Every business has had its operational framework thrown into question over the year. A national crisis required fast responses and an experimentation with a new working style, so it’s no surprise that working from home (and during a global pandemic) hasn’t been without challenges.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t here to stay. Flexible working hours, remote working options and collaborative workspaces aren’t anything new. Covid-19 has simply accelerated what changes were already in place. Employers saw the value of a flexible working model that prioritised their team’s wellbeing long before this pandemic.
This doesn’t – and shouldn’t – make your office space redundant. If an office environment works for your employees, there’s no need to divert away from this set-up. A tangible home for your business still provides significant advantages for your team. An office space is often the heart of your business’s culture; it’s where you achieve innovation, supercharge productivity and socialise with your colleagues.
In a post-pandemic world, employers will need to strike the right balance between flexible home working (that suits their team’s unique wellbeing needs) and an office space that encompasses their business’s culture. You should provide a flexible way of working where your employees can choose from a diverse mix of spaces for focused work, face-to-face collaboration and virtual creative sessions.
A ‘hybrid’ model of working achieves both of these: it provides your business with the structure and sociability in an office environment, as well as the flexibility and independence of remote working. It will also be crucial for balancing collaborative and quiet, focused working.
Now is the time to take the opportunity to consider what type of ‘hybrid’ model works for your business in a post-pandemic world. It’s been a learning curve for many businesses over the last few months, so it’s important to look ahead and find your new way of working.
Prioritise employee wellbeing
In the early days of the pandemic, it was crucial for employers to offer their team support for their mental wellbeing. You may have achieved this through raising awareness of issues (such as stress, worry or anxiety) within your team, regular check-ins with your employees, or offering professional support through EAPs (employee assistance programmes).
It’s more important than ever to continue this trend into a post-pandemic, hybrid model of working. Protecting and supporting your team’s mental health should be at the forefront of both your office culture and remote working. Prioritise any regular meetings with your staff (either virtual or face-to-face) and team gatherings that allow your team to socialise outside of work.
The future of your office should also encompass any additional requirements to your team’s home-based set-ups. Whether it’s a laptop riser, desk chair or second screen, it’s crucial for your employee’s mental and physical health that their remote environment works for them; especially as working from home (even if it’s for a few days each week) is here to stay.
Build on your unique culture
Your future hybrid model shouldn’t be new – it should draw upon elements of what you already have, and what could improve your setup. A hybrid model will require clarity about job roles and weekly, business-as-usual tasks that are best-suited to the office.
Sit down (either virtually or face-to-face) with each of your employees and make a list of individual tasks that can be successfully achieved at home, along with responsibilities that suit a collaborative, office environment.
For a hybrid model to truly work for your business, it’s crucial that your team designate certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration. Whilst this may require greater planning from yourself and your staff, it also presents you with an opportunity to re-think these tasks, to ensure you’re maximising your team’s productivity levels.
Survey your team
Your staff are the most important part of your business. The future of your office should draw on your employee’s experience and be tailored to achieve peak performance. Ask your staff to complete a series of questions to find out what could improve their remote workspace and how they’d like to collaborate with their team.
Tapping into your team’s individual needs should help steer a data-led hybrid model that reflects your company’s unique culture, in both the office and remote working set-ups.
Invest in digital infrastructure
As the true extent of the pandemic has unfolded, technology has been at the forefront of a smooth transition from the office to home working. Although many companies had previously offered a flexible working from home policy, many employees were thrown into a permanent home-based setup.
Technology has allowed us to not only remain connected to our team, but maintain the highest level of security for your business. Payroll – for example – is often an employer’s biggest expense, which can leave you at risk of cyber-attacks. Many payroll and HR teams adapted to a new home-based model at the peak of the pandemic. Employers achieved this through finding the best technology platforms to adopt that met their business’s unique requirements.
With new technology tried and tested, it’s likely you’ll have figured out what tools work best to make a hybrid model of working successful. Invest in these platforms, to ensure your future model of working is a smooth transition of home-based work and office culture.
It’s more important than ever to invest your time and efforts into your own hybrid model. Whilst we’re unlikely to return to pre-Covid levels within an office, it’s important to offer your team a diverse mix of working spaces. From collaborative working spaces to a digital-first remote option, it’s important to find what works best for your team.
Use these next few months to consider how your team work, question what worked previously, and what your business’s unique culture is. It should become clear of the type of hybrid model could work for your business. Trust your instincts and evolve your business to suit your team’s requirements.