Every working model has pros and cons. The hybrid workplace, however, is largely untested and we’re still only in the infant stages. So nobody really knows where this path will lead.
If media reports are anything to go by, the early signs of the hybrid workplace look encouraging. Don’t they always? However, other reports indicate that cracks are starting to appear.
A positive spin can be found in a BBC report that claims 84% of UK companies have continued hybrid working since the pandemic restriction lifted. This figure comes from a survey conducted by Chartered Institute of Management.
A national study tracking 300 SMEs, on the other hand, reveals a different story. In November 2021, 88% of UK companies had adopted hybrid working and 64% said it was working well.
Once Covid restrictions were lifted, the study performed by Grant Thornton, found that only 51% of companies involved continued with the hybrid workplace. The authors noted the drop indicated the hybrid working model for firms that had previously reported remote working was going well had decided not to retain the hybrid workplace because things had “gone downhill”.
The 49 per cent of firms that returned to the old normal confirmed the hybrid model was not a rip-roaring success. As a matter of fact, 19% confirmed they were struggling to effectively implement a hybrid workplace.
There could, of course, be several reasons for this. First of all, your business and its employees have to be suited for remote work. Secondly, employees need time to adopt new working practices. Hybrid working involves juggling office life with home life and will take a bit of time to combine the two worlds.
Thirdly, a hybrid model will only be effective if you have the right technologies in place. It would also be advantageous to have a team of IT support professionals that have years of experience and knowledge of deploying cloud-based technologies that facilitate hybrid working best practices.
However, there is always the chance that the hybrid model is simply not as good as mainstream media want us to believe. Our curiosity got the better of us so I thought I’d do some digging to determine the pros and cons of a hybrid workplace.
If you’re contemplating switching to the hybrid model, or if you’re looking for solutions that will help you to implement an effective hybrid workplace, the insights we provide in this article will help you to reach informed decisions.
Pros of Hybrid Workplace
Media reports indicate that employees enjoy the flexibility of mixing their time between the home and the office. There are certainly obvious gains here. With less commuting involved, travel expenses are reduced and people can spend more time with their family and friends.
Theoretically, having more freedom to choose where you work and when you work helps people to structure a work-life balance. If you dig deep enough, more than 50% of people say that working from home has made their work-life balance worse.
Again, this can be due to the nature of your business, how well employees manage their time and the lifestyle of the individual. For example, if your employees are close and most of their social life involves going for a beer and a meal after work, that’s obviously harder to arrange when they’re working from home.
This is another theoretical benefit that is propped up by speculation rather than hard data. For starters, we’re too early into hybrid working to determine what the mental and physical benefits will be.
The idea of mental well-being builds on employees having a healthy work-life balance. We can imagine that by reducing the hours of stress built up during a commute will, theoretically, do less damage.
Workers, however, have to manage their time well and not feel under pressure working from home. In the first months of Covid, more people were working longer hours because they were worried their boss might think they are slacking off. This attitude is not good for mental well-being.
If well-being is to become a benefit of the hybrid workplace, employees need to be able to manage their time and avoid a build-up of stress – not to mention irrational concerns and paranoia. Otherwise, putting in too many hours will lead to burn out which will diminish the long-term performance levels and availability of employees.
Time management tools and cloud-based productivity suites can be useful in helping remote employees and their managers to track work progress. IT professionals can also see when employees have been active.
Cloud-based tools also help to engage employees – which in turn, enhances mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Moreover, engaged employees are typically over 20% more productive and thus more profitable.
Researchers at Stanford found empirical evidence which claims that hybrid workers say they are about 9 per cent more productive working from home than they are when they’re working from the office.
Other media reports don’t give a precise figure (because there aren’t any) but speculate that people are more productive at home because there are fewer distractions than you find in an office.
This is probably true for some people. As a matter of fact, one of the major gripes people had about working in an office – even before the pandemic – was the number of distractions that interrupted their concentration.
When you bear in mind that it takes around 23 minutes to recover concentration levels, work environments with fewer distractions will, theoretically, improve productivity.
This is probably not true for work-from-home employees that have attention-seeking children, loud partners or noisy neighbours (or biscuits in the cupboard. Just saying).
It is also thought that people are probably less stressed working from home as well. With the pressure off, their cognitive function is sharper. Again this is speculation but the theory would be expected to stack up productivity levels.
But essentially, whether an individual is more productive in the home or in the office probably varies. It will largely depend on the individuals living circumstances, the number of distractions they do have or whether they actually work better amidst the buzz of a busy office.
Productivity levels will also depend on the quality of your remote working tools together with the speed and availability of their home network. Home Wi-Fi’s tend to be throttled by ISPs if there is an increase in usage.
The location in which an employee lives will also have a bearing on internet speeds and availability. County homes and other rural areas have notoriously slow internet. We’ve previously suggested installing Starlink Satellite is the best solution for rural homes with poor internet service.
IT professionals that have excellent knowledge in eliminating speed barriers that impair the fast running of Wi-Fi can also be beneficial. The IT professionals at Micro Pro perform a series of tests and checks to improve Wi-Fi bandwidth, reliability and performance.
Cons of Switching to a Hybrid Workplace
More Difficult For Distributed Workforce To Collaborate
The ability to collaborate on the same project with your teammates was always going to be a hurdle to overcome. Some CEOs are also concerned that remote working will defuse innovative ideas that might pop up in conversations among employees.
Some collaboration can be resolved with cloud-based solutions. Productivity suites such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace enable multiple colleagues to work on the same document stored in a central location.
When one person makes changes or suggestions to a document, a comment is recorded and made visible to other users to either accept, modify or reply to. It enhances collaboration whilst eliminating the issues that are synonymous with battling email attachments back and forth.
Teammates can also work on a document at the same time whilst having a live conversation. For example, let’s say four teammates in remote locations need to brainstorm. The best way to do this is to arrange a video conference, discuss their ideas and all contribute to the note-taking in real-time.
This way of working means that nobody is responsible for taking the minutes of the meeting and then having to type them up later – this also saves on productivity.
Managing Work Schedule and Workloads
Dividing the time between home and office requires careful management. If you’re anything like me, it can be easy to lose track of the days in a normal working week.
If you’re working three days at home and two days in the office, keeping track of your schedule can be a little bit tricky. Don’t be surprised when some people turn up for work late because they forgot they were supposed to be in the office but stayed in bed longer because they thought they were working from home.
More variation in a schedule calls for advanced time management and planning tools. Microsoft 365 has a raft of tools that enable people to stay on top of their schedule, and know where they have to be at what time and what they have to do.
Cloud-based tools such as Microsoft Planner, To Do, and Tasks help workers to stay focused on what is most important. The capacity to manage schedules from any device and location makes it easier to facilitate hybrid working.
Team managers can also streamline office management duties with Microsoft Bookings. The app enables you to organise the schedules of your team and reserve desks and meeting rooms as and when they need them. All these tools are synced to relevant calendars which also deliver timely reminders.
When remote workers were quizzed about working from home during the pandemic, 46% said they experienced loneliness and 74% of younger workers said they struggled with the social isolation of remote working.
Whilst isolation is still quoted as an issue for remote workers, we have to remember that this was an issue during the lockdown. Loneliness shouldn’t be an issue for most people now they’re able to socialise again.
However, that depends on the individual. Some people simply don’t like being alone. As this report from the BBC attests, even people that have a live-in partner can get lonely working from home on their own all day.
This is where good people management and effective communication tools come in useful. Video conferencing tools such as Teams, Skype and Zoom enable anybody to have a face-to-face conversation. It’s not quite the same as being in the same office as your colleague but it’s the next best thing.
Quick catch-up calls are easy to do. And because these tools are already built into your subscription, you can use them as much as you want at bio extra cost.
Increased Cybersecurity Risk
A hybrid workplace could create more vulnerabilities in your business network that can be exploited by hackers. Home networks are easier to breach and employees that use personal devices to access your business network could create a gateway for threat actors to access sensitive data.
Again, there is a lot of media hype around the threat of cybercrime. Whilst the threat is real, there are plenty of effective tools and strategies to ensure your business network remains secure – even in a hybrid workplace.
Moreover, it should be noted that cybersecurity strategies for hybrid models don’t have to drain your budget. Cost really depends on the nature of your business and the level of personal data you keep about your customers. Medical and financial records obviously have to be protected more than accounts that only reveal an email address.
IT Support Specialists in London
For the time being it seems hybrid working is gaining momentum. Some businesses, under pressure from employees, may have to experiment with it at the very least.
However, as we identified in this article, certain measures have to be put in place in order for the hybrid workplace to be effective; you need the right tools, a team of IT professionals that can help to support remote workers, and cloud-based management solutions that enable employees to organise their time, their schedules and hit their targets.
Ultimately, before you make the decision to switch to a hybrid workplace, managers should be having a conversation with their team members to determine their preferences. And if employees do want a hybrid workplace, how will they make it work?
In the last couple of years, we’ve helped dozens of businesses transmission to a hybrid model. We’d love to share some of the solutions we can guarantee work effectively. So why not contact our IT specialists in London today and set your hybrid workplace up for success!