5 ways managers and HR need to adapt to meet the needs of their new hybrid office
A ‘business as usual’ approach increasingly seems like it is doomed to fail – and not just because it will leave a business horribly exposed again if another pandemic breaks out…
The world of work has changed and there’s no going back – that’s the word on the streets (so to speak) and is something that is resonating in offices from New York to Sydney.
There are definitely some people who believe that some time soon things will return to ‘the old days’ of 9-5 office work in a corporate building, but the vibe I’m getting is that this is fast becoming the minority viewpoint. Even companies who are the most resistant to change will likely adjust their practises at least in some small way to accommodate a global move to a new hybrid way of working.
With the world of work destined to change, quite possibly forever, then it follows that we will need a sensible new set of working practices if employees and the companies they work for are to flourish.
Despite the many pluses, much has been written about the rigours of working from home and how it has a lot to answer for in terms of loneliness and mental health – and HR now has the chance to step up to the plate to ensure that things go as smoothly as possible when people work from home in the future.
Proactive thinking like this is the only way that HR management/Heads of Talent/Chief People Officers can feel confident that their workforce will be able to present its best self and be as productive, happy, and efficient as can possibly be.
The hybrid office will be different for every firm, but will generally combine a physical workspace – quite possibly one that is somewhat smaller than before – plus the ability for people to work from home. Allowing employees to mix it up and, where possible, be able to choose their own blend of in-office and WFH days seems to be what people want. And many employers are looking at ways to facilitate this.
There is a lot to take in. It will be a dramatic change from where we were just a year ago – and will also be different from the makeshift approach that emerged during the lockdown and the subsequent months of the pandemic. If hybrid working is to be a new template for the future, then it needs to be robust and well thought out.
Here are five key areas for managers and HR leaders to think about.
Where once an employer’s obligations extended to providing desks, PCs, telephones, access to photocopiers and the latest software in an office environment, careful consideration now needs to be given to how employees will access similar services and hardware from their own homes. Purchasers, IT and Procurement need to be involved in discussions – as do Legal – to ensure that any regulatory guidelines are followed and that staff are able to work effectively on those days when they are based at home. This could have significant financial considerations and should definitely not be glossed over.
The old way of working often saw an employee walk up to their boss and ask for a week off, often at a key period such as the middle of summer or Christmas. This face-to-face, transactional approach gave managers a certain degree of comfort in being able to spot at a glance when too many people were asking for the same time off. It is vital, therefore, that any new systems are sufficiently well designed so as both to avoid bottlenecks and ensure that staff who are less often in the physical office are easily able to get time off when they need it.
A potentially awkward conversation to have with people if they are showing up for work Zoom meetings in their pyjamas – but there may also be an argument for relaxing company dress codes if these have previously been a little on the antiquated side. Could this be the opportunity that a modern and streamlined business needs to develop a new dress code that better reflects the mood of today and their future ambitions? Whatever management decides, it is imperative that clear guidelines are established so that employees have an understanding of what is expected of them.
The in office/at home split
This is almost certainly the biggest logistical headache that awaits HR and management. Requiring a considerable amount of deep thinking, this conundrum will involve conversations about office space, team make up, management styles and a whole lot more before a suitable working arrangement can be settled upon.
Colleagues need a clear idea of when they can stay at home, when they are required to come in, whether or not they are able to mix up their days, and a whole host of other tiny details.
As an aside to this, Abodoo partner Yonderdesk is an exciting new virtual real estate solution that has been designed to complement the in-office working environment. It provides a virtual floor plan where employees can mingle wherever they are based that day. A short demo quickly explains all this and can be booked via their website.
From a regulatory side, it is important that any necessary workplace safety requirements are addressed. Just because somebody is now based in the comfort of their home it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is exonerated of all obligations pertaining to their health and safety. Likewise, wellbeing and mental health are increasingly becoming a part of a wider story about the employee experience. Time spent setting up a correct policy now will likely yield dividends in the years to come.
Ultimately, both management and HR have been presented with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink the way the office works – potentially saving significant resources in terms of office rental costs, equipment and utilities. They also have the opportunity to tap into new tech solutions that will enable everybody to work better and on their own terms.
But none of this will happen by accident. Success in making the right kind of changes will require the fullest attention of those in charge of the business today.