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Mind the hybrid training gap

Article by Dr Matthew Davis

The majority of office workers are as keen on hybrid working as they were 12 months ago, and it is unlikely that this will now shift. According to across-industry snapshot survey, hybrid working is 54% of UK office workers’ ideal working pattern, however, only a small minority have received any training on how to work in a hybrid way.

The research

Our research looked at the impact that different work patterns and workplaces have on employees (well-being, job satisfaction, performance, interactions), and what this means for organisations and future workplaces.

We conducted analyses of employee diaries, surveys and social networks of UK office workers to understand cross-industry changes in employee behaviour. We examined differences between groups of workers (e.g. new starters, different generations) under different work patterns (e.g. office vs home vs hybrid) and in different office workspaces (e.g. open plan vs social spaces vs private workspaces).

A worrying training gap

Our surveys show that there has been a huge shift towards hybrid and home working since the Covid-19 pandemic. However, organisations still do not seem to be training and equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to undertake new ways of working.

Out of our sample of 451 office workers in August 2022, only 8.5% had received any training on how to conduct or be part of a hybrid meeting. Respondents who had experienced some form of training reported that it included using new software and its features, and meeting etiquette.

This leaves a worrying training gap. Hybrid working requires employees to work effectively both remotely and with others in person. Hybrid workers must also engage in hybrid meetings, schedule and coordinate with others across different work patterns, manage uncertainties, and work in less predictable ways.

This is a distinct way of working with additional challenges beyond full-time office or home working. Although people managed to navigate lockdown-driven home working and a phased return to the office, this does not guarantee they are working as effectively as they could or getting the most from the new opportunities.

What training do employees want?

74.4% of the office workers we surveyed said they would like to receive training for hybrid working. They said it should include topics such as:

  • Establishing social etiquette – such as knowing when to speak up in meetings
  • Being inclusive – how to facilitate discussion and ensure everyone feels included
  • Running effective meetings – ensuring that the meeting is the best use of everyone’s time
  • Troubleshooting technical issues – having a guide to refer to rather than having to ask other people during the meeting
  • How to set up in-room equipment – how to use the technology in dedicated meeting rooms.

From our research, we also found that hybrid working also requires employees to be able to:

  • Use technology and equipment to collaborate
  • Plan time and tasks between locations
  • Coordinate with others
  • Manage time effectively
  • Develop professional networks
  • Seek and provide advice and feedback.

What should employers do?

Invest in training! This is crucial to help provide the skills needed for employees to thrive and make the most of hybrid working.

Employees consistently tell us that they want to be trained to run effective hybrid meetings. Creating a positive hybrid meeting experience is a classic socio-technical problem and training is only one part of this – the physical space, technologies and behaviours of participants all contribute to whether the meeting is a success.

Employers should also invest in key hybrid meeting technologies and facilities. Some organisations were already equipped with hybrid meeting facilities pre-pandemic, but many others created hybrid meeting spaces through ad-hoc repurposing of rooms with limited facilities and equipment.

Organisations need to design fit-for-purpose hybrid meeting spaces, which means considering all meeting participants’ experiences and what technology will enable this. It’s crucial to ensure participants will know how to make the best use of these facilities.

These technologies and facilities include:

  • A monitor large enough for all in-office participants to view remote attendees and materials clearly.
  • Docking stations to enable easy set-up and connection.
  • Video conferencing cameras and microphones to optimise the experience for remote attendees. These may be fixed in place or portable to allow greater flexibility in terms of room configuration e.g. Meeting Owls and other 360-degree smart cameras. Cameras should also have voice detection, so the person speaking is in full view.
  • Whiteboard camera so visual brainstorming and notes can be viewed by all attendees.
  • Speakers to ensure everyone in the room can hear remote attendees.
  • Moveable furniture to optimise the space depending on the purpose and size of the meeting. For example, a hybrid meeting with a few office attendees collaborating on a project will require a different layout than a team meeting with 10-15 attendees where the main purpose may be information sharing.
  • Integrated booking systems which ensure the best room is selected for the purpose and size of the meeting.

From our research, it is clear to see that hybrid working is a distinct way of working, and investment in training is crucial to provide the skills needed for employees to thrive in the new workplace.

Read the report

    Dr Matthew Davis is an Associate Professor at Leeds University Business School, a Chartered Psychologist, and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. His research centres on how people interact with their environments, office design, hybrid working and future workplaces. He also researches how businesses engage in CSR, particularly to address sustainability and modern slavery.

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