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Appreciation for the requirements of the hybrid working model

News

06/01/22 | Rebecca Drewett

FSI Talent Management Senior Manager, Letty Bayley, explains in an article for PFM how with more companies preparing to see increased attendance in their workplace, the need to adjust to different work models is paramount to support collaborative and productivity goals.

There has been considerable change in all aspects of work over the course of the last two years, although this shows increasingly more signs of being more clearly defined and understandable, allowing clearer definition of what FMs and service providers need to deliver in the months ahead.

While the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in living memory, there is a growing sense that businesses and individuals are far more aware of how they can deal with this and also continue to deliver many aspects of their work commitments. These various developments have had a major impact on the workplace, of course, and this will see clients, FMS and service providers continuing to adapt and improve in the year ahead.

Perhaps one of the most notable developments emerging from the first lockdown resulting from the pandemic in early 2020 was the opinion voiced by several businesses that they were planning to vacate their offices and allow all staff to work remotely. This can be seen to be more of a knee-jerk reaction following the realisation of the value of collaboration at all levels of a business that becomes much more difficult to encourage if team members are working in separate locations.

While the savings resulting from the ceasing of leasing central offices were initially attractive, the understanding of the value of collaboration has resulted in some businesses returning to or reopening their workplaces, with many companies additionally involved in the redesign of their office to provide more spaces that encourage collaborative actions. In short, the pandemic can be seen to have initiated a process of development that is continuing to be adjusted to suit the needs of each company and its workforce.

One of the more notable practices emerging in the last year has been that of the hybrid working model, typically allowing staff members to work from home or away from the office on a more regular basis. Members of the PFM Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) discussed the implications of this at the end of 2020, at its earliest stages of implementation.

EAB members had found that the hybrid working model had won favour with the employees of clients and added another element of value by assisting worker retention levels. However, one of the issues to avoid was seen to be that of everyone working from home or remotely on a Friday and Monday – the two favourite days for home working – resulting in the office appearing deserted at the beginning and end of the week.

Further thoughts on the application of working models and the need to support colleagues are provided by FSI (an MRI Software company) senior manager, Talent Management Letty Bayley, who states that “while hybrid working has been pushed non-stop since the emergence of Covid-19, not all businesses can or choose to adopt it. And for those that have, is there enough consideration and planning on how these models support employees?” she asks.

“Although remote/flexible working has been championed in certain sectors, authentic hybrid working models are new for many. There is demand – the CIPD has reported that 63% of employers intend to introduce or expand hybrid working. But that means 37% are avoiding this approach,” Ms Bayley continues.

This is understandable, she states, as the complexities of hybrid working can impact multiple processes and policies: financial targets, cash flow, customer service, etc.

Simultaneously, many see the potential benefits of hybrid working – increased productivity, engaged employees, reduced running costs, improved staff safety. However, the aforementioned complexities and “recentness” of these models have left many unprepared to create effective plans.

“The CIPD has published guidance to help companies navigate this through Inclusion of top tips for hybrid working. Yet a plan is just the beginning – the first six to 12 months after this will be a learning curve.

“Plus, ill-planned hybrid models can negatively impact employees’ wellbeing and mental health. Recent YouGov research revealed 37% of British employees have worse mental health than pre-pandemic levels. 73% say work-life is at least partly responsible, with 16% worrying about getting used to hybrid working policies.

“Technology will be key to companies overcoming these potential issues and reaping the benefits of hybrid working, from collecting sensory data on office air quality and mobile FM solutions, to touchless coffee machines and climate control,” Ms Bayley concludes.

These thoughts further confirm the need for in-depth planning and collaboration with all team members prior to the implementation of hybrid working models, including the realisation that these may well need to be further adjusted in future. Perhaps the motto “fail to plan, plan to fail” is the most relevant in this instance and further illustrates the value of collaborative efforts in all areas.

There will no doubt be instances of both high levels of success and abject failure in the delivery of these models, along with everything in between, particularly as these practices will be new to many businesses. But once the various lessons have been learned, this should allow these to be used to create a more successful model that will achieve its aims for both individuals and employers.

It is highly unlikely that one particular type of hybrid working model will emerge, as every company will have varying needs and this also relates to the different requirements of staff members, of course. However, there is more likely to be a number of common aspects that can be applied – possibly on an initial basis – with the understanding that these may need to be adjusted in the future to be more effective.

The above is further supported by discussions with PFM EAB members, many of whom have found that the careful application of new working models should be seen as a work in progress – rather than a finished item – to allow them to flex and meet the needs of staff and businesses in supporting increased productivity in the future.