Hybrid working models

The future is flexible (pt 1/2): why the rise of hybrid working has huge implications for offices

Ever since the lockdowns began in early spring 2020 I have heard numerous variations of the following remark: “We had to close up the office on Friday and then have everyone working from home on the Monday.” It’s hard to imagine another event resulting in such a major transformation of the way we work.

As the months went by and a growing number of employers began to realise that home-based working could mean the same or greater productivity, speculation about the future of the office began to spread. Media platforms ranging from Deutsche Wells to The New York Times considered how much demand there would be for offices in the future. Meanwhile, in the UK, the Office for Budget Responsibility predicted that the value of commercial property would drop by 14% in 12 months (1).

One year into the pandemic, a hybrid model of operation looks like it will be more suitable for most businesses. In a recent Forbes survey, 80% of respondents said they thought the future of work was a hybrid of remote and in-person working, while only 9% anticipated a full-scale return to the office. (2)

“With leading research groups predicting more varied working patterns, employers need to consider whether their offices are really fit for purpose”, writes Priva’s Koen Somers.

The McKinsey Institute’s ‘The Future of Remote Work’ report (3) offers a wealth of insight on the topic. Variable domestic broadband is a real crunch issue, with the report citing a researcher at Stanford University who found that only 65% of Americans surveyed said their internet was good enough for video calls (4). The McKinsey team also points to the risk of home-working “accentuating inequalities” and creating mental stress.

These concerns must be addressed, but McKinsey is in no doubt that “some forms of re-mote work are likely to persist long after Covid-19 is conquered.” In particular, the potential for a more productive workforce cannot be ignored. More days working from home means “less time wasted commuting”, while the percentage of employees feeling they were more productive working domestically rose from 41% to 45% in April/May 2020 alone.

Employers who do not own their premises will also want to enjoy the cost savings that can be made by using less office space. But the premises they do keep will need to be made suitable for flexible working, including easy – and safe – hotdesking.

There are also plenty of questions to be asked about building technologies. For example, do they allow the building to operate well without wasting energy in unoccupied areas? Does the building management system allow technical teams to have a complete overview of how the office space is functioning? And do they support further changes to the use of the office in the future, no matter what they might be?

In the second part of this blog, we’ll address some of the key issues for employers who are now taking steps to make their offices ready for hybrid working.

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Sources:

(1) https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-8535085/230bn-commercial-property-crash-Treasury-watchdog-sounds-alarm.html
(2) https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2020/11/11/the-future-of-work-the-hybrid-workforce/?sh=6cad9ece362a
(3) https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/future-of-work/whats-next-for-remote-work-an-analysis-of-2000-tasks-800-jobs-and-nine-countries#
(4) https://news.stanford.edu/2020/06/29/snapshot-new-working-home-economy/