Is your office to become a mid-week hive of activity?
Ian Moore might have the solution to hybrid working.
There are few people that have missed their daily commute to work. Those hours and hours of travelling to and from the office each week, at vast expense, all because working from home was considered not conducive to an effective and collaborative working environment.
Fast forward 15 months and the pandemic has proven that theory incorrect, not only leading to improvements in productivity, but also operating costs and employee wellbeing. Companies have shelled out substantial funds to their staff to kit out their home offices, and the adoption of video communication and collaborative working tools has skyrocketed.
Not only that, but improvements have been made to home life with families being able to spend more time together and many moving out of cities in favour of more green space.
Despite all of this, with the vaccine programme running to schedule, offices will be reopening soon. This will bring the benefits of a return to routine, social interaction with colleagues, and the 'me time' during the commute to mentally prepare for the next part of the day.
So with pros and cons on each side, how will the new working week work? Well, from conversations with businesses and individuals, a long term change in working patterns is coming. Introducing the T,W,T movement: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the office; Mondays and Fridays at home.
Before I talk about how you as an employer can manage this trend, it might be helpful to look at where it has come from.
With less time in the office together, the opportunities to see each other and collaborate will feel more special and energy levels will be higher.
A mix of working from home and in the office makes sense – the overall commuting time is reduced by 40%. But why does this schedule seem so popular? The understanding is that by grouping together the days in the office, there is the option for some to stay overnight near their place of work, thereby further reducing the number of commutes they must make each week.
Having Mondays and Fridays at home means that there’s little disruption when bank holidays occur or people take Friday off to enjoy a long weekend. It also enables workers to start and end the week organised as they have quiet time at home to get more tasks done and plan their time.
For the employer, there are a lot of positives to gain from this. With less time in the office together, the opportunities to see each other and collaborate will feel more special and energy levels will be higher. What’s more, team meetings should be easier to arrange.
There is also a big role for HR leaders to play in increasing collaboration and effectiveness by educating the workforce on how to best plan and organise their working week. Coach them on which meetings should be done face-to-face and which can still work effectively over video call as well as which tasks are best done at home versus in the office.
And what about equipment and facilities? If time in the office is more likely to be spent in meetings, you may need to make changes to the room layout; replacing a lot of the banks of desks with more meeting areas, presentation rooms and breakout zones. Just keep in mind that social distancing requirements will be needed for some time yet too.
Tech-wise, now is a good time to assess the subscriptions you have in place for video calling and remote working. It may be that new and improved technologies have arrived since you panic-bought your current solutions.
But before any of this, it’s the role of the leadership team to assess whether or not the T,W,T scenario works for your business. Make sure it is a good fit or find one that is before communicating with your teams. This will ensure you’re in control of the initiative and will limit any challenges from staff about the feasibility of what has been proposed.
You are providing a benefit of sorts by allowing people the choice to work from home or the office. But it needs to be made clear to all that this benefit can be taken away.
While this is a company-wide policy, take the time with each employee to agree where and when they’ll typically work.
From complicated childcare arrangements to anxiety about being around lots of people, your employees will be experiencing a range of emotions and challenges and it’s important that you take steps to identify them and put measures in place so that the return to work is as smooth as possible. Then formally set out the new arrangements and add them to your company policies.
With proper planning and people processes in place, the move to a new working pattern could give your workforce a much-needed boost in productivity and teamwork and inspire a new company culture that helps retain talent as well as attract it.
Just don’t wait too long or all of the factors that lead to a company’s success may be harder and take longer.
Now what to do with the office space on Friday - Monday...
About the author
Ian Moore is founder of HR consultancy Lodge Court.
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