The Future of Working

2020 has been a year for the history books, an eye-brow raiser and it’s left us reevaluating the way that we live our lives. For many of us working remotely, the question on our lips is – How will work work in the future? 

 

Covid-19 has proven to many businesses that they can continue to prosper even while working from home, but is remote working a sustainable option? 

 

Questions tend to raise other questions… How can I keep a company culture while my team is separated? Is remote working practical for all my employees? How can I support my team without seeing them?

 

Soon we are spiralling down the office vs. wfh rabbit hole. But what if there was another option? As the year draws to a close, the answer to these questions may well be on the horizon in the form of

 

“Hybrid Culture”

It sounds fancy doesn’t it? 

 

‘Hybrid’ refers to co-existence and (excuse the pretension) harmony.  Two terms I’m sure any team would be happy to be described by.

 

A recent study from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that nearly 67% of 2000 UK employees who have been working remotely since Covid-19 would like to share their time between the office and home. 82% of people said that they felt trusted by their employer to work from home and 78% felt more valued than before the crisis. 

 

However, better is not always better for everyone, and 79% of employees reported having feelings of loneliness and anxiety brought on by confused distinctions between work and home. 

 

So then, the next logical step in the future of working is to create a Hybrid Culture in your team by using a Hybrid Office

 

What is a Hybrid Office? 

It does sound a bit strange doesn’t it – a bit matrix. 

 

The concept is simple, a hybrid office is a shared office space, or an office time-share (if you prefer that term.) Essentially, a hybrid office is a flexible office- perhaps you have the office only two or three times a week, or a rolling contract, or a contract you can pause when you see fit. This way, the members of your team who would prefer to go into the office to work can, while those who prefer working from home can continue to do so. 

 

As an employer, the well being of your team is core to the success of the business as a whole (as you well know.) Though it may seem frivolous considering the current economic climate to pay for an office space two or three times a week, it’s important to consider the different demographics within your team. The BCG study showed that younger employees (18-34) struggled with loneliness and anxiety when working from home due to lack of space and support, while the older employees with families were more likely to report distractions of over an hour. 

 

The flexibility of a shared office space means that your team will be able to benefit from the best of both worlds. You will have a base to receive post, hold meetings and invite guests too, while also having a space available for your employees that might need the office.

 

Keeping A Team Culture

For many businesses the idea of Hybrid Culture threatens the company cultures they have spent so long nurturing. Here in London we are blessed with accessibility, to social events, professional events and external activities; happy hour, coffee catch-ups, even book clubs. The hybrid model doesn’t rule out any of these events as possibilities for your team, but with independent working at its core- these might be in low attendance. 

 

The trick is perseverance and trust. DGen has predicted that by 2030 27% of the workforce in European cities will either have the option to work remotely or will leave larger cities and only 14% of workers report wanting to be in the office five days per week. Work is changing, but your culture doesn’t have too. 

 

Trusting your employees to work remotely or return to a shared workspace, will improve your relationship with them and persevering with virtual social events will support this trust. A great way to tackle the adverse effects of remote work, such as pressure on at home relationships – be it with a partner or a flatmate- is to involve those people in your virtual events. Now some of your team are at home, the divide between working and relaxing can be a challenge. Involving your employees family and friends in the occasional work drinks will relax tensions in this area. 

 

A good way to encourage your employees into your shared office space, is to leave incentives. Make flexible working fun by requiring each team that is in the office to leave a riddle for the next employee who might come in, make a competition for who has solved the most riddles! Even offer a prize.  Of course this challenge can also be communicated over Slack, which, if you haven’t already invested in it, will be essential to a successful hybrid workforce.

 

Well, that’s all well and good, but what about onboarding? How can you effectively integrate a new starter into your team, when you are all apart from one another? Again, it’s all in the one on ones – try a buddy system, assign your new starter a buddy and offer them a few days in the office with some of the team. It won’t be enough to rely on ‘everyone meeting at some point’ if Hybrid Culture is truly here to stay. If you would like more tips on onboarding, check out ‘Onboarding in the Dark Ages.’

 

Best Practice for Partially Remote Working

I’m sure that over the past year of being apart from your team, you have read many articles about how to best approach remote working. I thought I would throw my two pence in with my top three tips :

 

1. Equal Information

 

Back at the beginning of the Covid-19 Crisis in March, I travelled back to my family home in Cornwall. I felt disconnected from my life in London and my team at work, but one thing that brought me back to them was a weekly update that was sent out to the team. This weekly video outlined everything that we needed to know about the business, from the finance goals to marketing efforts. Being trusted with this information and aware of the company’s situation gave immense peace of mind. We also engaged in a weekly FriYay (tradition here at Runway East) over zoom, where we all had a drink and talked about what our week’s been like. These zoom meetings were essential to employee well being at the time, because it reminded us that we are both friends and colleagues.

 

2. Development Culture

 

Development Culture will walk hand in hand with the demographics within your team. The younger members of your team, perhaps new graduates, are bright-eyed, bushy tailed and (I’m sure) eager to learn. Putting development into the employee’s hands will not only encourage them to upskill, but also support them in their wider career goals. 2020 has felt very still, and by promoting development culture within your team- be it in the form of an online course or extra responsibility- will help both employer and employee to feel they are maintaining momentum. 

The older members of your team can even mentor your less experienced colleagues, reaffirming their expertise and increasing employee to employee relationships.

 

3. Over-Communication

 

How is over-communication different from equal information? This distinction, though slim, makes a huge difference in terms of responsibility and productivity. Over-Communication usually means repetition (if we’re thinking in terms of poetic devices.) The repetition of a task, or of a supportive statement drills the information into the listener… even if they might be quasi-listening. 

 

Over communication when remote working is communication that is both written and verbal, audio and video, email and message. You don’t need to ring your employee’s three times a day to monitor their performance. Instead put the onus on them, inform your employee or team of your expectations for the week, month and quarter- then share this information with the whole team. This way you will see peer work within your hybrid workforce, wherein the work has been over-communicated not just to the individual but their colleagues. Meaning that when a job is done successfully your entire team can cheer on those responsible. Keeping your team close, productive and active while they adjust to the new normal.

 

Thoughts?

 

So then what do you think? I think the evidence is pretty astounding, and I’m thankful that 2020 has changed the way we work. Hybrid Culture, I believe, is the future of work. Working with a focus on the work/life balance will increase mental well-being, which in turn will increase productivity. 

 

Peaked your interest? Runway East offers flexible workspaces across London. With locations in Soho, London Bridge and Finsbury Park we are looking to facilitate your Hybrid Culture with timeshare offices, shared office spaces, private offices, dedicated desks and hot-desking. To find out more here or book a tour to find the right space for you!

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