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The Future of Work is Hybrid

Remote work, while on the rise in popularity BC (Before Covid), was still not being practiced at a significant level in Ireland with stats showing that 216,000 (Source IDA) people worked remotely or part remotely BC. At full employment levels in Ireland with 2.28m employed (CSO figures), this equates to less than 10% of the working population.

In our experience, as advocates of flexible work and remote work since 2015, the main reasons that companies were reluctant to embrace remote work were:

  • Trust – not trusting their employees to get the work done – it appears that productivity has actually increased during Covid-19 lockdown and in normal circumstances, productively levels are shown to increase for remote or part remote workers.
  • Technology – we know now that is was nothing to do with technology as all companies were forced to go online after March 12 and made it happen.
  • Security – another excuse that was slam dunked out of the water with all companies managing to tighten up their security and implement remote work policies at break neck speed.
  • Insurance – we were told that companies couldn’t insure their employees when they work from home – another hurdle that was very easy to jump over.
  • Management are not buying into it – given no choice during COVID-19, it appears that management are adapting well and employers are, even in difficult circumstances with children and other distractions, enjoying working from home with no commute.

See our blog post on flexism here:

What is the future of work going to look like? This is the question we are all asking at the moment and are we going to return to the rat raciness of BC times?

The future of work will, most certainly, to commence with, be a hybrid model with part work remote and part office, with social distancing rules applying. So, how is this going to work?

So a hybrid model means that some people will be in the office while some with work from home, maybe in a shift pattern – half the office is in Monday to Wednesday, half in from Thursday to Saturday for example. It might be that some workers will be in the office permanently, while others work from home or remotely all the time, depending on the nature of the work. It could be that senior management is in the office, while the rest of the team is distributed. Whatever the set up, all the team will not be in the one place at the one time, rubbing shoulders and having the chats in the same physical space.

How can we prepare for this and what are the challenges we will face with this new way of working?

  1. Communication – With any remote work environment, communication will be key and with a hybrid set up, it is important that remote workers are included in all communications and don’t feel left out on a limb – a robust communications policy will need to be designed. Companies will need to ensure that remote workers have access to all lines of communication and are not missing out on corridor chats that give workers onsite the competitive advantage and ‘inside’ knowledge
  2. Remote work policy: Your remote work policy should also be water tight so that everyone on the team knows exactly what is expected of them, when and where and how. There is no room for ambiguity here. A well thought through remote work policy is extremely important especially where there is a luke-warm buy in from management.
  3. Career and Development opportunities should be the same for everyone and people who are primarily working remote should not be ‘punished’ for doing so. A clear career development and training plan should be laid out for everyone without preference. Opting for remote or flexible work should never be deemed as being unambitious or less hard working.
  4. Culture – you may need to have a serious look at the culture of your organisation so that you are supporting and leading your hybrid team effectively with no loss of productivity or motivation.
  5. Managing your hybrid team will be completely different – both for managers and team members – consider training for both management and team so that you can support your team and lead effectively with empathy.
  6. Well being and mental health – we must remember that some people do not like remote work and might feel forced into this arrangement. After all, this may not be at all what they signed up for! Managers need to take this into account and to look for the signs that their team members are struggling or suffering from mental health issues. Regular anonymous feedback from your team may reveal some interesting results – Gitlab, who are 100% remote, obtain feedback weekly from their team.

One thing is for sure, the way we work has been globally turned on it’s head in a very short period. Love it or hate it, remote work is here to stay and we all need to embrace it. We know now that it CAN work – it was never really about the technology or all the other excuses, but we need now to put the right scaffolding around our procedures and policies so that we can all thrive in this new way of working. Companies that do so will gain the competitive advantage – those who want to return to business as usual will simply not survive.