With hybrid work, the workplace is no longer inside the four walls of the corporate office — it’s an ecosystem of employees working from home, in coworking spaces, and in the office.
“It offers employees the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive,” said Linda Trim, Director at Giant Leap, one of South Africa’s largest workplace design consultancies.
“But while it is conceptually appealing, it’s fraught with subtleties and risks. For instance, data shows the longer people are away from one another, the less they trust each other. This is true for leaders and employees, and for colleagues.
“When it comes to work, distance does not make the heart grow fonder.”
So what are the biggest mistakes businesses make when implementing hybrid working?
Treating talent as transactional
It’s important company leaders work to rebuild and maintain trusting relationships — with and among their employees. Those that don’t risk increased attrition, lower productivity, and stalled innovation. People want to feel like they belong, feel valued, and have a sense of work-life balance.
“Focusing only on the effort to attract and retain talent on pay and remote work policies creates a purely transactional relationship which undermines the importance of the workplace.
When office architects Steelcase, who are represented by Giant Leap sister company Inspiration Office in South Africa, surveyed 5000 people in 11 countries, they found that people who like working from the office are 33% more engaged, 20% less likely to leave and 9% more productive.
Changing policy, not place
By adopting hybrid work models and transitioning to more unassigned spaces, organisations are creating a new group of workplace nomads.
Not surprisingly, when people work in the office they’re more likely to sit in the open, where co-workers might be even more distracting than the kids or the dog at home. According to the research, it is also not surprising that currently, more individual contributors (57%) than leaders (37%) sit in the open. This difference in the level of control people have over their privacy at home compared to the office could contribute to why some people prefer the dining room table.
Yet, right now, people at all organisations are increasingly dropping assigned spaces.
The workplace needs to do a better job drawing people in and creating an engaging culture. Offering people a destination — such as a team neighbourhood — can give them a sense of belonging, a comfortable, familiar place to find their teammates and feel at home. Having the ability to reserve a workspace can help people know what to expect when they arrive at the office if spaces are not assigned.
Missing the Point – People Want Control + Belonging
Leaders are focused on creating more flexible policies, but hybrid models alone do not address other important factors like a desire for control, a sense of belonging and a need for privacy.
Many leaders are shifting to hybrid work models with good intentions — to give people greater autonomy and control over their work-life. But hybrid policies alone will not address the control and sense of belonging people are seeking. They want a destination and a place to call home at work.
According to the research, people are more likely (55%) to choose an assigned workspace over more remote work when given the choice.
Forgetting About Focus
New hybrid work habits mean people are spending more time on video — alone and with teammates. In fact, people say hybrid collaboration in the office is more important now than pre-pandemic. But, collaboration isn’t the only need.
So while some are considering a “collaboration-only” workplace, if leaders intend to entice people back to the office, people also need access to private spaces. Without options for privacy, the workplace won’t address how work really gets done. People who make the commute into the office are unlikely to collaborate all day long. Three of the top four elements people value more now relate to access to private spaces: 64% of people valued hybrid collaboration space, 62% single person enclaves for hybrid meetings while valued privacy.
“Giving people more options for the office privacy they crave can mean a lot of things — private offices, workspaces with enclosures that provide visual privacy or reservable enclaves or workspaces, ” Trim concluded.