If this pandemic has brought us anything to smile about it has to be the burgeoning use of new ‘pandemic’ only phrases that now seem to be common place in a business vocabulary which up until exactly a year ago had never been used…
Furlough is the most obvious example but as we progressed through the early stages of the pandemic and businesses reshaped their offerings you couldn’t pass up a business story without someone talking about how they had ‘pivoted’ from ‘office’ to ‘home’ or from ‘in store’ to ‘online’ or even ‘eat in’ to ‘take away’.
The much-heralded return to office is now throwing up its own fantastic example… We can no longer talk about flexible working as that is so pre-pandemic…. Its now all about hybrid working models which to us followers of current workplace trends is basically…flexible working.
Much like the pivot though, the hybrid is nothing new… Businesses adapting to change and dealing with uncertainty is not a new phenomenon, albeit this last year has thrown multiple challenges for organisations to deal with.
The interesting thing about the use of the word hybrid is that it suggests the combination of only two things. Does the choice for employees and employers in the future come down to a binary decision between simply the office or the home? If this were true, then surely the pandemic has taken us nowhere? The inclination and ability to work from home existed well before 2020 and every office in the UK has always been less populated on a Friday for that very reason.
The digital liberation that the pandemic has presented is that those of us who were office bound before can now work just as well remotely, which by circumstance has meant at home for the majority of the last year. Building on the evidence that remote working is good for work/life balance, the environment and for productivity should liberate us all to work from wherever we can in the future to make the biggest impact and deliver the most value. A hybrid solution should not be seen as just the combination of two options but more the melding of multiple options and ingredients to create the perfect solution.
The Nationwide Building Society recently unveiled its post pandemic plan to allow its 18,000 team members to work ‘anywhere’, the building society has a huge branch network, various corporate offices and clearly the option would still exist to work from home. The ‘anywhere’ approach builds on this notion of hybrid working, with remoteness at its heart but also opens up the opportunity to be together.
The ability to work anywhere and to consider the impact of location and proximity is hugely valuable. If employees considered where they worked in the context of their stakeholders, then location takes on another dimension. Working on local projects with front-line teams will not only help visibility but will build engagement and knowledge for employees with roles who historically may have been ‘out of touch’ in the corporate headquarters. Those with customer facing responsibilities could collaborate with their customers and work from their premises for a couple of days a month, helping to build relationships while developing a greater understanding of their customer’s business. There are no reasons why visiting a material supplier or supply chain partner and basing yourself with them for a day should be discounted and even choosing to work flexibly in a local community centre or coffee shop would have tangible benefits.
We need to come together after this last year and connectivity, collaboration and proximity to our key stakeholders will all be crucial to building and developing a strong recovery. Our digital liberation has cemented our ability to adapt and to use the technology we have, but it lacks the essence of social interaction. The new world of work affords us the ability to take ourselves and our work wherever we want, whenever we want and we should seize that opportunity to make sure we do that work alongside those people with whom we can add the most value and maybe have the most fun.