A new norm is emerging, and it goes by the name of Hybrid. The return to the workplace for office-format employment might have changed drastically for many, as the majority of UK employers accept the mutual benefits of remote working arrangements. But many employers still have HQ office spaces, which some colleagues are eager to get back to, at least in some capacity.
In the post-lockdown landscape, it’s no longer just a debate between office working and home working – several new models have been cultivated. Some businesses already had, or have since acquired, flex spaces or local hubs, particularly where their workforce is geographically dispersed. These local hubs or flex spaces might be fixed locations, or they could be ad hoc arrangements (such as hotel facilities). So the concept of hybrid working encompasses many different models and formats, each with pros and cons.
In our recent LinkedIn poll, we asked what working arrangement people prefer: home, office or a hybrid; you can see the results here.
What are the characteristics of each of these models, as well as the potential reservations, and how can they be mitigated? And what role does your intranet Intranet play as the single source of truth?
Mostly or entirely office-based
Has been the conventional working arrangement for professional employment for decades, is the most known format to most people, and workers benefit from being provided with work facilities and equipment that otherwise might not be easily accessible.
- The downsides: fewer home-working opportunities, which is not ideal for employees wanting or needing a work/life balance. Do employees feel trusted and empowered? Does travelling into an office every work day bring out the best in every worker? Do the costs of commuting impact on workers negatively? How to juggle the demands of life with demands of the job. Also, it restricts recruitment and the talent pool to just the commutable vicinity.
- Upsides: is this arrangement overall better for team synergy? Certain roles are easier and more effective in an office environment, or rely upon certain facilities.
- What about your Intranet? Is it a conventional internal site, typically only accessed from desktops or work laptops? Many workers may not visit their intranet on a daily basis if their programs and tools are on their desktops or shared drives, and information is readily at hand in the office.
Mostly office with regional hub/flex spaces
An emerging trend where the workforce is nationally distributed; local hubs might be readily available, or be on an ad hoc basis.
- The downsides: there is still an emphasis on office presenteeism, so is it as beneficial as it appears? Is there a risk that everyone just defaults to the traditional mindset and doesn’t bother with the hubs, or providing adequate knowledge/resources to those workers? Is it cost-effective?
- The upsides: allows for wider recruitment opportunities, as the talent pool is not restricted by commuting links, which equally frees up colleagues to live further afield from the main office. It’s a step in the direction of flexible working, and could be great for specific projects, whilst still retaining a centralised HQ.
- What about your Intranet? It becomes a reflection of the local hub format, particularly where it is utilised for projects. It needs to be accepted as a true knowledge centre, to ensure everyone doesn’t default to office/HQ-centric behaviours and neglect the hubs, or not upload knowledge to the Intranet. The hub workers would likely be more reliant on the Intranet than the HQ Office workers. Features such as integration with your other systems and utilising Communities would help ensure hub workers are able to be as efficient as their HQ counterparts.
Moving towards a value-driven benefit output rather than measuring colleagues by the hours and minutes. Harnessing the most open talent pool, modern thinking and progressive management techniques.
- Downsides: how to go about equipping all colleagues correctly when there is no centralised office facility. Colleagues become at risk of burnout or feeling isolated when they lose that physical team dynamic. Some managers might find it difficult to gauge performance or keep an eye on employee wellbeing. Some colleagues find their cost of living – such as water, heating, amenities etc – increases when they are home all day. Employees are also responsible for things that their employer would previously look after, e.g. their Wifi connectivity, which can be unreliable and leave them disconnected.
- Upsides: likely to be the most cost-effective option, where employers can surrender office spaces, and colleagues have lower commuting costs. Colleagues feel trusted and empowered to work in the manner that suits them, the times that work for their lives, and in the location of their choosing. Better for equal opportunities and diversity, such as parents juggling childcare, disabled employees who find commuting difficult, and people with personal commitments that need balancing. Can also support international mobility, because people can now work for employers in entirely different countries.
- What about the Intranet? It has become a replacement for your office. Must be representative of your core values and brand identity, so colleagues still feel embedded. Accessed daily from an array of devices, colleagues rely upon the Intranet to be the centralised and singular source of truth, and to equip them completely to do their jobs, with no physical support from their peers.
Combination of all three
Balance or choice of the different options; it could be up to the employees or employer which is utilised the most, in which ratio and with which frequency. One example: it’s the employee’s individual choice whether to work from home or in local hubs, with an organised monthly meet-up at the main office. Meanwhile some workers are based in the office most of the time, working from home or a hub occasionally.
- Downsides: not as cost-effective for employers. For colleagues, the more introverted or “behind the scenes” teammates risk being overlooked or disappearing into the ether compared to the office/hub colleagues who err on the side of visibility, or whose roles are naturally more prominent. Could home workers find themselves left out of conversations? Or feel a pressure to choose certain working options against their personal choice? Also, how comfortable are managers in terms of supporting their teams, and ensuring adequate role performance?
- The upsides: if employees can choose which suits them best for their personal work style, personality type or nature of role, this could help with employee retention and job satisfaction. Good for wellbeing, and if colleagues feel trusted are they then more innovative and better performers? There’s also an argument that it could help with equal opportunities, if the employees’ locations, projects and personal requirements are taken into consideration.
- The Intranet: must be able to balance the different models and keep everyone on an even playing field. Likely to be accessed from mobile devices much more, so must be optimised and accessible. Take into consideration the tools that the hub or home workers require to keep them on a par with office colleagues. Communication becomes key on a day to day basis, so integrate your comms tools such as Teams or Yammer, and document-sharing ensures everyone is equally informed. A digital workspace built with user-led designs and clear journeys to ensure everyone can find what they need regardless of device, location or time of day.
Ultimately, only you can decide which model works best for you and your team. Whatever you choose, it should bring out the best of all worlds, and be beneficial for both sides. It can take a little trial and error to find the right balance; it’s vital for employers to listen to their workforce, and ask for regular opinions and feedback on what is working well and what isn’t. The Intranet is that listening tool for two-way conversations and feedback loops. It also enables you to detect what isn’t being said aloud, such as what documents are being read, and search terms. Ultimately, it can play a major role in supporting your colleagues to be efficient, satisfied, innovative and diverse.