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Hybrid Working vs Flexible Working

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for a faster and greater evolution of the workplace and the biggest shift in working patterns than we have ever seen before. For many businesses this has challenged the conventional way of  work, leading them to introduce new concepts and policies.  One approach that has become increasingly popular is hybrid working. According to a CIPD survey, 40% of employers expect more than half their employees to work from home for at least a portion of the week. Whilst this provides a high degree of flexibility, it is often confused with flexible working. And although both models will have an impact on your office space requirements, they cater to different needs.

What is hyrbid working?

Hybrid working refers to a blend of working across multiple locations with the office remaining central and complemented by remote working from home, a coworking space or an alternative such as a coffee shop. Hybrid working allows employees more autonomy to plan their working week.Hybrid working is not a new concept, but it has gained greater acceptance following successive pandemic lockdowns.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working relates to an employer accommodating the different needs of its workforce with respect to an individual’s working arrangement.  Flexible working can cover a whole host of options from staggered work times, flexitime or part-time working, compressed working weeks or even job sharing, this can also sit alongside hybrid working to achieve greater flexibility for both employee and employer. The optionality of such working styles has been contractual, for many organisations it remains as such, whilst the pandemic clouded the granting of such arrangements it is expected that clearer boundaries and policies will be put in place.

Who needs a desk?

What has become one of the main conundrums from a space planning perspective is identifying who you need to provide space for and when. Not so simple as the pandemic has meant that most people have adopted a variety of working patterns and locations. To get a clearer understanding of your space needs it is imperative that businesses set a certain level of expectation and/or policy in terms of frequency of attendance in the office. This will provide a benchmark in which to base assumptions off. It is at this stage that you factor in those who are on flexible working contracts and their patterns.

Whilst giving everyone their own desk regardless of their work pattern for most businesses is not cost effective or needed. Understanding more than just work patterns will add a further level to your calculations, what type of work is done when people come into the office, what are people in the office for? This will inform not just desk space requirements, but also wider workplace design.

Does office design need to change?

How businesses use space will change as a result of adopting either hybrid working patterns or having a greater number of employees working flexibily. Several workspace elements should be considered, whether it is more space devoted to team collaboration, an increased number of meeting rooms to help facilitate in-house and remote calls, more on-site amenities such as break out areas, phone booths and private offices, to name just a few. Whilst a reduction in desks/space could be achieved with fewer people in the office at any one-time, additional requirements could negate any changes and may even lead to an increase in space needed.

Our designers and workplace consultants identify your space needs and subsequently design to support a shift in working styles, office use and the wider role of the workplace within an organisation. Whether the workforce has returned to business as usual or a greater degree of remote working takes place, worker expectations have shifted over the past two years and office design and provision is one tool that can be deployed to attract and retain talent, and to improve productivity.  Any design change must result in the creation of a fundamentally a better and more productive space, not just to shoe-horn in a new way of working.

Invest in technology

The work-from-home directive ushered in a sea change in the world of work, but this change was already occurring; the pandemic just supercharged it, forcing companies to adopt, adapt, and transform quickly. The return-to-the-office has resulted in increased remote working. Remote working exists in each of an employee’s homes, the office, or any third spaces used. As businesses steam towards a future incarnation of the office and begin to embed short-term and long-term working strategies, the experience for users has to be seamless, whether they login from home, the coffee shop, or the office.

Harness the power of technology for your workforce. Often it is not only about purchasing new solutions, but better utilising the ones that are already available. Some firms may have access to many tech platforms, many of which can contribute towards a more effective workplace technology strategy. Leveraging the data, you already have will allow the business to make informed decisions backed by data, not just assumptions. It will also ensure that your next workplace decision-making process will be the right one.

Our Workplace Consultancy and Insights teams at DeVono have produced a paper highlighting how technology can support a hybrid workplace.

If you are currently redefining your workplace strategy and want some advise and guidance around what approach would be best for your business and people, get in touch today. 

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