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November 11, 2021

Can Hybrid Working Be Fair?

4 min read
By Kelly Bryan

This week, we’re thinking about…

60% of remote workers surveyed would leave their job for a remote position at the same pay rate.

Prior to the pandemic, remote working was a distant fantasy for some. However, while working from home has become a reality over the past two years, this isn’t a welcome development for all.

95% of Generation Z and 93% of Millennial workers report difficulty working from home. Meanwhile, 75% of UK working parents want to continue flexible working in the future.

The world of work is far from monolithic, therefore this drastic divide in workplace preference is unsurprising. In an attempt to reduce the rift between those wanting and those opposing remote working, organisations have been introducing hybrid models. This new structure gives people autonomy to work from home or on location.

This flexible way of working has become globally popular, not least because it is putting control in people’s hands—a welcome shift following a global pandemic that has left many feeling powerless. 96% of surveyed UK organisations have already implemented hybrid working in some form.

The move to hybrid working may seem an inevitable post-peak-pandemic shift. Yet, we are still grappling with one key question: how can this new model foster collaboration, engage workers and most importantly, be fair?

Is Hybrid Working fair?

The short answer is: it can be, if done well.

Hybrid working could welcome almost 4 million people otherwise unable to work to the UK workforce.

Disabled people, carers and parents could benefit most from hybrid working as on-location restrictions are minimised. Although organisations could be more accessible and inclusive, people working remotely and people working on location are receiving different experiences due to poorly executed hybrid models.

There are, however, a few watchouts to keep in mind:

Present Privilege

Psychological research notes a ‘Present Privilege’ for those working on location. These people are more likely to be involved in spontaneous discussions leading to future opportunities and decision making. Remote workers may find themselves in the ‘out-group’, excluded from these fundamental conversations. Over time this could create a significant disadvantage for remote workers who risk feeling unnoticed, without an influential voice, or the ability to contribute to business development.

Reduced Innovation

Despite best efforts from top organisations, all areas of working cannot be successfully mirrored in a virtual world. Think about information ideation sessions that involve scribbling on post-it notes, or casual chats by the coffee machine. Although these subtle collaborations are integral for imagination and innovation, people report an 11% fall in brainstorming in the workplace when remote.

Decline in Social Relationships

Although in many countries Covid-19 restrictions have now eased, social networks remain weak, with 39% of people surveyed struggling to maintain work relationships. This can have a significant impact on company culture, and crucially on talent retention, as its foundations are built on these now-restricted relationships and collaborations.

Successful Hybrid Working

There is no doubt that the future of work is hybrid.

95% of surveyed people want to continue working remotely in some form. Therefore, people leaders across the globe are under public pressure to get the execution of hybrid working right, or risk damaging team collaboration, retention and morale. For hybrid working to be sustainable, it’s vital that organisations establish strong, inclusive and fair foundations.

Since restrictions eased, TST have been working hard to develop a successful hybrid model. Here are a few tips we’ve learnt during our own journey:

1. Trial-and-develop mindset

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Similarly, the hybrid working model cannot be perfected without a trail-and-develop mindset. It’s important to value the learning journey towards a successful hybrid model. This means being agile, seeking input from diverse perspectives, and transparently piloting different hybrid structures. This process can contribute to people accepting that the ideal solution may not be immediately available, but they are playing a role in co-creating a workable and fair hybrid model that puts individual needs at the forefront.

2. Collaborative partnerships

In listening, sharing and recognising the needs of team members, a truly collaborative partnership can be formed where people across the business feel they are contributing to decision making. Importantly, they are feeling heard. This partnership reduces the risk of uncertainty and exclusion in the future. It also bakes in a human-centred approach to evolving your hybrid working model.

3. Responsibility

The Limbic System in our brain, which determines our ‘Fight or Flight’ response, is unable to distinguish real and perceived danger. When activated, the brain focuses on two core questions:

1. What’s next?
2. How am I doing?

 

When we feel like we don’t matter at work, or we don’t understand our responsibilities or purpose, our survival mode can kick in. This causes us to rely on pre-learnt protective strategies, expressed in the form of a reaction, rather than an innovative or creative response. To avoid the ‘Fight or Flight’ reaction, encourage clear individual responsibilities; regular, constructive feedback and the ability to openly share progress.

Creating a fair and successful hybrid model goes far beyond emulating the physical workplace in a digital realm. It’s about trial-and-error testing, fostering partnerships, and generating clear responsibilities. Although the hybrid model doesn’t physically bring all employees together, it should instead instil a feeling of community, connectivity and collaboration, in which workers can build on their own strengths within their personal working preferences.


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