Since the easing of lockdown, we have found ourselves in a new phase of the ever-evolving employment cycle: trying to readjust our office habits after working from home for nearly two years.
Some companies have called their employees back to the office full-time; others fully adopted flexible working à la Silicon Valley and reimagined their business culture entirely. However, the majority of firms have gone with a hybrid model, allowing employees to work remotely some days of the week and come into the office on others.
It is clear many employees enjoyed the greater flexibility that came with the pandemic, and this is an element of work that has been adopted as businesses sought to reintroduce office life and face-to-face contact. The hybrid model is a great way to optimise productivity, in addition to being flexible and forward-thinking. According to Forbes, 70% of workers prefer remote working, while more than 65% of workers want opportunities to spend face-to-face time with their colleagues.
But how flexible can hybrid working really be? Recent studies show that employees and employers have no interest in going back to the office five days a week. Some companies, especially those in the tech sector, are proposing the reverse of most hybrid-model working conditions, such as allowing employees to work from the office only a few weeks a year.
It seems the most popular variation is going to the office for two or three days a week and working remotely on the others – which brings a new set of questions: do employees pick and choose which days they come into the office? Or, do we simply have set days when everybody comes in?
If the days are pre-determined by the company, then the workspace will become a more social environment, which would help employees enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interactions and brainstorming, not to forget morale and teambuilding. It would also give staff an opportunity to book client meetings on those days, which is a vital cog in the global real estate industry, for example. Considering the office would be empty during the rest of the week, it would also cut operational costs.
On the other hand, giving employees the responsibility to choose days most suitable to them could have a positive impact on promoting a healthy work-life balance. However, this could present obstacles with effective diary management, as employee schedules would be independent of their colleagues, therefore limiting collaboration time.
The property industry has always been considered more traditional than others, as it requires in-person interactions and most buyers would prefer to see properties before making a decision. However, the great benefits of technology during the pandemic illustrated a hybrid approach on VR viewings and virtual meetings as well.
Companies can maximise the effects of hybrid working by committing to current technological advancements and set a new standard for themselves. Let’s be innovative, bold and explore the most efficient ways of building a new workforce culture.
Chris Dietz is executive vice-president, global operations at Leading Real Estate Companies of the World