Beer gardens are open, we can finally get a haircut and seeing people ‘for real’ is back. But offices are somewhere in between. As businesses prepare for a post-pandemic future the debate of home, office or a bit of both is reaching its peak. There are companies on both sides of the argument; Spotify and Twitter have both announced enhanced remote working packages, whilst Amazon expects most employees to be back in the office by the Autumn.
Whichever side of the debate you stand on, we can all agree that workplaces won’t be the same; 90% of businesses are planning permanent changes. Many companies seem to be leaning towards a half-and-half approach, with ‘hybrid’ being the buzzword of the season. This year’s Microsoft Ignite event was laced with messages and updates focused on the hybrid work world, with new products such as Microsoft Viva entirely geared towards supporting and engaging employees wherever they are. This sentiment is shared outside of Microsoft, with almost three-quarters of businesses planning to implement some form of hybrid policy.
The key to moving forwards in this new world of work will be how new policies are enforced. Will ‘you must be in the office five days a week’ become ‘you must be in the office three days a week’? Or will it be down to employee choice?
A recent Zoom survey tells us that 35% of us prefer a strict all-office or all-remote work model, with more people preferring to work entirely from an office than entirely from home. However, the majority leaned towards a hybrid model (65%), with an almost even split between preference of time spent at home vs time spent in the office. What this really tells us is that employees want the choice.
For many, choice is the draw of remote working – having the option to work in the environment that suits them best, at a time that suits them best, whilst allowing more time for non-work-related activities. During the pandemic, that choice was removed. Remote working became a necessity, without many of the benefits. We couldn’t work from coffee shops or friends’ houses, we couldn’t break up the day with a gym class and we couldn’t separate work from home. Normal-world remote working will offer a lot more freedom than pandemic-world remote working. Those working from home for the first time under lockdown conditions will have had a less-than-optimal experience, which in some cases has led to a desire to return to the office.
But, even with improved remote working conditions, it isn’t for everyone. Working from home can be isolating, it isn’t compatible with everyone’s living conditions, and some simply perform better in an office environment. Plus for some things, like socialising and casual communication, face-to-face is often better.
The benefits of choice-driven hybrid working is that employees can choose what suits them based on their to-do list that day, the projects they’re working on even just their mood. Research shows that there are strong preferences towards home or office based on certain activities. Most of us prefer training and collaborating in person, whilst working at home is better for avoiding distractions and focussing for extended periods of time. An enforced hybrid model that may dictate which days employees must be in the office negates many of these benefits.
As hybrid working starts to become ‘the norm’, considering employee preference will be vital. There’s no doubt it will be difficult to create policies that suit both the business, and every individual. Enforcing an all-office, all-remote, or hybrid policy will always mean that someone is unhappy. Of course, it won’t be practical for every business to entirely allow employee choice – there must always be boundaries. Nor is it feasible or realistic to be able to keep every employee happy 100% of the time, but it’s important to try. With the rise of tools like Teams, more businesses have the infrastructure to support employee choice, allowing staff to work productively wherever they are based.
At Silicon Reef, we’re all about employee choice. When possible, we’re planning to reopen our offices and allow our teams to come in as and when they wish. Like many, we’ve missed seeing each other face-to-face, and are looking forward to catching up over a coffee rather than through a screen. If you need support in preparing for a hybrid workplace, get in touch.