Hybrid work, while initially an anomaly, has now settled in to be a permanent fixture in the working world. With 90% of business leaders opting for a hybrid working environment and 75% of survey respondents believing that flexible working models will become standard practice within the next three years, the time to “wait and see” has long since passed (“Making Hybrid Work Human”, The Economist, 2022). It is imperative that business leaders put their hybrid strategies in place— but how, exactly, should that be done?

For many, hybrid work is new and unexplored territory. As a concept, flexible work is still in its infancy and numerous challenges and uncertainties remain, including which hybrid model to use, deciding the balance between structure and autonomy in your organisation, and how to introduce the chosen hybrid work system to your people. We’ll be taking a look at these three challenges below, keeping in mind that the upcoming KR Hybrid Workplace Conference will be exploring these and additional themes in much greater depth on 30-31 August 2022.

Hybrid Models:

While there is no established “one-size-fits-all” model for hybrid work, Daniel Davis from the international design company Hassell has highlighted four possible models that you can consider for your business today: 

  1. Clubhouse. Employees visit the office when they need to collaborate and return to do their focused work. The office serves as a social club.
  2. Activity based working.  Employees work from an office but don’t have an assigned desk. Instead, they spend their day moving between a variety of workspaces, such as meeting rooms, phone booths, hot desks and lounges.
  3. Hub and Spoke. Rather than travelling to a large office in the central business district, employees work from smaller satellite offices in the suburbs and neighbourhoods closer to where they live.
  4. Fully virtual. Employees work from home or anywhere else they prefer (Davis, 2021).

 

Balance, Autonomy and Structure for Hybrid Employees

Remote work has shifted the balance between structure and autonomy considerably, and leaders are challenge with rethinking their approach in the new work environment. Reisinger, Sephton and Fetterer identified three autonomy scenarios in the workplace  (2022) : 

  1. High Autonomy. “I have full autonomy to choose where and when I work with the ability to come into the office if I want.”
  2. Limited Autonomy: “I am required to work remotely full time and can choose to work anywhere but the office.” or “There is a minimum number of days required in the office, but I can choose which days to come in.”
  3. Low Autonomy: “I am required to work in office full time” or “I work from home and the office, but the days are chosen for me.”

Additionally, the Jabra Hybrid Ways of Working 22 Global Report (Reisinger, Sephton, & Fetterer, 2022) shows that employees with full autonomy to choose where and when they work unanimously report a better work experience than those with limited or low autonomy. In some cases, the score was more than 20% higher than their low autonomy counterparts.

 

How to introduce your new system:

Rebecca Zucker suggests a number of strategies for organisations to shift its culture to move to an asynchronous way for working in her recent article in the Harvard Business Review. These are as follows:

  • Start at the top. Leaders need to model working asynchronously.
  • Focus on Outcomes. Identifying clear goals and outcomes in order for employees to focus on desired results or shift to – “Here’s all the work to be done” to “Here’s the outcomes we want”.
  • Clarifying which tasks and outcomes are better conducted synchronously.
  • Experiment, assess and adjust. Making the shift to asynchronous work is not a “once-and-done” event, but iterate process that will likely need adjustments and fine tuning over time to successfully make the change.

 

Designing Hybrid Working practices that work optimally, will be a challenge for years to come. There are far more variables involved in a Hybrid model than an in-office only or a one hundred percent remote option. It is important to upskill and reskill as leaders to ensure a smooth adoption of new practices. Here at Knowledge Resources, we are continuously researching and designing products and services that will provide the HR fraternity and corporate leaders with Best Practices and answers to the workplace challenges of today and tomorrow, and the hybrid world is no different.

For insights into how you can better navigate the new, more flexible working world, join us for the following events:

  1. Our Designing and Managing Hybrid Workplaces Second Annual Conference will take place on 30-31 August 2022. Contact tina@knowres.co.za 
  2. Designing Fit-For-Purpose Organisations Online Workshop on 14-15 June 2022. Contact katie@knowres.co.za

References

(2022, March 14). Business Day.

Davis, D. (2021, June 03). 5 Models for the Post-Pandemic Workplace. Retrieved from hbr.org: https://hbr.org/2021/06/5-models-for-the-post-pandemic-workplace

Making Hybrid Work Human. (2022, May). Retrieved from Economist Impact: https://impact.economist.com/projects/make-hybrid-human/

Quinn, R. E. (2004). Building the Bridge As You Walk On It: A Guide for Leading Change. Jossey Boss .

Reisinger, H., Sephton, P., & Fetterer, D. (2022, May 13). Balancing Autonomy and Structure for Remote Employees. Retrieved from hbr.org: https://hbr.org/2022/05/balancing-autonomy-and-structure-for-remote-employees

Zucker, R. (2021, July 27). Breaking Free from a “9 to 5” Culture. Retrieved from hbr.org: https://hbr.org/2021/07/breaking-free-from-a-9-to-5-culture