Covid - The Hybrid Office

Bolstered by a truly amazing vaccine rollout, and notwithstanding a couple of potential glitches this week, the country is forging ahead with its roadmap out of lockdown. It still seems however that most businesses haven’t really got to the bottom of what the workplace will look like. The shape that “The New Normal” will take continues to be a subject of wide-ranging debate.

The effect of lockdown has been very different for different businesses and industries. There has been a wealth of stories about businesses that have decided to do away with their office space altogether after realising that, with staff now working from home, they really don't need the expense.

On the other extreme, there is almost a desperation to bring employees back into a central workplace and resume some more traditional ways of working.

There’s not going to be a “one-size-fits-all” here and organisations will need to establish what works best for them in terms of productivity whilst remaining sympathetic to the wishes of their employees and also attractive to new recruits in the future. There are some common points of consideration however:

  • For many employees, working from home has been a positive experience and a high proportion wish to continue doing so, at least partially
  • Others find working from home a challenge both in terms of their own productivity and their health and wellbeing, in particular their mental health
  • For business, there are the potential benefits of cost savings whilst endearing employee satisfaction by allowing continued working from home
  • Working from home puts new strains on business just as maintaining a safe working environment will, both threatening organisational culture

A compromise seems to be on the cards for most organisations and so it’s very likely that a lot of businesses will adopt some form of hybrid approach; a solution whereby staff can mix and match their time spent in the workplace or at home. Notwithstanding, we predict that we will be see a high volume of flexible working requests over the coming months and businesses may find that keeping everyone happy may take some not inconsiderable planning.

When contemplating requests to continue working from home, we think there are some significant advantages to working in the office that should not be overlooked:

  • The transmission of ideas and information, almost by osmosis, that only happens when people share space and time together
  • Instantaneous communication; being able to simply swivel your chair to ask a colleague a simple question rather than having to organise a zoom call or send an email
  • The creative space of the watercooler or coffee machine that often ignites ideas when otherwise distant colleagues can communicate
  • The advantage reading the body language and visual clues that others often give when holding in-person meetings enabling individuals to judge their colleagues’ true reactions when ideas are floated
  • Fairer meeting outcomes that aren’t dominated by the person who takes charge over screen based meetings
  • Spontaneous communication of thoughts and ideas

Remote working also poses huge challenges to new recruits. Understanding the culture of an organisation is usually learned through experience, by watching and shadowing others to see “how things are done around here”. Having to ask questions from a colleague who might actually be a complete stranger, may not come easy. Furthermore, having every question committed to email, and thereby creating an instant audit trail, may create hesitancy in asking quite pertinent questions or simple asks that would usually be done across the desk.

Business leaders need to carefully consider what the shape of there workplaces will mean to the ability of their employees to be able to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. The draw of cost saving may be easily outweighed by the positive effects that spending time with people brings.

Returning to the workplace will be part of the content of our forthcoming breakfast club on 1st April. You can book you place at https://hrchampions.co.uk/events/event/208/HR-&-Employment-Law-Update--Online-1st-April

And if you have any questions raised by the points here, as usual we are available for support on 01451 331331 or via email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.