Hybrid working: two words that most employers find themselves grappling with as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. If you are grappling with what future hybrid working arrangements look like for your organisation, here are some articles we thought you might find useful. This month we explore hybrid working, the challenges of making it work and what factors we can carry over from the last 15 months of decidedly unhybrid working life. We also take a look at the digital skills gap and what’s stopping organisations adopting artificial intelligence.
Seize the moment for new ways of working – HSBC boss Noel Quinn scraps executive floor at London HQ
“I think it would be a missed opportunity if, having gone through so much change over the last 15 months, we just drift back to our old ways of working.” That’s the view of Noel Quinn, group CEO at HSBC, who announced on LinkedIn that he and other senior managers would be returning to hot desks rather than personal offices. According to the BBC, HSBC is looking to reduce its office space by 40% which means the entire workforce will need to embrace hybrid working.
HSBC, like many other employers, is now looking to understand which roles can be carried out where. Banks have a large branch network and many jobs pre-pandemic were office based. The challenge for HSBC will be to design ways of working that look to the future and that embrace hybrid approaches. The fact that the CEO and senior team are leading on this new approach to work can only be positive. It shows the rest of the organisation that the company is serious about new ways of working.
The realities of hybrid working – Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?
If you were in any doubt about the complexities of shifting to a hybrid way of working then take a look at this large piece of research from Microsoft. The company surveyed more than 30,000 people in 31 countries and analysed activity data from Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn. It found that workers want remote working as well as an opportunity to do in-person work. The research shows that more than 70% of workers want flexible remote work to continue, while over 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams. As a result, 66% of business leaders are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments.
Alright, so most of us want to make the new way of working, um, work. However, the research shows that weekly meeting time has more than doubled for Teams users and is still rising, weekly Teams chats have increased by 45% and are still rising and the average meeting is 10 minutes longer, increasing from 35 to 45 minutes. The research shows that much of this communication is unstructured and unplanned, with 62% of calls and meetings unscheduled.
Added to this, 60% of employees aged 18-25 say they are either just about surviving or are struggling and the pandemic has shrunk networks, meaning that organisations are more siloed than they were before the pandemic. There’s a long way to go to bring us back together.
What have you learned from the pandemic? – 4 strategies that helped a Marriott HR exec weather ‘the most challenging year’
When stepping into the future of work, we may want to say “let’s not talk about the last 15 months, shall we?” But that could be a missed opportunity. Organisations have learned a lot, have adapted quickly and have supported employees in ways that could and should be carried forward into the new hybrid future of work. In this interview, Jessica Lee, Marriott’s vice president of performance and brand talent advisory, shares some of the strategies that helped the organisation weather the pandemic. Communication is a key area. Not only was it important to communicate regularly in order to help colleagues understand unfolding events and what they meant to them but it was also important to communicate in an honest and transparent way. This matters when organisations don’t know the answers. One thing we can all agree on from the last year or so – nobody really knows how to handle it, so we’re better off admitting that we’re finding our way. That’s a lesson we should continue to apply as we go back to the office.
Lee also says it is important to understand how people feel about using tools and products so that organisations can improve their design. Hybrid working will involve using different systems across multiple processes. Making that as easy and frictionless as possible will be one of the many new challenges arising in hybrid working environments.
Beat hybrid fatigue – How to design a hybrid working model that overcomes common fatigue factors
Think you’re zoomed-out now? Just wait until you add a commute. According to analysts Gartner, hybrid working brings with it some fatigue factors. Vice President of HR Advisory for Gartner, George Penn, says in an interview with HR Zone that there are three big contributors to organisational fatigue. They are: employees being always on, digital distractions, and virtual overload. Gartner research shows that hybrid workers have a 27% higher chance of struggling to disconnect from work than employees based in offices, are 2.5 times more likely to experience digital distractions than their office counterparts and experience a 12% higher rate of feeling they are working too hard at their jobs versus their office-based colleagues.
Penn says that to counter these factors, employers must allow remote workers to disconnect fully from work and must resist the urge to fit hybrid ways of working to pre-pandemic work and office environments. Mental health support and education should be at the core of all organisations’ approaches to hybrid working, Penn adds.
Technology, and artificial intelligence in particular, will take an increasingly important role in the future world of work but this research suggests a lack of AI skills is now the biggest barrier to wider adoption of the technology in organisations. This research is another example of why reskilling and upskilling are becoming increasingly important for employers. Digital skills such as AI are in high demand, which means organisations will find it difficult to buy in the skills they need. The answer will be to develop these skills in-house. Ironically, AI can help learning teams tackle these skills challenges. We’ve been learning this too – Anders Pink uses AI and other technologies to help learning teams surface skills related resources. This is especially useful for supporting digital skills development as technology never stands still.
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