Published on:

22 April 2022

Updated on:

12 October 2023

Read time:

8 minutes

How can you facilitate hybrid working strategies?

Hybrid working strategies are on the minds of many employees who are increasingly dissatisfied with traditional working hours in often siloed, disruptive and limiting office environments.

A recent study showed that a staggering 56% of Apple workers are considering quitting due to unhappiness in their work space.

With the war on top talent intensifying, organisations that maintain fixed, rigid hours and a five-day-a-week mandatory return to the office, risk losing employees.

Our latest webinar uncovers what employees want from their place of work, how commercial real estate is adapting to demands and the ways work domains can be developed to facilitate collaboration, inclusivity and productivity.

The speakers included:

  • Cyril Parsons - managing director of Office Principles, the UK’s leading interior design consultancy
  • Guy Parkes - partner of Vail Williams, a national commercial and residential property adviser with an IIP gold accreditation
  • Bertie van Wyk - workplace specialist at Herman Miller, an American office and home furnishings company founded over 100 years ago

Definitions of hybrid working

Put simply, Bertie van Wyk describes a hybrid strategy as any approach in between a remote-first strategy and an office-first strategy.

According to Guy Parkes, hybrid working can be graded in four ways:

  1. Workplace-based with limited home working - a physical office where everyone goes in, where all meetings, training sessions, work distribution, real time culture and decision making take place.
  2. Workplace-based with generous home working - work revolves around the physical environment and is launched from the office but employees can work from home, take work home and work a certain number of days a week.
  3. Digital-first with a workplace - collaboration, productivity and culture are mainly delivered by digital tools. Working from an office is an exception and this style of working has to rely on a tech-based culture.
  4. Digital-first with no workspace - everything is distributed to the workforce digitally and again there is a complete reliance on an exceptional, tech-based culture.

How has the workplace[1] changed over the past twenty years?

There have been several major events which have changed the office landscape over the last twenty years, Guy Parkes explained.

The first occured at the turn of the millennium when news of the Y2K bug spiked tech sales, only for them to plummet when companies and individuals were no longer in need of such equipment.

According to the Vail Williams partner, this shift coincided with the need for large floor plates to accommodate big office spaces, causing the development of business parks to surge.

This remained the popular layout for offices until the appearance of the second major event - the 2008 financial crisis. During this period, affordability became a central driving factor in the change of the workplace. Everyone from developers and landlords needed workspaces to be more cost-effective leading to the density of office spaces being increased.

Guy said: “It was getting quite hot and sweaty in those environments so as a result, companies started to pull in amenities such as foosball and snooker tables.”

Brexit changed the workplace again and so too did the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Defined by an air of cautiousness, both events have pushed individuals into short-term thinking and a more wary attitude.

It has led to much shorter leases, says Guy, as well as the rise in serviced offices and remote working.

Should alarm bells have been ringing about the general desire for hybrid working? Bertie certainly thinks so.

What do employers/employees want from a hybrid office?

The longing for hybrid working is evident; according to Herman Miller’s Future Forum report, 94 percent of knowledge workers across the world want flexibility when they are working.

“We know that if you don’t have a clear and concise strategy, people are three times as likely to be actively looking for a new job, right now, at this very moment”, Bertie stressed.

Notable findings also indicated that whilst 44 percent of leadership teams want to be back in the office for five days a week, only 17 percent of non-C-suite executives felt the same.

Bertie stipulated that to have the best chance of retaining employees, executives and leaders need to ask themselves why they want staff to stick to traditional working hours and days.

Unsurprisingly, hybrid strategies were indicated to be the preferred style of future working despite many offices not delivering what they should when these methods are in place.

To meet the requirements of a hybrid working strategy, Bertie emphasised the delivery of three key things:

  • Community socialisation
  • Intensive team collaboration
  • Improving the office space

Furthermore, productivity depends upon a space which facilitates concentration and does not involve constant collaboration.

“When we go into an office it’s not purely for collaborative work - you don’t collaborate for nine hours of the day. The rest of the time you want to try and do what you’re being paid to do.”

How do workplaces need to adapt to suit new demands?

Guy highlighted that landlords and occupiers need to create spaces which can compete with the convenience and suitability of homeworking. Offices need to be engaging, immersive and exciting for employees.

Key elements which can improve an office space include:

  • Providing shower facilities for those who cycle to work or exercise
  • Offering gym sessions to boost socialisation and wellbeing
  • Improving green credentials (i.e. bettering air quality)
  • Providing multi-fast broadband
  • Ensuring working environments are of a high quality and easy to control/manage
  • Providing more breakout areas
  • Improving workplace accessibility (i.e. minibuses, scooters, or moving further into city centres)

How do you create a more inclusive workplace which improves diversity and collaboration?

Where collaboration is concerned, Bertie outlined three core ways to ensure we are maximising the effectiveness of cooperative spaces.

The first measure requires leaders and staff to reflect upon the biggest moments when they felt most connected to the organisation and why, ensuring they happen again.

Secondly, Bertie suggested that leaders address which groups, functions or teams are weakly tied or not tied at all to each other or the organisation and subsequently craft a process which connects them.

Creating incubators was the third approach which Bertie stressed can improve collaboration.

In dedicating temporary spaces for multiple teams to work together for a short period of time, staff can connect, grow and learn from each other.

Adapting the office space to celebrate and improve diversity is also imperative for a better working experience.

The following suggestions are a great way to start:

  • Providing employees with great choices and different accessibility options to suit different physical and sensory needs
  • Creating hybrid strategies which take into account external responsibilities of staff
  • Providing nursing rooms for new mothers
  • Contrasting different colours for visual variation

The future of hybrid

Despite being in popular demand, hybrid working strategies are not always a viable option for small to medium sized organisations Guy stated.

While the responsibility to facilitate hybrid working falls as much to landlords as it does to occupants, leaders should try new things out and create as immersive an experience as possible for employees.

“The space needs to be really good for people to get their work done that they are being paid to do. Most spaces aren’t”, Guy concluded.