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So why move to Hybrid Working post COVID? Trend or business imperative?

December 1, 2021

The Global Context

There have been many predictions that the COVID-19 pandemic would permanently change the world of work. According to a new global survey by Ipsos for the World Economic Forum, that’s just what has happened, with a majority of people across the world saying they want to keep working flexibly from home.

The survey among 12,500 employed people in 29 countries found that many have coped better with working from home than some feared. A two thirds majority want flexible working to become the norm. And almost a third (30%) said they would consider looking for another job if they were forced to go back to the office full time.

The survey also challenges a number of dire predictions about the effects of remote working. Experts warned people would miss their co-workers, be less productive and become burned out — but the survey finds only minority support for these views.

Just over half of those questioned were missing their colleagues, 64% said they were more productive with a flexible work schedule, and only a third complained of burn out. Only one in three said they felt disengaged from work when working remotely.

But a majority (66%) said employers should allow more flexible working in the future. Support for more flexibility was strongest among women, parents of school age children, adults under 35 and those with higher levels of education and income.The percentage demanding more flexible working was roughly similar among people with children aged under 17 (68%) and those with no children (63%). But not everyone in the survey wanted to work from home all the time.

Among those favouring flexible working, the average number of days per week people want to work from home is 2.5. People in China, Belgium and France are least keen, favouring just 1.9 days a week from home while people in India are the most enthusiastic, wanting 3.4 days.

The survey highlights the shift to remote working caused by COVID-19. Before the pandemic 53% said they mostly or always worked in an office. At the time of the survey, conducted between May and June 2021, that figure had dropped to 39%.

The extent to which people are working mostly or wholly from home, varies widely between nations, from at least half of people surveyed in South America, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa, to 21% in Russia and just 15% in China.

Before the pandemic fewer than a quarter (24%) worked mostly from home globally. Today that’s risen to almost two fifths (39%) with a further 22% working outside their homes but not in an office. Three quarters (76%) now working from home say it's a consequence of COVID-19.

What about Productivity?

This is one of my favourite questions, in the 35 years or more (yes I am that old!), that I have been supporting organisations to implement tele-working, Homeworking, Smarter working, Workstyle, New Ways of Working, Martini Working (yes it was a thing – Any place, anytime), Mobile Working, Agile Working, the descriptors list just goes on, and on…

Back to productivity, I have for years, replied to the productivity question, with “ So how do you manage productivity now?” With more than one senior executive team having to eventually admit they didn’t measure it, by team, or individual, just in finance (like a sales team sales, or calls answered in a call centre operation).

McKinsey have recently looked at this in a survey of senior executives with interesting results. The survey confirmed that during the pandemic most organisations have seen rises in individual productivity (with 58% agreeing and 31% citing no change) and improved team productivity (with 49% agreeing and 41% citing no change). Perhaps more importantly, against the ‘staff will just sit and watch day time TV’ lobby, only 11% say individual and 10% say team productivity has worsened.

So how are organisations implementing Hybrid working?

McKinsey also report most organisations have only begun to think through and articulate the specifics of how to carry out a more permanent mix of remote and on-site working for all roles that aren’t essential to perform on-site

Although nine out of ten executives envision a “hybrid model” going forward, most have at best a high-level plan for how to carry it out—and nearly a third of them say that their organisations lack alignment on a high-level vision among the top team. Alarmingly, 68% have no communicated plan in place, to manage the new Hybrid working approach, flying in the face of the old saying ‘Proper preparation prevents poor performance.’

Across organisations, executives already recognize the need to redesign processes to better support a remote workforce—with the majority having at least identified the processes that will require rethinking. But the most productive leaders are more likely to continually iterate and tweak their processes as the context shifts. As organisations look to test, or pilot the hybrid model, there is evidence that the test-and-learn approach to process and working practices redesign will be an important enabler.

We at EventMAP have been supporting a number of organisations to introduce ‘Hybrid’ working with both advice and software solutions to both re-assess the need for office space, and manage the space and how it is used. In particular we have used our Booker product to manage the operation of hot desks in the office, whilst still supporting the wider design of the office to support teams and ‘shared open desking’ (i.e. non bookable desks), as a part of the new workplace solution in support of Hybrid working.

If you need support in planning your way forward to the successful introduction of Hybrid working, or the software to enable your plans, please get in touch.

Peter Jones

Associate Director

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