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Hybrid working has become a mainstay in the world of business following the various global lockdowns brought on by Covid-19 three years ago. With people unable to travel into cities and offices, it sparked a change in how many of us do our jobs. Hybrid working, where we spend a portion of time in the office and the rest of the time working remotely, seems to be here to stay. After all, it’s proved to be a useful – and even beneficial – way of working.

However, after three years of hybrid working, what have we learned about this approach? With more people than ever before opting to work from home, either permanently or temporarily, this article is going to look into what’s changed and how we can improve this working arrangement going forward.

Benefits of hybrid working

According to ONS data, 78% of people who worked from home in some capacity said that it had given them an improved work life balance, allowing workers to take advantage of the time saved by not commuting and giving them autonomy to structure their workday so that they can be most productive and get tasks undertaken efficiently. Work life balance is also improved through being able to determine where work is undertaken, which allows for greater use of wellbeing facilities (such as leisure centres and coffee shops) or working from holiday destinations giving workers great travelling opportunities.

Around two thirds of workers also felt that working from home resulted in the same if not higher productivity than working from the office, especially when there was a focus on head down, independent tasks with fewer distractions than a busy office environment.

Workers also feel that hybrid working has resulted in improved personal wellbeing, with feedback including an increase in the ability to do exercise, spend time with family and save money.

Benefits for business owners

When asked businesses agreed that contributing factors to continued homeworking were an improvement in staff wellbeing, the reduction of overheads (more on this later), the reduction of pollutions and waste and the ability to recruit from a wider geographical pool, which gives access to new talent and can lead to cost saving.

Feedback has also shown that with staff demanding hybrid working, those businesses that get the balance right are being rewarded with staff that have increased job satisfaction, improved company culture, productivity, and loyalty.

Socially, hybrid working has led to a boost in local economies with more local coffee shops and lunch spots benefitting from more footfall throughout the day.

Challenges of hybrid working

Although working from home is a dream gig for some, it’s not suitable for everyone. Workplace culture can be lost when you get rid of the office environment, and working from home makes it more difficult for newer employees to learn from the more experienced team members. Even though virtual teams and instant messaging can help with this, it’s often not a sufficient replacement for in-office learning.

Also not everyone may not have the luxury of a home office or the additional requirements that go with a home office set up, with those in shared accommodation finding it particularly challenging with multiple housemates all trying to work in the same room.

For others, it’s simply preferable to work from the office. Whether it’s the desire to have a clear distinction between their work and personal lives, the social aspect of working in an office or the ability to collaborate with other people, an office setting can be a better fit than working from home.

Burn out and Blurred lines

With hybrid workers structuring their day according to their own schedule you can see people often working longer than their contracted hours, which can not only cause burnout from working too hard but can also cause others to feel obliged to pick up emails and calls outside of their normal working hours, making them feel as if they are always ‘on call.’ This can reduce staff wellbeing, undoing some of the benefits of hybrid working. This has led to the increase in using ‘do not disturb’ functions on laptops and mobile, as well as delayed sending of emails to “standard” working hours.

Solving the challenges of hybrid working

Hybrid working is clearly here to stay, and with the benefits it offers to employees and employers it’s clear why. As we’ve identified, hybrid working isn’t without its challenges and so business owners need to consider how to mitigate these challenges. One of the main tools available to business owners is adapting how office space is used to better serve the needs of hybrid working.

Changing how we use the office

Office buildings used to be hives of activity, but with hybrid working, the purpose of the office is beginning to change. Many workplaces are transitioning their offices into collaboration zones, where working together is the focus. They are quickly becoming spaces where employees can get together, collaborate on projects and spend time on team-building. This has changed the entire notion of what offices should look like, as there isn’t as much need for individual cubicles or desks. Instead, it’s all about bringing the right people together.

Companies are choosing to transform their existing offices into various breakout rooms, meeting areas and other shared spaces that exist to facilitate teamwork. Whether employees are trying to find creative solutions to business problems or want to focus on building stronger, more connected teams, the office isn’t just for performing day-to-day tasks any more. This means that most businesses won’t require as much office space as they once did, placing more emphasis on aesthetics and quality instead, whilst also offering business owners a space saving incentive.

So, when it comes to refurbishment or new office fit-outs, businesses are going to have to consider what they want from their office spaces. That might mean opening the space up more, getting rid of cubicles or focusing more on the aesthetics of the space instead of creating enough room for all staff to work individually.

How we can help?

Virtus are experts in undertaking workplace analysis and understanding how to get the best out of the space you have ensuring all of the needs of the company are met. Changing your office space to better suit the needs of today doesn’t have to cost a fortune and with our dedicated Small Works Team we can assist on projects of any size, offering a turnkey solution from initial concept discussions through to furniture installation and office aftercare.

We’re here to help so please do reach out to us.