11 February 2024

Towards a better hybrid work strategy

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Hybrid working

Hybrid models empower employees to tailor their work environment to suit their needs. Image: File.

Like it or not, hybrid work is here to stay and organisations trying to enforce pre-pandemic rules are facing resistance. Dan Schawbel suggests how this challenging transformation can be well managed.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of contemporary work, hybrid work models have emerged as a transformative force, challenging traditional notions of office-based employment.

As organisations grapple with the decision to embrace hybrid work, a critical aspect that demands careful consideration is the return on investment (ROI). ROI is important as it serves as a quantitative measure of the effectiveness and success of the hybrid work model.

However, despite the powerful benefits of looking at ROI, this type of analysis is rarely done when organisations are adopting or changing their hybrid work strategy. Instead, we often see decisions about work policies being handed down by senior leadership, based solely on their personal beliefs about how things ”should” be.

I’ll delve into the multifaceted dimensions of the ROI of hybrid work, exploring productivity gains, real estate cost savings, employee satisfaction, talent retention and acquisition, and increases in collaboration and innovation.

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Productivity gains: Central to the ROI of hybrid work is the prospect of heightened productivity. The flexibility inherent in hybrid models empowers employees to tailor their work environment to suit their needs. Freed from the constraints of a fixed office location, individuals can optimise their workflow, potentially leading to increased efficiency.

Studies have suggested that reduced commuting times, personalised workspaces, and improved work-life balance contribute positively to employee performance.

Greater collaboration and innovation: One of the main benefits of a well-executed hybrid work strategy is its ability to boost collaboration and strengthen work relationships. The combination of in-person interactions and virtual collaboration can create a dynamic work ecosystem where diverse perspectives converge, leading to richer discussions and innovative problem-solving.

To achieve this, organisations must invest in strategies that foster a culture of teamwork, open communication, and knowledge-sharing. They also need to ensure their team members have the right digital collaboration tools to facilitate seamless communication and real-time collaboration. The ability to sustain a culture of innovation and creativity is a crucial factor influencing the long-term ROI of hybrid work.

Cost savings: A cornerstone of the business case for hybrid work lies in the potential for significant cost savings. Traditional office spaces, with their associated real estate costs, utilities and maintenance expenses, can be a substantial financial burden.

The adoption of hybrid work allows organisations to re-evaluate their office footprint, potentially downsizing physical spaces and redirecting resources towards more strategic initiatives. While initial investments may be required to facilitate remote work, the long-term benefits in terms of reduced overhead costs constitute a compelling argument for the ROI of hybrid work.

Employee satisfaction and retention: There are now plenty of examples of return-to-office mandates backfiring. In general, workers are not against spending some time in the office — rather, they want to hold on to more of their flexibility, or they’re opposed to being monitored.

The intangible but invaluable aspects of employee satisfaction and retention must not be overlooked in the ROI equation. When thoughtfully executed, hybrid work strategies have the potential to significantly enhance job satisfaction.

Talent acquisition: Hybrid work is especially appealing for workers who benefit from spending some time in the office, but also require the flexibility to take care of personal needs. For example, those with childcare or eldercare needs can benefit immensely from a hybrid work arrangement.

Given that women often shoulder the majority of these care-taking responsibilities, organisations that offer more flexible arrangements are more likely to attract female jobseekers.

Implementing an effective hybrid work model necessitates strategic investments in technology infrastructure. Robust communication tools, secure networking solutions, and comprehensive cyber-security measures are essential components of this transition.

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Organisations should also consider offering solutions that facilitate a seamless experience for employees on days when they’re in the office. Tools that allow people to book desks or workspaces are especially important. While there are upfront costs associated with these investments, they are integral to ensuring seamless remote collaboration.

Organisations should view these technology expenditures not merely as costs, but as essential enablers of productivity and efficiency, contributing positively to the long-term ROI of hybrid work.

*Dan Schawbel is a bestselling author and managing partner of Workplace Intelligence, a research and advisory firm helping HR adapt to trends, drive performance and prepare for the future. This article is part of his Workplace Intelligence Weekly series.

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