Hybrid working conditions – the best of both worlds

COVID-19 significantly changed the way we work, with remote working deemed the order of the day; however, what needs to be established is whether this is the best way to meet our work responsibilities, or whether a hybrid working model could better serve the requirements of businesses and employees. Fareez Joulay, Creative Director at Eclipse Communications, discusses the advantages of this model and how to implement it.

When the protocols for protection against COVID-19 were first outlined, companies wondered how remote working could be possible; now, it has become second nature to most. Working from home has presented certain challenges, however, particularly regarding employee collaboration, stimulating creativity, and achieving work-life balance. A hybrid working model could be the answer.

The hybrid working model combines remote work with spending an average of two days at the office. Some companies choose to have skeletal staff at the office while other employees come and go; some choose a staggered approach, rotating staff on different days. Alternatively, employees could just be required to attend meetings in person.

The motivation behind the hybrid working model is to provide the best of both worlds, allowing employees to collaborate with colleagues and attend in-person meetings on the days they’re at the office, and then carry out the work or develop the ideas generated by those collaborations when back at home.

Joulay comments, “I believe that a hybrid model is conducive to achieving work-life balance. Human connection still remains integral to creativity and successful communication. Having an environment in which dedicated time is used efficiently allows for the freedom to implement from home and remain flexible.

As a Creative Director, I believe that ideas are fuelled by interaction. Forming an idea in isolation is possible, but building on the idea with others who share the objective only makes the idea stronger. It is an unfortunate reality that while working from home provides ample convenience, safety and autonomy for employees, it does stifle creativity in that it limits interaction.

I find it very difficult to generate ideas on a video call, for instance. A lot of the ideation process is about the conveyance of ideas to others so that these ideas can be tested and built upon. This is not always conveyed on an internet line or with turned-off cameras. Furthermore, being able to brainstorm as a collective has a positive effect on the passion that teams share for a project as they see/hear each other and build the idea into existence.”

The benefits of creating a hybrid work environment are many, including:

  • Easing staff anxiety about returning to the workplace
  • Creating opportunities for improved collaboration
  • Improving productivity
  • Building a crisis-resilient culture: companies can always revert to strict remote working if the need arises
  • Saving money on office space, as fewer staff need to be accommodated
  • Amplifying creativity through brainstorming sessions, as well as unpacking ideas and solving problems
  • Achieving a quicker turnover of client projects

“As an award-winning, full service communications agency, Eclipse Communications has successfully navigated the challenges of remote working and advocates adopting a hybrid model,” says Joulay. “It is a good way to ensure the best levels of productivity while still supporting our staff in their personal circumstances. It takes significant teamwork and responsibility and I am proud of our team for constantly working to improve in this new reality.”

To ensure the success of a hybrid working model, certain challenges must be overcome, for example, when working from home, every employee must have access to a stable internet connection, and their environment should be as distraction-free as possible. It should also be noted that employees not always seen in the workplace should not be thought to be contributing less or be overlooked because they aren’t always present at the office.

To successfully implement a hybrid working environment, consider the following:

  • A hybrid working environment will achieve a higher adoption and success rate if employees are made to feel part of the process. Conduct a survey about returning to work for two days a week so that staff can voice their opinions and concerns
  • The environment must be kept clean and safety protocols adhered to, so that staff are less anxious about the risks
  • Clear communication of the plan must be given, so that all employees know what to expect.
  • Utilise modern intranet systems to improve communication and automate processes
  • Extend the same opportunities to in-office and at-home employees
  • Mentor and encourage employees who are struggling to adapt
  • Hold virtual town hall meetings and continue to use online collaboration platforms
  • Encourage home-based employees to be creative and collaborate
  • Consider creating agile teams – these are usually made up of eight people of different skill levels and disciplines. They’re self-organising, autonomous, and have all the people needed to complete a project from start to finish
  • Improve your technology – for example, BeeCanvas is a visual collaboration platform specifically designed to help teams brainstorm better. Once a canvas is created, photos, videos, articles and sticky notes can be dragged into a whiteboard-like document.

 

Be cognisant of the fact that the hybrid model may not work for all employees. Parents who are responsible for the care of young children, or employees who need to care for elderly parents or family members who are immunocompromised may not be able to return to the workplace at all. Those who are simply too afraid of the risks of returning to the office and taking public transport also need to be considered.

Whether a hybrid working model suits your particular business or not, laying the foundations for this system enables companies to be agile if it becomes necessary. It also allows employers to get the best from their employees and for employees to structure their working hours around their personal requirements.

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