Whilst working from home has become the norm for many digital marketers due to successive national lockdowns, it may not be long until physical office spaces are allowed to reopen. The question is whether this means that traditional working practices should return too. Polls suggest that many employees would prefer a form of hybrid working, with 88% currently working at home expressing a wish to continue home working in some way after restrictions are lifted. But what exactly is hybrid working, and how can companies effectively manage this modernised working structure?
Hybrid working can be considered as a combination of home and office working. The balance between would depend upon the needs of businesses and employees. Hybrid working allows for many possibilities – from more independence to improved work-life balance. The main benefits to businesses are the potential for increased creativity and less investment in physical office space.
Without a doubt, digital communication has been a critical factor in enabling so many businesses to continue operating outside of the office environment. Companies have relied heavily on Slack and Zoom for internal communications, client meetings, and industry events to work effectively at home. These technologies have begun to shape the way businesses operate whilst working from home – but what is their role in hybrid working?
Creating an online environment where collaboration can occur easily, the need to be in an office space is reduced. Whilst the potential for limitless communication was always present, it seems that through platforms such as Zoom and the like, client interaction and acquisition has strengthened. Some have noted the potential to streamline the everyday routines and creative processes in digital agencies through online meeting platforms. This can be seen in the ability to communicate directly with collaborators in real-time, without the barriers of formal in-person meetings.
This saves time spent on unnecessary communication and allows joint projects, whether inter-departmental or with clients, to progress more quickly. Companies may have increased confidence in a hybrid working structure since they can communicate easily with employees and clients, whether at home or in the office. Other advantages include the ability to connect with and motivate teams despite varying physical locations and eliminating redundant task management. The rapid shift towards home working has allowed businesses to become more familiar with online communication technologies and increased their trust as reliable platforms to conduct business.
We’re a very collaborative and friendly agency. We have always encouraged face to face engagement and client visits despite having teams across Europe (The UK, Spain and Ukraine). So, video conferencing was already a significant part of our day, but we could never have imagined the lifeline video conferencing would provide. We are now using video conferencing more than ever, teams and clients are communicating daily, and relationships are becoming stronger.
Sam Wheeler-Phillips, Head of Advertising, Superb Media
Whilst working from home may have been stressful for many, there are some positive outcomes for employees and employers alike –a good reason to consider hybrid working in the future. A similar concept, known as smartworking, asserts that giving people autonomy to choose where and how they work while taking on more personal responsibility for workflow increases productivity and overall job satisfaction. A recent study has shown that 28.9% of participants reported that their productivity increased when working at home during the pandemic compared to their office work six months before.
By giving employees more control over the way they work, employers can easily accommodate more varied creativity and workflow methods, thus increasing productivity. Furthermore, digital technologies can allow managers to interact with their teams easily and maintain motivation when away from the office environment, reducing the risk of employees feeling disconnected and therefore demotivated. Hybrid working enables a more autonomous approach to work since it mixes a structured office environment with a less pressured home space.
The office’s future seems uncertain, with so many expressing their wish to continue working from home. However, with the hybrid working model, office space plays an important role. How offices are utilised may shift towards a more flexible approach. The focus would be collaborative spaces, where creative projects can be discussed, training sessions held, and employees could meet to sync up. The room may need to be altered to accommodate meetings with those in the office and working from home. Conference spaces that are set up for two way streaming can easily make hybrid working seamless.
The need for permanent work stations would also be reduced, and a more flexible system for booking spaces might be considered. This would reduce the amount of physical space needed and lead to reduced costs for businesses. The hybrid working model allows companies to tailor their office space to truly reflect the business’s goals and ethos and become a place where products and services can be showcased.
If implemented correctly, hybrid working models can benefit from allowing more autonomous innovation to the reduced need for expensive office space. With around half of UK workers reporting dissatisfaction with permanent home working, it is clear that hybrid working offers a good compromise. With such uncertain futures due to climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, flexibility is a vital attribute for all businesses to continue moving forward.
Written and researched by Paige Elford, Digital Marketing Graduate