When it comes to hybrid working – part-time in the workplace and part-time remotely – you could say that coronavirus has enabled a great big experiment.
We’ll put our hands up and admit the data is somewhat chaotic and a little premature at the moment. Anyone attempting to make accurate predictions is still hampered by the surprising twists and turns of living through a pandemic. However, there is a common element to the data: hybrid working is increasing, and our attitudes towards it are shifting to becoming much more positive.
Albeit messed up by new COVID variants and winter imposing new COVID restrictions across much of the globe, one study revealed that by February 2021, 55% of employers expected a hybrid working model for their workforce. A Gartner study showed that 82% of employers intend to allow at least some remote working in the longer term.
It’s not just about convenience. It makes business sense. A study of 260 senior executives showed that remote workers “significantly improved” their productivity. What’s more, employees will even take a pay cut if their employer offers flexible working options.
In short – we’ve seen the awesomeness of remote working, and now we want to harness its benefits alongside the benefits of a unified workforce.
Two Workplaces, One Workforce
In very basic terms, this gives us two workplaces amongst our workforce: the home and the worksite.
Traditionally, even in the most flexible and forward-thinking organizations, these were seen as two distinct areas. Homeworking was about head-down undisturbed independent concentration with aside order of ‘doing the employee a favor.’ Office working was about collaboration and team projects while maintaining direct supervision. And the two didn’t mix.
If we’re going to have a hybrid model moving forwards, we need to blur the lines. We cannot divide the operations and approach of our workforces like this. We need the hybrid model to be consistent in both areas to the degree that they seamlessly become one. If the shift is here to stay, we need to learn and apply new approaches that bring out the benefits of remote working and the benefits of onsite working while creating a cohesive overall workforce.
Core to this is technology. Indeed, it’s the right technology that gives the workforce the business ‘center’ once a physical location. Taking cybersecurity for granted for a moment, technological platforms will enable organizations to have one central virtual workplace. Utilizing this, whether a whole team is physically in the same place or dispersed around the globe, will ensure consistency, efficiency, and productivity, regardless of where people are.
Take for example, your learning management system (LMS). While your LMS is already likely to make it possible for learners to access relevant training wherever they are, it must also evolve to serve certain types of classroom-based content in a way that doesn’t disadvantage your homeworking audience or your on-site audience.
We Have to Be One
What’s the pandemic is still doing its thing around us, what’s vital now is to embrace the future and move towards acceptance that we’re not just treading water, waiting to get back to how things were before.
Instead, we need to take the present time as an excellent training ground for learning how to make our hybrid workforce one single workforce for the future. We need to prioritize the introduction of technology to enable dispersed teams to collaborate, develop, and grow while promoting that technology’s uptake and usage for all employees.
A hybrid workforce needs to be a connected and centralized workforce. Technology makes that happen.