings and furniture plus technology enabled work spaces.