COVID-19 has changed the way we live, breathe and work.
With an estimated 8.4 million people working from home during the pandemic, the 9-5pm, the daily office commute and the team-based tea rounds were replaced with video calls, instant messaging and flexible working hours.
And workers have clearly relished this new way of working: 58% of employees would rather look for a new job than go back to the 9-5pm office grind.
But, working from home on a full-time basis brings its own set of challenges. With cries about feeling lonely, being unproductive and finding it difficult to collaborate, 73% of UK workers have stated that they would prefer to split their time between the office and home: Otherwise known as hybrid-working.
“Six in 10 (60%) favour a hybrid arrangement [and] want the flexibility to drop into the office and co-work with their team when it suits them.” – StartUps Magazine
In response to this, major corporations like Unilever, Twitter and Square are planning to normalise flexible working and allow their staff to work from home and from the office if they wish.
But, what about small businesses, young companies and start-ups? Those that rely on a brick-and-mortar office space to encourage collaboration and agility amongst their team: Can hybrid-working work for them?
What is hybrid working and how does it work?
Pre-COVID, employees viewed working from home as a novelty, an exception to the norm: An occasional necessity or perk.
So, when COVID stopped people from travelling into the office, employees across the UK embraced the chance to ditch the commute, wear their pyjamas to meetings and put some washing on during their lunch break.
But after 12 to 18 months of being chained to a desk at home, loneliness and an inability to be 100% productive during work hours but then completely switch off after work means that only 20% of workers now want to work from home full-time. But at the same time, only 7% want to work in the office full-time.
So, what’s the answer?
Hybrid working is a hybrid of office and home working. It gives workers the opportunity to visit the office a few times a week and work remotely for the rest of the week.
Companies like Apple, Facebook and Amazon are leading the pack when it comes to incorporating hybrid working into their work practices, but how does hybrid-working actually work?
How does hybrid-working work?
“More and more innovative businesses are searching for ways for people to collaborate in person if only a few times each week.” – Escalon
Companies that are planning to adopt hybrid-working practices need to make sure they have two things in place:
- A bricks-and-mortar space for employees to meet and collaborate.
This office or workspace should be seen as the central hub for in-person communication. But some companies are taking this a step further and opening up several co-working spaces across different locations to help employees with their commute and give them an extra level of flexibility. Some companies are asking their employees to confirm when they’ll visit the office each week, some are allocating set days for employees to come in, and some are allowing their employees to pick time slots as and when it suits them.
- A digital infrastructure to support remote interactions.
This digital infrastructure needs to facilitate activities like video conferencing, document sharing and instant chat to make it as easy and as natural as possible for employees to collaborate online. All-in-one cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Teams that allow workers to share and update documents in real-time, schedule meetings, make calls, send and receive emails and chat are popular solutions for remote-based or hybrid-working companies.
But, although hybrid-working is a cross between full-time remote-working and full-time office-based working, when we hear statements such as “remote work is a pure negative” from big guns such as Netflix and Goldman Sachs and stats like the below, it’s fair to question whether hybrid-working can really work. Especially for small companies and start-ups who perhaps don’t have the budget, culture or infrastructure in place to make it work:
- 35% miss their colleagues and the social side of work
- 30% feel disconnected from their team
- 24% experience feelings of loneliness and isolation
- 24% find their days are filled with pointless meetings and catch ups
So, is hybrid-working a feasible option? Is it worth it?
Let’s find out…
Is hybrid-working worth it for small businesses & start-ups?
Employees have spoken openly about enjoying the flexibility and lack of commute that remote working offers. But they’ve also expressed a desire to combine a few days at home with a few days in the office so they can collaborate with team members easier, retain their social connections and mitigate isolation and loneliness.
But what about their employers? How do company owners feel about this hybrid of office and home working?
There’s always been an underlying concern that working from home means a lack of oversight, structure and routine. This can sometimes translate into lower productivity levels, an under-motivated workforce and collaboration issues.
Whilst bigger corporations can probably swallow the cost of lower productivity levels, this spells disaster for young or small companies and start-ups.
So, do the benefits of hybrid-working outweigh these costly negatives?
3 big benefits of hybrid-working
You can hire anyone: Start-ups need the best people in their trade if they want to survive the first tumultuous years. By not being tied to a specific location, companies can cast their nets wider to catch the best talent possible. For example, you could hire an exceptional parent who can only work from 10am–2pm. Or employ a senior who only wants to work part-time but can accomplish things that might take 20-year-old over 30 hours to complete. You could potentially even hire from other countries: the world is literally your oyster.
“Hybrid workplaces can bring more resiliency to start-ups: Allowing good talent to work in different ways is helpful.” – Vouch
Increased employee satisfaction: Happy employees mean motivated employees. So, it pays to keep them satisfied. If you offer your employees the chance to work from home on a full or part-time basis, they’ll relish the freedom it gives them. They can now choose where they want to live and strike the perfect work-life balance. Not only that, but the savings they’ll make will blow them away. For instance, in one month of working from home, the average worker will save £120 per month in commuter costs, £47 on coffee and £62 on lunch. Parents will also save an additional £60 per month in childcare costs.
Better for the environment: With environment and sustainability at the forefront of everyone’s minds, there is increasing pressure on businesses – large and small – to step up to the plate and do their bit to control climate change. Hybrid-working gives companies the perfect opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint and promote sustainability. For instance, simply cutting down on the number of employees commuting to the office reduces the pressure on the environment significantly. If the office isn’t open as much either, energy, water and waste will be reduced.
An example of a small business that’s successfully adopted hybrid-working
The benefits of hybrid-working clearly outweigh the negatives, but how do other companies make it work?
Hybrid-working example: Myriad Associates
Myriad Associates, an R&D tax consultancy, has been a hybrid-workforce for a number of years, way before the pandemic. Their head office is based in Market Harborough, but they have employees based all over the world, from the USA and France to Surrey and Sussex. They’ve invested in Microsoft Teams to make sure all employees can collaborate and communicate easily, share documents via the cloud, sync diaries and make video calls from one, single platform. Employees can visit the office whenever they like which gives them flexibility, and each person is given complete autonomy over their work. Myriad Associates’ secret to making hybrid-working work is hiring the right people. Not only do their employees need to do the job well, but they also need to be accountable, trustworthy and tenacious. I should know, I’m one of them!