The landscape of the workplace has changed. Hybrid working is a fundamental shift in working practice for many businesses. Whether it is a long-term shift for the better or not will only be fully known in years to come, but right now, it seems to be working exceptionally well for many businesses. Since the pandemic, it seems we have become a nation of home workers and, if the current job market and economic recovery is anything to go by, it is not making any real difference to productivity in the overall sense. Here at Bespoke Recruitment, we are seeing more and more vacancies with work from home (WFH) as a fixed part of their offer or where it is being offered as an optional incentive. In fact, many businesses are telling us that they are seeing a more productive workforce because of it. As with all changes, though, it needs to be managed effectively, and the evolution of the workplace is presenting some challenges as well as opportunities.
Hybrid working practices
Over the last few months, we have been told about some great responses to the need for new hybrid working practices. The managers of teams where remote working has embedded well have been able to integrate it with the traditional workplace habits. It's a fascinating time to be in recruitment, to be frank. Every day is a learning curve, and we have some great clients who have generously shared their good practice with us to help us understand their recruitment needs better.
I would guess that for many businesses, the biggest fear with an increase in WFH employees would be managing the workload effectively. From what we are seeing, this seems not to have been the case. It has all been about setting clear targets and the close monitoring of the progress towards them. As a rule, we all know our teams know what their jobs are and how to do them effectively. A good technique adopted by many managers has been to simply add developmental 'check in' points at appropriate periods and also create identifiable milestone events to report in on as celebration points when working towards a set goal. In combination, that means the working practice is one of self-generated reporting with a regular review process. It's like saying, 'you know your job, let me know your success, and then we will chat about how I can help you'. That's an empowering place to be for the remote worker.
An element of change
With hybrid working, though, there is an element of change between home and workplace that needs to be accounted for. I suspect a robust IT cloud support (and just as robust security and GDPR processes) were pretty important for a lot of managers shortly after the first lockdown. Where we have really been impressed is how cleverly many businesses have changed things to accommodate the work/home practices. Hybrid working means going back to the very basic functions of your business and asking not just the traditional questions around 'how will we do this best' but putting that into the context of 'where would this be done best'? The actual process of developing hybrid working systems has often been taken as an opportunity to not only make them work but also streamline them. This a good way to support colleagues and teams to achieve more by placing task resolution in the best environment.
The biggest challenge
Probably the biggest challenge many teams face is the actual remoteness from the workplace itself. There is more to coming to work than getting the work done. This is perhaps the biggest lesson we all learned about hybrid working. We are almost conditioned to believe that work is done, well, at work. So much so that we even call where we are employed 'work' as both the name and the thing that happens there. Hybrid working proves that this is not the case and that work, the function, can happen without work, the place being required. Many companies helped their employees with setting up a good working environment at home to separate home and work, but in the end, it is still working at home in some way. What became very clear was that we humans tend to be pack animals at heart, and the workplace is more than a desk in an office. It is a community, often a friendship group and a place of growth and challenge. To get around the challenge of this community being partially taken away, many businesses have woven the social and cultural aspects of the working day into remote practices. So, we have heard about:
- Virtual canteens where employees can drop in to eat lunch with colleagues over Teams or Zoom.
- After work drinks using the same method
- Whatsapp and chat groups set up by managers that they don't join themselves so the team has a 'free speech' place to talk
- Specific efforts being made to check on mental and physical wellbeing when remote working
- Adapting career growth, training, and learning to the WFH world
- Specific manager training to encourage adaptability and reflective practice as well as additional support for their own wellbeing.
The list goes on, and it is an impressive testament to just how well so many businesses have adopted the sudden evolution of hybrid working and become something better.
One final consideration is that your recruitment partner is also adapting, and it is vital that these new practices are instilled in the employment process. We love hearing about how you have evolved through hybrid working and love it even more when we can build that into great offers for our candidates.
Call us to discuss your employment plans, and let's talk about how hybrid working can be used to attract the best talent.