When the Governor of the Bank of England acknowledges that working practices may never be the same again and that ‘hybrid’ working isn’t just this season’s fashionable phrase but may come close to normal for many, it’s time for us all to sit up and take notice.
A combination of better tech, high rental rates and the relative ease with which many of us have acclimatised to majority home-working, means a return to full-time office work would be sub-optimal for too many to become reality.
In truth, the office-based working world is likely to be spending more time at home than it did pre-pandemic. That’s not to signal the end of the office entirely, just to recognise that for most of us it’s only going to be our working home no more than 50% of the time.
Naturally, this will come with cultural and practical challenges, many of which communication can help to overcome. There are four we’ve identified as particularly critical and should be thought about by leaders right now:
Segregation: there’s likely to be a variation in the number of days different employees come to work. It’s going to be important both groups feel equal, whether in or out, and there’s no hierarchy according to physical location. For ‘Hybrid’ to work, employees will need to know there’ll be no negative judgment.
Technology: we will all have to re-learn the skills of the last twelve months to accommodate the hybrid model. What does a Zoom meeting look like with half the attendees in the same place? Better to provide this guidance sooner rather than later and consider security in the bargain.
Support: for relatively new employees, home-working has meant the removal of ad-hoc peer support. Hybrid working isn’t going to solve that problem entirely, but managed well, time in the office can be about giving junior members the support and confidence they might have lacked during the pandemic.
Wellbeing: We shouldn’t underestimate how strange and challenging a return to physical workplaces will be for many. Cramming into trains; small-talk at work; in-person meetings; none of it will feel normal. Providing a relatively long ‘run-up’ to prepare employees, and a comfortable ‘landing’ on arrival will really help.
But that’s to focus on the ‘challenges’, rather than things people are looking forward to. At blue goose, we asked our team a series of questions to find out just how they feel about the last 12 months and what lies ahead.