For many businesses, hybrid working will be the 'new normal'. During the pandemic, many people got to experience the benefits of working from home for the first time, while employers could see the impact on productivity.
As many as 83% of people will want to make hybrid working a long-term solution. However, this won't be practical or even possible for some firms, which may mean you have to disappoint your workforce by turning down such requests.
But this comes with its own challenges. In today's hyper-competitive environment, it may be easy for unhappy employees to look elsewhere at companies that can offer the hybrid roles they seek. So what can you do to mitigate the impact of rejecting hybrid working and ensure that you're able to offer alternatives that keep employees happy and productivity high?
Reasons not to adopt hybrid working
A good first step is to make sure that everyone understands why hybrid working may not be possible or desirable. If you can communicate this effectively, you can limit any resentment about the decision.
One common reason for avoiding hybrid work is to ensure fairness across your business. It may often be the case that while there are some roles that can be performed equally well at home, there’ll be other positions that require a physical presence in the office. For example, IT workers will often need to be on site.
Anu Madgavkar, a partner with the McKinsey Global Institute, suggests that 50% to 60% of work across different occupations needs to be done in a site-specific way. And if other employees are allowed to adopt hybrid working, this can create a 'two-track' culture within an organization that means some employees feel more connected to the company than others.
This could also foster unconscious bias where managers favor those who are physically present for promotions or other benefits. This may also harm firms' equality efforts, as some studies have suggested that females are far more likely to embrace hybrid working than males.
These obstacles aren't insurmountable, but they require a great deal of effort and investment, so many businesses may feel they're better served by avoiding the issue altogether.
Options to consider in place of hybrid workplaces
If you've decided hybrid working isn't suitable for your organization, consider these working arrangements and you'll be well on your way to keeping employees satisfied and still having an environment fit for a more flexible future.
1. Flexible working hours
Flexible working hours that enable people to stagger their start and finish times and set hours that are more convenient to them - within reason - helps employees fit their job around their working lives. This may be especially beneficial for working parents who have to make school runs, or for people with longer commutes who want to avoid heavy rush hour traffic.
As well as flexible start and finish times, a flexitime approach can enable more freedom on a day-to-day basis, as it can allow employees to work fewer hours on certain days, as long as the time's made up.
2. Job sharing or part-time opportunities
Providing opportunities for part-time work - especially by job-sharing, where two or more employees take on one role between them - isn't just good for offering flexibility. It can also help reduce stress and relieve some of the burden people feel when they're under a lot of pressure. Sharing the workload can also improve collaboration and lead to new ideas and solutions for problems.
3. Encouraging annual leave
Tackling presenteeism continues to be a major focus for HR managers, as this can lead to issues such as stress and burnout. However, refusing hybrid working roles can give the impression that a culture of being in the office as often as possible is expected, so you need to counter this.
Be sure you're doing everything you can to encourage people to take leave they’re entitled to. This can include letting employees buy annual leave should they need it, or being more flexible in how time off is booked - for example by reducing the lead time required or using a single system that all employees can access.
4. Annual hour schemes
Similar to flexitime, but more formalized and long-term, structuring your business around 'annual hours' helps employees find a system that works for them. This specifies how many hours an employee is expected to work over a year, but leaves it largely up to them how they allocate this. This may work better in more creative roles and those without frequent, rigid deadlines.
This could, for instance, allow people to work more compressed hours, perhaps working for four ten-hour days and taking a three-day weekend instead of the more traditional eight hours a day Monday to Friday. This lets people find a pattern that works for them.
5. Other workplace perks
There are a wide variety of workplace perks you can embrace to make the office a more appealing place to be. From free coffee and fruit to travel cards to help with commuting costs, or in-office activities like games stations or chillout areas, if you can offer compelling reasons to come to the office, you can often get many hybrid working enthusiasts on board.