Staff ‘must be involved’ in hybrid plans

Successful hybrid working policies can only be designed if HR departments actively involve employees in the process, according to a new academic report.

work from anywhere hybrid
Even then, the report from Leeds University Business School warns that organisations “will never design a perfect arrangement that suits everyone”.

The report, based on a survey of more than 750 office workers, also found that more than a third of staff had no dedicated workspace at home, leading to lower performance, job satisfaction and engagement.

Almost three-quarters of employees said they wanted to work from the office at least once a week - a desire, the report suggested, that was tied to greater employee job satisfaction, engagement and concentration.

Led by Dr Matthew Davis, associate professor in organisational psychology at the business school, the research concluded that UK businesses have a long way to go to formalise the arrangements that expanded so rapidly during the pandemic.

Employees are looking for flexibility within the workplace

It said employers should be careful not to create a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy and warned that the development of hybrid working regimes would involve trade-offs between individuals, teams and departments.

Only 18% of respondents said their offices had been adapted specifically to support hybrid working and only 6% reported receiving training in holding or participating in hybrid meetings.

Prof Davis said: “An effective hybrid workplace is more than a HR policy or office design issue. It is a socio-technical problem, essentially affecting all aspects of work and requiring knock-on changes to IT, work processes, organisational goals and culture to be successful.

“The key to successful hybrid working is good management – clear and demonstrable objectives and outputs, active communication and feedback whether remote or in-person working.”

The report identified five categories of hybrid workers:
  • Timeless hybrids: those who have high levels of control over when they work their hours
  • Fixed hybrids: those who have little or any control over the hours or location they work in, with these set by their organisation or manager
  • Free hybrids: those who have control over when they access different workspaces and when they work their hours
  • Nomadic hybrids: those who have control over where but not when they work
  • Balanced hybrids: those who have some choice over where and when they work, within specified boundaries.

Is hybrid working creating a 'bad work environment'

The report also found that hybrid working had resulted in the emergence of an 'us and them' culture between those able to work flexibly, and their managers who prevented them from doing so. It recommends such attitudes can be addressed through localised policies, job redesign and provision of other types of flexibility within roles.

Additionally, the study found tensions arising when employees who enjoyed greater autonomy during the pandemic were now facing demands to spend greater time in the office.

“This requires managers to clearly articulate the purpose and benefit of office working and to press that 'me' does not always beat 'we',” said the report.
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Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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