Hybrid working – the perfect work life balance?
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week (10 – 16 May 2021) and since the UK’s Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday of the next stage of loosening up on post lockdown restrictions in England it’s also the week of even more articles and interviews with business leaders on what returning to the workplace might look like.
Hybrid working seems to be the favoured term now – as Harvard Business Review puts it, the focus now is on ‘doing hybrid right’.
As employees settled into their new routines, Hiramatsu (Head of Global HR at Fujitsu) recognized that something profound was happening. “We are not going back’’ … “The two hours many people spend commuting is wasted – we can use that time for education, training, time with the family’’… ‘’We are embarking on a work-life shift’’.
The connections between mental health and plotting out new working arrangements are inextricably linked with an undeniable synergy between the two making this a bit of a special week.
Let’s remember though, Hybrid working isn’t really new, it’s always existed, but as TIMEWISE emphasise,
‘Its prevalence has been turbocharged by the pandemic and subsequent remote working experiment’. In simple terms, it’s an arrangement in which an individual, team or organisation work part of their time at the workplace and part remotely.
Some prefer to describe it as the principle of dynamic working with a key focus on the output and performance of an individual, rather than the number of hours spent at work.
Ultimately, if output levels are high and all responsibilities are taken care of, then it doesn’t really matter where and when they are achieved.
Hybrid or dynamic – the success of this way of working has to be dependent on the establishment (and buy in ) of a high-trust, high-performance operating culture.
‘One where employees are enabled to integrate work seamlessly into their day-to-day lives by operating at times of the day when they are more productive and are able to devote the necessary time, and effort into their projects’.
Sounds rather wonderful, particularly when coupled with the qualities described here;
The hybrid working model is a work style that enables employees to blend working from different locations: home, on the go, or the office.
An effective hybrid work system encourages:
Hybrid (or dynamic) work can provide employees with more flexibility, free time, and autonomy. This potentially harmonious work life balance allows employees to give more attention to their personal lives or families while still bringing in their income.
As this new approach to work evolves, companies have the opportunity to harness it for their benefit and shape a fluid, dynamic, and positive work culture.
Who wouldn’t want a bit of that in their working lives we ask, for many it must sound like a complete transformation of former working life practices.
And for those organisations working with care and integrity in designing new work arrangements with ‘individual human concerns in mind, not just institutional ones’ (HBR) it really does feel full of positive potential and opportunity.
But it doesn’t take a wellbeing guru genius to spot where mental health awareness pops fully into view. The possibilities of burn out, blurring of boundaries between home and work, limited respite and possible exploitation of good will spring instantly to mind.
Some issues to watch out for;
- Fairness: Will you be able to offer a hybrid arrangement to everyone in your team or organisation? If you don’t think you can, what will the impact be?
- Inclusivity: Unevenly implemented hybrid working and behavioural bias can lead to an influence gap between an office-based ‘in-crowd’, and their more remote-based peers. This could have a knock-on effect on diversity and inclusion with more women, or carers, or people with health issues, or introverts, opting to work from home. How will you make sure their voices are heard?
- Collaboration and innovation: Zoom calls aren’t the best forum for creativity and there are some tasks that work better when people are sharing a desk, rather than a screen. And sometimes new ideas pop up from an impromptu conversation around the coffee machine. How will you facilitate formal and informal collaboration if people aren’t in the office together?
- Inequality: Not everyone has space for a home office or super-fast broadband; for employees living in flatshares, for example, homeworking might not be productive at all. How will you support these teammates to do their best work if you expect them to be homebased for part of the week?