The concept of ‘the daily grind’ is becoming outdated. In our post-pandemic world, people are prioritising more time at home and fewer days a week in the office. Hybrid Working is now highly demanded and companies need to offer it to retain and attract talent.
Employees at all levels, in all industries, are moving towards greater flexibility, which is spurring significant changes in the global attitude towards conventional work at a rapid rate.
What we’re seeing is a new trend where people are leaving secure jobs for flexible opportunities, even if that means accepting a pay cut.
This change in attitude towards how we work is driving high competition amongst top employers looking to grow their talent. The desire for hybrid work is taking the spotlight, which is reshaping the way we think about going to work.
Key trends fuelling demand for hybrid work - employees are on the move
Companies are Concerned About the Great Resignation
In November 2021, a whopping 4.5 million employees quit their jobs.
Mass resignations are not unusual, but November marked the start of furlough-free living, with many people still recovering from the impact of the pandemic. This level of financial uncertainty should ordinarily have led to fewer resignations than normal, but November brought more resignations than expected.
While it's common for people to resign during times of prosperity, it's less usual in times of risk. The sheer scale of mass resignations across all industries is indicative of a shift in the general psychologies of the global workforce.
People have tasted a change to how we work and are valuing a better balance of life alongside work. People are actively seeking ways to feel more fulfilled in their work and life.
The majority of bulk resignations in 2021 came from industries where employees are traditionally overworked and underpaid, and from executives who didn't sign up for the strains of working tirelessly through a global pandemic.
Healthcare, retail, leisure, and hospitality providers are all struggling to fill their roles, at a time when unemployment and public uncertainty are sharply on the rise.
The shift in preference from the security of an existing employer to new jobs with more flexibility shows peoples motivations are changing to our new world of hybrid work.
Leaders are Becoming Burnt Out
The role of Executives is no longer just to manage the company's shareholders and build core relationships. Executives need to re-imagine the workplace and keep employees motivated during a period of intense change in the world of work.
Executives are now more than ever expected to integrate teams regardless of location. They should connect with employees as individuals, keep their (virtual) doors open, and tailor their unique approach to solve problems in an increasingly dynamic environment.
In October 2021 there were 142 high-profile CEO resignations, the highest on record. It's easy to forget CEOs are also employees who share the same life challenges as their juniors.
Prominent CEOs have made changes, with famous faces such as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, Bob Iger of Disney, and Doug Parker of American Airlines all announcing their plans to step back to pursue other goals.
The drive towards CEOs shuffling their priorities comes at a high cost for organisations who wish to retain their top talent. Companies want to capitalise on the investment they've made into developing their CEO, and don't want to spend a small fortune headhunting the next top table appointments.
Not all hybrid working is the same - employers offer different workstyles
Most companies we talk with are implementing hybrid working in two different ways. Companies can combine these hybrid workstyles into a single hybrid model to cover all eventualities. There are also lots of other patterns being tested and implemented but these appear dominant.
Let's take a look at each style separately:
Employee Decided - Hybrid Work at Will
A work-at-will model aims to optimise employee performance, by encouraging them to work however they feel most productive. People can work from home or from the office as suits, and may also utilise co-working facilities or hot desks.
Employees on the work-at-will hybrid pattern gain the thought advantage that comes with free choice. Sometimes, all somebody needs is a simple change of scenery to feel more productive, or to pull on their home comfies and settle in for a marathon-style project.
Environment flexible models with a work-at-will approach encourage each employee to decide what's right for them, so they can adjust their own days to suit their output goals.
Some organisations may also promote a general preference for remote-first or office first hybrid work patterns.
- Remote-first environments encourage working from home, with the opportunity to come into the office when needed. This is a brilliant way to host meetings and keep the face-to-face connections fresh, but it can be difficult to predict who will be in the office on any given day. Lack of consistency may lead to overcrowding or underutilisation in the office environment.
- Office-first environments are ideal for collaboration. People are encouraged to come into the office but may also work from home sometimes. This approach keeps the connections between employees strong and effective, but it can lead to higher overheads because the office space needs to accommodate most people every day.
Regardless of how a hybrid work environment model is implemented, it's vital to establish strong, lasting trust between managers and their employees. This trust places the employee's success into their own hands, and creates self-motivation through strategic autonomy.
Schedule Led - Minimum Required Office Days
Employees have a minimum or fixed amount of days in the office, and the remainder at home. This approach to hybrid can be endlessly experimented with to find the right balance for the team, with two styles of scheduling coming to the fore.
- Split week schedules with the team attending a certain number of days each week, sometimes on the same day week over week. It enables all employees to get to know each other over the course of a rotating schedule. These schedules are great for teamwork, but need good coordination generally through a location schedule or planner. People need to know where other people will be so they can plan their days in the office.
- Scheduling week-by-week keeps whole teams together by alternating which teams work from home or in the office on a weekly rotation. This model means companies can more accurately reduce the size of their physical premises without running into issues with overcrowding.
Every team is unique, so schedule flexibility requires plenty of iteration to find the perfect solution.
Hybrid Job Offers Should Focus on the Employee Experience
Today's employees not only want more flexibility, they now expect it as part of looking for a new job. However, when it comes to attracting talented staff, not all flexibility offers the same benefits, and not all flexibility is equally desirable.
- Homeworking creates efficient days by optimising concentration levels around people's natural patterns of productivity, but it can lead to isolation or a lack of structure. A greater reliance on technologies to do the job and the home working environment can make it stressful.
- Office work builds relationships and encourages collaboration. This creates closer, more sociable work environments, but may become expensive with a long commute. People may also feel a lack of autonomy when managers don't trust them enough to work from home.
- Remote work blends the home and office environments into a simplified co-working space that's smaller, and less complex. It allows employees to work for companies outside of their region, but may lead to a diminished company culture. Remote work can become difficult to manage when remote teams operate with different processes than hybrid or office workers.
- Distributed hybrid lets employees work from anywhere, but does not provide anywhere specific for employees to work from. Employees have complete freedom to work from home, coffee shops or third space locations. The lack of a central HQ can make collaboration challenging, and company culture may suffer as a result.
The right employees will be attracted to the style of working that suits their natural style. Companies should first consider who they wish to attract, then tailor their hybrid model to catch the attention of the most desirable candidates.
The Secret to Attention-Grabbing Flexibility is Hybrid Autonomy
According to the Harvard Business Review, what employees really want from flexible working is to work on their own terms. This means that flexibility itself needs to be flexible, and employees need hybrid autonomy.
True autonomy motivates people with the intrinsic human desire for self-development. Autonomous work helps employees to harness greater lifelong learning, and to be accountable for their own performance.
The trick is to implement principles and philosophies rather than hard and fast rules.
Organisations need to invest in developing critical skills and complementary competencies to fuel natural collaboration, and should give their employees the right tools to succeed autonomously, under their own steam.
When companies get their hybrid work model right, employees push themselves to achieve their personal desired results. Autonomous employees recognise their own role in their performance, and take active steps to make success happen.
The opportunity to thrive is what attracts and retains top talent.
Hybrid autonomy promotes virtuous cycles across the organisation. This propels the business forward with a healthy attitude to human wellbeing, and motivates the self-driven workforce for lasting results.