The future of work is hybrid

For many organizations, hybrid working, which combines remote working with time in the office, is now embedded within daily life. While it enables employees to work where and when they feel they can be most efficient, it should never be a simple case of one size fits all. The hybrid model demands the right digital tools and philosophy supported by a robust strategy to meet each enterprise’s unique requirements.

According to a recent Gartner prediction, up to 81% of the eligible workforce will be hybrid or remote in the future. Evidence suggests that most workers want to adopt hybrid working. In fact, 55% of employees and 65% of IT employees say that whether they can work flexibly will impact their decision to stay with their jobs.

In these uncertain times, listening and responding to the needs of the workforce are priorities for organizations in terms of both resilience and opportunities. In a recent survey, 50% of HR leaders said they expect to deal with growing talent competition over the next six months. Creating a robust hybrid working model will be one way to attract and retain top talent.

Hybrid working provides employees with flexible schedules and locations to be most effective in their roles, supported by a positive work/life balance. At the same time, it enables enterprises to re-think workspaces, broaden the talent pool and provide a competitive edge. These benefits can help to open new markets, while also reducing real estate costs in the long-term. But at the same time, organizations need to assess the value of face-to-face collaboration in the office space.

Hybrid will bring flexibility to all workplaces eventually

As we enter a more permanent hybrid working environment for knowledge workers, employers must find equitable flexibility for frontline workers in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare. This includes control over work schedules and paid leave. According to Gartner’s 2022 Frontline Worker Experience Reinvented Survey, 58% of organizations that employ frontline workers have already invested in improving opportunities for flexibility over the past twelve months.

Gartner’s findings also maintain that frontline workers are interested in other types of flexibility when it comes to work, such as what they work on, whom they work with, and the amount of work they do.

By 2024, companies offering frontline workers democratized access to digital collaboration, process automation, and similar tools will see a 20% increase in revenue due to improved productivity, according to IDC.

A robust strategy and human-centric leadership are key to hybrid success

As I have suggested, hybrid working does not mean taking a uniform approach. Neither is there one formula for its success. A hybrid work strategy that takes advantage of an enterprise’s individual, organizational and cultural attributes must be prepared. It needs to boost employee satisfaction and engagement to improve performance.

Enterprises must consider that the shifting work environment has changed employee expectations and blurred the relationship between managers and employees.

Some managers are still concerned about their ability to control the activity of their employees without the insight that happens in an office environment. As well as breaking down silos, managers must learn to manage “performance through outcomes, impact, and ownership,” according to McKinsey.

Trust and togetherness are vital to making this happen and supporting innovation. The building blocks of trust-based work culture are built on transparency and communication. This is supported by empowering employees to take ownership of their actions in a well-defined scope, supported by clear goals and constructive feedback.

Successful hybrid team managers must be able to develop employee autonomy by creating flexible workflows. They also need to adopt “team problem solving” as a mindset, maintains McKinsey. This means meeting complex problems head-on by actively engaging with the team, mobilizing resources, and connecting teams.

At the same time, managers must approach their core responsibilities in new ways by displaying what Gartner calls “human-centric leadership,” leading with authenticity, empathy and adaptivity.

According to the analyst firm, employees who operate in human-centric work models – where they are seen as people, not resources – are 3.8 times more likely to be high performing.

Making the most of time in the office

The office has a vital role to play in the hybrid working environment. It is time to re-evaluate how experiences are tailored and spaces facilitated to improve the efficiency of the workplace. Time in the office should be dynamic, energized and packed with team spirit.

Providing areas for collaborative hub spaces and individual work have the most impact, according to a report by the Gensler Research Institute, which focuses on developing a deeper understanding of the connection between design, business and human experience.

These workspaces make for better organizational outcomes, such as speed of decision making, quality of work, employee well-being, and job satisfaction, according to the Institute. At the same time, office design must inspire creativity through “collisions” or serendipitous moments of human interaction. This may mean positioning coffee machines to drive people to certain perimeters and optimizing queuing duration in the canteen so that employees can interact with people not typically in their network.

Employees must simultaneously make the most of these in-person collaboration opportunities in the office, such as brainstorming, group working, training and team building. The home office can provide a haven for concentration.

How to get hybrid working right

Here at Orange Business, we are committed to the hybrid model. Accelerated by the pandemic, this new way of working is now part of our DNA. We have invested considerable time and effort into building a model that is right for our business by adapting offices and workspaces to support our vision. We understand that achieving hybrid working does not happen overnight, and we are on a continuous development curve to improve where we can.

Our perception of hybrid working is global, based on core principles. But our model is adaptable to accommodate local specificities regarding culture, business activity and maturity. Through our experience in different locations around the world, we understand what works and use this knowledge to help our customers bring their hybrid working strategies to life.

In parallel with these changes in the workplace environment, our hybrid model also focuses on building a new culture that embraces the human need for personal development. For example, we are nurturing a learning culture in which upskilling and re-skilling are encouraged through fast-track training in areas where skills are scarce, such as DevOps, cloud and security in-house and externally. We are also focusing on technical certifications to create value for the company, our employees and our customers.

Everyone approaches hybrid working from a different starting block. Each organization must work out what hybrid model will best suit their business. They must also consider the right leadership, resources and cultural change required to support it.

Hybrid working is, first and foremost, about people. Making sure they are happy, motivated and connected is half the journey in getting hybrid right.

Businesses require a dynamic and engaged workforce to operate efficiently in the digital economy. Find out more about how Orange Business can empower users for hybrid working here.

Laurent Aufils
Laurent Aufils

Laurent Aufils is Head of Human Resources & Employee Experience at Orange Business. Previously, he held senior roles in the field of strategy, transformation, human resources, governance, and finance and has extensive experience in managing complex projects within dynamic international environments in mainland Europe, the U.S. and the UK. He is a graduate from Bentley University, HEC, University of California at Berkeley, and NEOMA Business School. In his spare time, Laurent likes to enjoy the simple moments in life with his family, walking in the country side, cooking and ... eating good food.