Preparing your Workplace for Hybrid Working: 4 Key Actions
By Ciara Fallon, Director, People & Organisation, PwC
Government has now set down the plan for the return to the workplace. The future world of work may take many forms including a hybrid model where employees return to their workplaces say 2 to 3 days per week and work remotely the rest of the week. The success of hybrid working when we return to the office will be highly dependent on how clearly the purpose of the office is understood, defined and embraced.
Redefining the role of the workplace
Hybrid working brings complexities beyond a blanket "100% on-site" or "100% remote" workplace. However, this forced reimagination of how and where we work has provided a unique opportunity to redefine the role of the workplace in providing real added value for organisations, teams and their people.
It is important to note that the 'workplace' encompasses both the physical and digital environments where work is undertaken. This includes everything from the physical office to the way work gets done, all in tandem with a consideration of your workforce and the type of work they perform. The challenge of hybrid working is as unprecedented as the challenge of remote working was. Organisations must be willing to take an agile approach by adopting a trial-and-error mindset, and leaders need to be comfortable with not knowing all the answers.
While strategic planning must be undertaken to make hybrid working a reality, agility will be critical as lessons are learned, and models of hybrid working are refined. With this in mind, flexible attitudes will be key, providing trust and room for modifications and amendments as required. Along with asking employees for their input into the design of the Workplace of the Future, being honest with your people about this evolving journey to hybrid working is crucial.
Undoubtedly, a hybrid model presents a number of intricate complexities, from design and preparation right through to implementation and sustainability. No 'one size fits all' approach exists when considering where, how and when people will need - and want - to work going forward. It is therefore critical to take an agile approach.
There are four key actions to take now: PwC has developed the '4Rs' (Remember, Rebuild, Redefine, Reimagine) to define the purpose of your future office:
Leverage the learnings from the ways of working throughout the pandemic. A thorough reflection on remote working can help you understand what elements of remote working you want to retain in your new workplace model and which you wish to leave behind. Your future workplace model may need to consider appropriate home working arrangements on specified days for your workforce to continue to devote time to such tasks in this way. The lessons to be learned from how your organisation has performed and the reality of what your employees have experienced are valuable inputs into any design of a future workplace model.
Take stock and take action. Remodelling of the workplace for your organisation requires consideration of the business strategy, the people and culture, compliance and risk and technology and learning – in addition to the physical environment. Understand employee sentiment, future business strategy and management expectations, discuss current challenges and future goals and gather data and insights to co-create the best workplace model going forward. Your workplace will also increasingly become a key factor in attraction and retention of talent. Implementing an agile, flexible approach will enable your organisation to stretch and scale as lessons are learned and priorities pivot.
Reimagine your workplace with collaboration at the centre and in a way that supports different types of work preferences. Once you've understood how your people want to use different workplaces and spaces, hit go and redesign accordingly. Think less cubicles and more hubs for collaboration, with enough variability to meet different needs and expectations. Whether it's war-rooms for team strategy sessions, outdoor spaces for mental refreshment or technology that lets you coordinate calendars simply, workspace design should incorporate both physical and non-spatial elements to create a seamless, supportive and healthy office experience.
Acknowledge that COVID-19 wasn't the first pandemic the world has experienced – and it won't be the last. Organisations have to future-proof their offices, from ensuring adequate spacing between staff to mitigating bottlenecks in areas of high footfall, reviewing air conditioning infrastructure and implementing zero-touch technologies. Identify what is a permanent fixture of your 'new normal' and undertake scenario planning, so you are equipped with contingency plans and responses to future disruption.