What does “hybrid working” mean? It’s a concept with multiple interpretations, and it’s a complete paradigm shift in how we see the world of work. But before we look at a hybrid working definition and begin unpacking its many permutations, let’s run through the reasons why this model has become so popular.
The Trend Towards Hybrid Working: Background
During the darkest days of the Covid19 pandemic, working from home became the “new normal.” Many companies were surprised to find how effectively they were able to work, but inevitably, there was a downside. In particular, engagement between employers and employees suffered.
With the return to the “old normal” came the “great resignation,” a phenomenon attributable, in part, to workers being reluctant to part with the freedoms inherent in a work from home model. By contrast, other workers reported feeling glad that they could return to the office, connecting directly with their colleagues and managers.
While enjoying the renewed connection with their employers, however, many felt that their on-site presence wasn’t necessary all the time. Routine work, they reasoned, could be completed as productively, if not more so, while working from home. In many instances, their employers agreed that they had a good point.
What is Hybrid Working? Practical Examples
Hybrid work, meaning work from home with on-site attendance as necessary, was not an entirely new concept even before the pandemic. With this model working well for so many companies, benefiting both employees and their employers in a variety of ways, we may wonder why it wasn’t widely used years ago. After all, the technology that makes it possible isn’t anything new. As it is, it took a pandemic to bring home the advantages of hybrid work.
Before we look at those advantages, let’s explore the different ways in which hybrid work is applied in practice. There are four broad categories or models into which we can categorise the different approaches to combining work-from-home with on-site attendance.
There’s a great deal of flexibility in this model. When employees need to meet with clients, managers, or co-workers, or just prefer to work on site, they inform their employers, and the necessary facilities are provided. When employers want to convene a meeting or require teams to be on site, they notify the relevant people. With this flexibility comes a greater need for careful planning. For example, if a key staff member must attend a meeting on a particular day, it makes sense to schedule any additional on-site contacts on the same day instead of summoning them at short notice on several days of the week.
When using a split-week model, employees spend half of their week working from home, and the other half working on-site. Their employers develop a roster which could be based on the number of people they believe will be needed on site, or on a department-by-department basis. The aim is to ensure enough face-to-face contact to foster communication and collaboration combined with days on which team members work from home, focussing on deliverables.
Hybrid Shift Work
It’s an unusual approach to hybrid work, and it can be difficult to implement, but there are companies that expect daily attendance between certain times, with the rest of the day open to working from home. In general, it’s not the easiest version of hybrid work to implement, and it eliminates some of the advantages of hybrid work at a stroke, but if it is necessary for operations, it remains an option.
As you’ll have guessed, this version of hybrid work means alternating remote work and on-site work on a week-by-week basis. It has the advantage of being completely predictable. Everyone knows who will be on-site during any given week, and interactions can be scheduled accordingly.
The best hybrid working model to choose will depend on the type of business, and the activities that various team members undertake. It’s even possible to switch between different models on a project-by-project basis.
Other Interpretations of Hybrid Work
While some definitions of hybrid working models are similar to the ones discussed above, others use slightly different terminology and a somewhat different approach.
Specifically, we have companies that prefer to refer to employment as workplace based, but which offer limited opportunities for remote working.
Some are workplace based but are more generous in offering leeway for remote work.
Others resort to remote digital work first, but offer a workplace and may require attendance.
Finally, we have “digital first” companies who offer no workplace whatsoever, using hired facilities or even private homes as places in which professional contact occurs.
How Employers Benefit from Hybrid Work Models
Apart from retaining and attracting talent that likes the flexibility of hybrid work while maintaining sufficient in-person contact to keep communications options open and engagement high, employers are likely to find that productivity rises when implementing hybrid working, particularly when using an at-will model.
With tiring commutes and in-office distractions eliminated, many employees are likely to be more focused on getting their tasks done. Some, however, do feel less productive when working from home, particularly when they have small children: an argument for a best-of-both-worlds, at-will arrangement in which each employee decides on their worksite.
Management saves time too. With everyone working in-office, both formal and informal meetings can easily consume a workday. When using hybrid models, meetings are more carefully planned, and there’s greater attention to maintaining an organised meeting schedule with all necessary discussion points incorporated into a single agenda.
Beyond the question of productivity, employers are likely to find that office facilities need not be as extensive. If only half the workforce is present on any given day, for example, a single desk can double as a workspace for two employees instead of one. If either of the “digital first” approaches is used, it may only be necessary to have a temporary boardroom. With less office space required, employers stand to benefit from significant cost savings.
RSVP and Hybrid Work
RSVP has been using hybrid work models for far longer than most companies. As a call centre that prides itself in offering its clients customer service agents of an exceptionally high calibre, attracting the best talent has always been a priority for us. Offering flexibility in choosing working hours and worksite has allowed us to do just that. However, keeping our employees aligned with our company’s ethos and our clients’ requirements and goals requires intensive briefings and feedback sessions, and in this context, face-to-face meetings are essential.
Although this limits us to employing London-based call-centre champions, we find that combining a sense of belonging and personal engagement with remote work options, allows us to work cohesively. Our employees benefit, and so do our clients. It really is the best of both worlds.
If you’d like to take advantage of our round-the-clock call centre services, whether for customer service, lead generation, market research, or omni-channel marketing support, access to our hybrid working team is only a call or an email away. Let’s set up a meeting! Your highly-motivated communications team is ready for you to take the first step!