2023- Is hybrid working now the norm?

Is hybrid working now the norm?

The technology revolution – which was already in progress, though accelerated by COVID – has seen how and where we work completely transformed over the past few years. But where are the majority of organisations at the moment, are their people back in the office, still mostly remote, or some combination of the two?

The answer is of course ‘it very much depends’. Organisational culture, the nature of the work, how roles are defined, and the circumstances of employees all have a part to play in how flexible a company’s work location policy might be. While it is possible to generalise, and highlight broad trends, each organisation’s approach – in terms of employee policy and workspace strategy – will always need to be tailored to support business objectives.

Back to the office

There hasn’t been the wholesale return to the office that some were predicting, and indeed may have been hoping for. Certainly it has been reported that in-office working reached ‘a new high’ in September this year, but when you consider that this figure is actually a daily national average of 32.6%, it is perhaps not all that indicative of occupancy rates returning to pre-pandemic levels. Even when we consider the figure in the context of the British Council for Offices’ previous research, which suggested 60% occupancy was the norm, we’re only marginally over half the previous level of office working.

Some business leaders have been trying to reverse pandemic remote-working habits – we all read the newspaper stories about the CEO of Goldman Sachs calling homeworking ‘an aberration’, William Rees-Mogg’s notes left on empty civil servant desks, and most recently Elon Musk’s edict to his new Twitter employees regarding their mandatory 40-hour week in the office. 

But for every office-orientated leader there is another organisation with an entirely different approach.

Hybrid working strategies

Hybrid working certainly presents challenges, as we all navigate our way through new ways of organising ourselves to work. Quoted in The Guardian, Gartner research director Alexia Cambon explained that some businesses are “trapped in a vicious cycle. The majority of organisations I speak to are trying to market the office as a place for collaboration, community and connection. When you tell your employees that the unique value proposition of the office is other people, but go into the office and no one is there, you’re setting them up for disappointment.” She went on to argue that ignoring the shift in employee attitudes to hybrid could be creating another problem. “All the data says that if you rescind flexible working, employees will leave. Flexibility is seen not as a perk, but as a right.”

Of course, the answer is to get that collaborative workspace right, and to ensure that hybrid working policies are fit for purpose – evolving them in consultation with the people who will be working to them is the approach advised by researchers at the University of Leeds’ The Future Workspace project, whose latest report Where is Your Office Today? offers some detailed insight on hybrid working trends and signposts how to develop the best policies and practices.

Engagement leads to success

This general conclusion is not really news to us. We’ve been conducting workspace discovery processes since we launched; consultations with stakeholders right across each organisation are invaluable in accurately working out the need, which can then be fulfilled by the right solution. The importance of engagement with staff can’t be emphasised enough when it comes to optimising the physical and digital workspaces, as well as policies and practices.

To find out more about how we help support organisations’ objectives, whether they are looking to go fully remote, embracing hybrid working, or are in the process of tempting every worker back into the office, drop us a line.

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