For many businesses it may seem like the future of in-person working isn’t looking all that bright. With more people valuing personal well-being and expecting flexible working arrangements from their employers, time in the office is generally limited.
The most recent statistics by Advanced Workplace Associates back this up with:
- over 80% of employees attend offices just two days per week (or less)
- 5% of workplaces see office attendance of four days or more
- 70% of offices were attended by fewer than 40% of employees
- On average, UK employees spend a total of 1.6 days in the office.
It’s no secret that hybrid working offers many benefits for both employees and employers. The main proven advantage of home working is that in most cases, people are more productive, getting work done quicker and with fewer mistakes compared to when working in the office.
There tend to be fewer distractions and more opportunities to complete ‘deep work’ in more comfortable surroundings when working from home. Not to mention the benefits of a shorter commute and lower travelling costs.
A significant benefit of hybrid working for employers is the ability to attract highly talented individuals from across the world and retain them through more flexible working arrangements, meaning the net can be cast wider when recruiting. Since the pandemic, many employers have downsized office space which could represent a huge cost saving.
However, one of the biggest downfalls to hybrid working is the fact we’re spending less time in the office and therefore less time in-person collaborating and important time with our team.
In-person team time is vital, not only for forming meaningful relationships among colleagues but also for sharing ideas, developing skills and encouraging generational collaboration.
It’s said that 63% of women will be twice as engaged when they have a best friend at work and employee satisfaction rises by 50% when good relationships are built at work. So it’s something we can’t ignore.
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So, how do we make the office and flexible working, work for everyone?
There’s no doubt that the future of work is flexible. The government are invested in it and have demonstrated their commitment by introducing new flexible working rights, giving employees more power over when and where they work.
What’s the goal of returning to the office?
When asking employees to return to the office, have you considered what you’re trying to achieve? Is it to bring people together and encourage collaboration and innovation or is it something more arbitrary such as filling the empty office space you’re still paying for?
If it’s the former, what can you do to encourage more of this? Are there initiatives you can put in place to make coming to the office attractive. And if it’s the latter, perhaps your space is no longer fit for purpose, and you should be exploring new options that works for everyone.
A fundamental shift
We think it’s important to recognise that the function of the office has fundamentally changed. It’s no longer a place we come to with the aim of getting things done, instead it’s a place we come together to socialise, collaborate and connect with each other – whether that’s for meetings, presentations, training, events or lunch.
Is your office space still fit for purpose?
Workers cite face-to-face collaboration, mentoring and socialising as the main benefits of being in the office. Perhaps you need to consider how to make the office a welcoming space that people want to come back to and fosters this type of interaction.
Have you got enough meeting rooms or breakout spaces for collaboration? Have you got comfy chairs and equipment that works? How well equipped is your kitchen?
It all sounds simple but people have become accustomed to pleasant working environments, having their desk set up just right and other creature comforts of home working that aren’t always easy to replicate in the office.
Striking the right balance
Striking the right balance between home and office is also key and recognising who this impacts the most.
For parents of young children or carers, being in the office more frequently can cause additional stress and logistical challenges, in fact a recent study found that 60% of parents who were asked to spend an extra 2 days in the office were struggling to balance work and childcare responsibilities.
Meanwhile, 2 in 5 parents were feeling the financial strain with estimated additional costs of around £664 per month for childcare and increased travel costs of around £100 per week.
For younger members of your team, it might be a different story. Their work from home arrangements may not be ideal, perhaps they’re in a house share or haven’t got a dedicated space to work, so coming to the office actually suits them better. Or they too may be struggling with the additional costs associated with commuting as the price of trains and petrol has risen.
To manage employee expectations, it’s a good idea to have a flexible working or hybrid working policy in place based on your company’s needs. An AWA survey said that 46% of offices had no hybrid working policies in place. A policy is to make sure everyone’s on the same page and knows what the company expects. Having said that, the policy does need to work for your business and your employees, so we’d recommend consulting with them before implementing one. (More on that below.)
Whilst you can allow employees to choose which days they work in the office, if the aim is to encourage collaboration and connection, it makes sense for teams to be in the office on similar days together. It may be a line manager is best to arrange this with individuals in their team rather than enforcing mandatory days or you could consider a rota or even a desk booking system.
A booking system could help you to review the number of people using the office, allowing you to evaluate your workspaces to see what fits best with your team dynamic.
Whilst some high-profile businesses have missed the mark when it comes to incentivising people to return to the office, actively considering how to make the office a more appealing place to return to is a useful exercise and can ‘soften the blow’ for any disgruntled employees.
If your aim is to encourage collaboration and engagement, then actively arrange social activities on office working days. Food truly is a way to the heart, with a recent Hays survey discovering 45% of employees would be encouraged to return to the office with a subsidised lunch. Whilst other businesses had introduced cooking classes, pottery classes and cinema lunches to motivative people to return to the office.
Physical wellness is another method businesses can use as an incentive, yoga classes and mindfulness coaching have been cited as a way to address wellness challenges as well as adding more structure to people’s weeks.
With childcare and travel costs a key factor, could you consider subsidised travel or adapting working hours so people don’t have to travel peak times, reducing cost that way.
Ultimately, the answer is we all need to learn to adapt.
We need to compromise and strike the right balance between managing a flexible working team and optimising in-person time together. We can do this by adapting and assessing the wants of your team and the needs of your business and making plans around these.
Flexible working advice
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