The last year has seen changes in businesses around the world in ways which we could not have foreseen.

As we come closer to the end of the pandemic, businesses are focusing on the future work arrangements for their employees.

So, what does the future of working look like?

Working from home

The percentage of people working from home is expected to double in 2021. Although the general thought was that there would be some increase in permanent remote working, it was not expected to double from pre-pandemic levels.

Many businesses are embracing this trend as they have seen an increase in productivity. On average, an employee who works remotely is more likely to put in 40+ hours, as they enjoy what they do when compared to onsite workers. This should come as no surprise when you think of the absence of the daily commute and the flexibility to manage their own schedule.

Remote working has also seen better perceived morale, engagement, trust, and retention.

What are the challenges?

Isolation – Regular human interaction can be taken for granted until you do not have an office full of people to be around.

Communication Issues – Without the face-to-face communications it can be difficult to sense intent in messages between managers and employees. It can be harder to understand an email message than a quick conversation in the office, especially if you do not know each other very well. It is easy for an employee to assume negative intent when you are saying something they assume is a threat (such as offering feedback, asking questions, etc.)

Reduced Visibility – When working remotely, employees can feel like they miss out on opportunities to connect with their colleagues and managers.

A survey of remote employees by job site Indeed found that 37% of those surveyed believed that remote working can lead to reduced visibility and less access to company leadership.

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Hybrid

Hybrid Model – Allows some employees to work remotely while others work onsite at the business premises.

Within your business, you may have teams or departments split between working remotely and working-in-house. You could have your admin team or finance team working remotely whilst your production team work onsite every day.

Crucially, you should note that a hybrid working model does not mean employees split their time working remotely and at the office. That is a flexible working model.

Employees can work to their strengths and increase productivity. Some of your employees will be more productive working remotely whilst others thrive in a community office setting.

You could also benefit from lower overheads. With less people in the business this means fewer costly expenses. You may even downsize to smaller premises with less rent.

You may be seen as a more attractive employer by better accommodating employees with families, offering better work/life balance.

Remote working can also be more inclusive as it gives people with disabilities or medical conditions the chance to work comfortably while they are still integral to the business.

What are the challenges?

Onsite employees could be seen to get preferential treatment or faster promotions because managers can see what they are up to every day and easily interact with them. Remote workers could directly or indirectly be disadvantaged and overlooked.

Remote workers could feel a sense of disconnection from the in-house team and they may also miss out on perks like lunches, birthday parties and group get-togethers, which all help to build team relationships, a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

In addition, communication requires more focus and careful consideration to ensure remote workers are being kept up to date on the latest targets, team update, business plans, etc.

Office/Onsite

Many businesses still believe that working from an office is better for their culture and values, their workflow, communications, career advancement and wellbeing.

When employees are working in an office, it can be easier for their managers to see their productivity, dedication, and thoughtfulness. It gives employees the chance to showcase their skills and leadership qualities and build strong relationships with peers and leaders.

When you spend time with your peers and managers, that social foundation makes it easier to voice your ideas and dissent.

Many professional roles require a high degree of collaboration. Having that team together on site with free-flowing interactions encourages quick and spontaneous idea sharing.

Teamwork is also improved, particularly when you physically work alongside your co-workers, as it is easier to step in and offer help if they are struggling with a piece of work and vice versa.

What are the challenges?

Work life balance – Working from an office will involve commute time; this can sometimes significantly extend an employee’s working day.

Post-pandemic, this may be even more of a challenge given the number of people who have reportedly escaped the city during the early lockdowns, opting for the country life, resulting in even longer commutes.

Limited flexibility – Employees must be at the office by a certain time and leave when the office is closing. Employees could feel resentful as they have little or no flexibility. They do not have the option to do work in the evenings when the kids have gone to bed, enabling them to have a family dinner together and finish later, for example.

Higher sickness rates – With more people sharing a work environment, there is increased chance of the spread of colds, flu etc.

So how do you successfully support staff in different settings?

Establishing and maintaining effective working relationships is key to any business’ success, whatever the setting.

Firstly, you should create policies that benefit and are applicable to both ‘working from home’ employees and in-house employees alike, even though they may have slight differences.

Consider what you would value most if you were working remotely versus onsite. Think about how to create a positive working environment where employees feel valued no matter where they work.

Agree ways of working. Make sure every team member is clear about how you will work together, how you keep each other updated, and how frequently.

Review short term goals with your team regularly and adjust as needed. Have scheduled one-to-one meetings with all your team whether onsite or remotely and keep this consistent in order to maintain structure and continuity for all.

Set clear and concise expectations and trust your team. Make sure both parties are clear about mutual expectations and then trust them without the need to be micromanaged.

Keep your calendar visible and remain accessible whether on site or virtually.

It’s good to talk! Agree to check in on remote workers’ wellbeing and keep workflow on track. You cannot stop by their desk so do it regularly via Teams or Zoom.

Tailor your feedback, as it is harder to read intent on emails or messages. People can be more sensitive if they are feeling isolated, so take this into account when talking or writing to them.

Foster good team relationships with in-house and remote working employees. Arrange for team meetings to take place with all involved.

More and more businesses are using the hybrid way of working, and by 2025 it is estimated that 22% of us will be working remotely, which is a mind blowing 87% increase to the number of remote workers prior to the pandemic!

Whichever way your business works, the employees you have in your business are instrumental to its success.

With the correct planning and organisation, it is totally possible to make each model work and enable your employees to be productive, dedicated, and motivated.

For information on Policies and Guides, Strategic Planning, Performance Management, Recruitment and Onboarding, please contact a member of the MAD-HR team today.