The Hybrid Office in 2022
Covid restrictions are over in England, Wales and Scotland. On the whole this is great news. Aside from the obvious relief of not fearing for the health of ourselves and our loved ones, there are numerous other benefits too. We can see our friends and families without having to incorporate a bracing walk, we can go on holiday again and when we pass people in the street, we don’t have to sidestep into the path of oncoming traffic or scale a fence to ensure there are two metres between us.
Moving towards a hybrid office
And, of course, we can go back to work again. But with this comes pros and cons. On the plus side, interacting with our colleagues and having a change of scene is great for generating ideas, feeling part of a team and for our mental health. Also, when coming into the office there’s a divide between work and home, so you don’t feel as though you’re constantly on duty. And if you’re behind with the latest Netflix drama, someone can update you at the water cooler.
The negatives are not so easily dealt with. I’m sure every single one of us has been touched by Covid. It’s hard to just shake that off and resume normality. As we’re at work more than anywhere else, other than our own homes, that’s the place that is potentially going to be the most daunting. There’s a commute, often on public transport, to negotiate. Your staff may be medically vulnerable. They may feel afraid or uncomfortable being in meeting rooms or sitting close to others. Others will have discovered that working from home provides them with a better life/work balance and they’re more productive.
Keeping your employees happy
So how can you make sure you’re doing the right thing by both your staff, your customers and your company?
Factors to consider are whether employees should come back simultaneously, or should their return be staggered? Should there be split shifts? Should full-time employees go back to a five-day office-based week? If not, how many days a week in the office suits you and them? Are you comfortable with some employees working from home full-time? If it works for your business model, how do you ensure they’re not hiding away because of mental healthcare issues when you can’t actually see them?
Banking on it
To help bring staff back into the work place, HSBC in the US incorporated a desk booking system. This ensured workers could go into work in a socially distanced way, and the bank could monitor how its staff used the spaces, and who wanted to go into the office and why. Collaboration and training were a popular reason and, particularly for younger staff, mentoring opportunities and spending time with colleagues. With this in mind, the bank is experimenting with a redesign of its US spaces, starting with a pilot at its office on Fifth Avenue in New York. Instead of having “desk farms,” the bank’s looking at different spatial arrangements and furniture designed for collaborative work. These changes will be trialled with staff.
HSBC also looked into what employees needed to stay happy and motivated while working from home. One change they incorporated was to free Friday afternoons up from meetings, so employees could use that time to reflect on their week, wind down, and plan the week ahead. For the future, HSBC intends to be diverse and hybrid and will continue to embrace flexible working.
A hybrid office working model
When the pandemic hit, 95% of IBM’s employees started working remotely with zero drop in productivity. Staff were strongly supported in adjusting to the new way of working by the IBM Work From Home Pledge, which aimed tp make work (and life) a little easier.
The pledge created an important social contract for all of IBM’s staff, no matter where they were working, and included commitments to flexibility, kindness, sensitivity to family, setting boundaries, and combating video fatigue. It also committed to staying connected with each other through virtual social interactions, such as a coffee break, happy hour, game night or karaoke party.
Now the management team are keen to welcome staff back to its offices. The company envisages a hybrid office/working model for the future, with flexibility to work at home when that will generate the most productivity and the option to come into the office on the days staff want to be with colleagues or clients to collaborate and innovate.
Salesforce also operates a hybrid model of office and distributed work. The company has seen a 16% increase in productivity since the pandemic forced many staff to work from home. Each team now creates its own working structure based on its own needs, including ensuring there’s a crossover of all the team’s working hours. A deeper focus on real-time collaboration such as this has driven down email use by 46%.
As restrictions reduce, staff are being encouraged to return to the office, if it’s useful for them. The company’s aim is to strengthen the Salesforce culture through events and gatherings and every day interactions between management and their staff while retaining flexibility and remote work.
At Cognition24 we understand our employers needs and concerns and, like HSBC, IBM and Salesforce, we now operate a hybrid way of working. Salesforce’s software allowed us to become a technically agile business. We were able to survive the pandemic because we could manage our sales online, communicate with each other and keep up to date easily. We’re staggering our return to work, but understand that not all of our staff feel ready to come back into the office yet and that’s ok. We’re as connected as we can possibly be through Salesforce and it’s business as is usual – the new usual. Which, thankfully, doesn’t involve karaoke parties, virtual or otherwise.