There are three primary aspects of hybrid work that are changing the face of commercial real estate.
The new normal way of working. The concept of hybrid working has been around for a long term, so there’s nothing new under the sun. Emails and spreadsheets, for example, can and often are done virtually prior to the pandemic. However, hybrid working is now becoming normalised as a working practise as office culture is changing to adapt to new realities.
“Due to the pandemic, workplace flexibility has quickly become normal as many workers have shown they can be just as productive outside the office environment as they were inside”, said Jamie Johnson, CEO of FJP Investment. “In fact, many workers have likely felt a certain responsibility to prove that they can achieve just as much, if not more, than when they were at the office.”
Hybrid working necessitates a hybrid workspace. Office and workspace design and layout will have to cater to the shifting attitudes of workplace employees by balancing and integrating workplace and virtual experiences. Employees are increasingly viewing the workplace to meet and collaborate, a place for connecting with others in a meaningful way.
Employee, consumer-centric offices. Office design and layout will have to consider how employees will want to work, considering their needs and opinions, resulting in a more consumer-orientated approach to the workplace. The pandemic has meant that the workplace has undergone experimentation in reassessing the conventional boundaries of where work is carried out.
The changing view of employees is bringing together a desire to gain the best of both working virtually and working in an office setting, at least for part of the working week.
At the same time, employers want their employees to remain productive and connected to each other. Companies will have different ways of achieving this, ranging from a full return to the office to other companies’ affording more flexibility to find the right balance for them.
Many companies are now looking at ways where they can find the right balance between achieving productivity and employee flexibility, with trialling different hybrid working models. Each hybrid model entails allowing a degree of flexibility for employees to choose where they work but within a set of predefined boundaries, meaning that each company will have to define what hybrid working means to them and how they operate.
Hybrid working approaches
Hybrid working became widely adopted as the pandemic took hold around the world, as a way of simultaneously continuing productivity and ensuring the welfare of company employees. Today, many of these new-found flexibilities and freedoms are liked by employees and wish to keep them.
Although many companies have previous experience with allowing employees flexible working conditions, many more companies are recognising that working outside of the office has become a new way of doing things by supporting hybrid work teams. In other words, for many companies, the hybrid working method represents a new approach to working.
In a sense, the move towards more hybrid working was already well under way due to several factors. Firstly, with the advancement of technology, workers were given new tools which allowed for greater flexibility in working practices. Video calling and virtual conferencing are but a few. Furthermore, attitudes were already starting to shift with work; a changing workplace culture was moving in the direction of greater flexibility, perhaps as an extension of greater socio-political changes.
Although many companies have now said they will adopt some form of hybrid working approach in their organisation, there is a disparity in how each organisation is set to implement this. They are not taking a one size fits all approach.
Sometime known as “hybrid work with guard rails”, the most common approach being adopted by companies is setting down who should be in the office and when. One survey found that this approach is being adopted by 78% of large companies.
Other companies are setting down guidelines that better reflect their organisation and how they operate. For example, some ask their workers to make sure that they are in the office for a certain amount of the week. Still, different companies are operating on a team-by-team basis, requiring each team to be present in the office based on their function. This means that some teams will be required to be in the office more often than other teams.
As time passes, we will most likely see other variations of the defined hybrid working as companies’ trial and error their models, continuing to adapt to what works and what does not, and considering changing external circumstances such as any additional health or economic challenges.
Challenges with hybrid working
Companies implementing hybrid working practises into their business model are finding numerous challenges in adopting them.
The questions that business owners and management are having to consider are things like deciding who the right people are to have in the office. Not everyone’s personality of function is the same. What will be the occupancy rate of the office space? Furthermore, management will need to consider what their workers will require the most when in the office.
Another big challenge faced by employers is a question of workplace fairness, making sure that all the employees are treated equally as possible. It is incumbent upon employers to give virtual workers the same opportunities and attention as their colleagues who are spending more time in the office environment.