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In this article, Stephen Dracup, Chief Operation Officer at Chess, covers why the company decided to adopt hybrid working:

When Covid-19 hit last year, many companies moved as many employees as possible to home working. This was a reaction to the circumstances we found ourselves in rather than a choice. Now, as lockdown ends again, we need to decide what to do next.

We love a survey at Chess, and when asked, only 4% of our people said that they wanted to return to full-time office working with 50% saying they wanted to be office based between 1 and 4 days a week. Interestingly 68% wanted to be home-based either 4 or 5 days a week. Our stats were only 1% off compared to a recent Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study of UK employees, revealing that 67% of those working remotely since COVID-19 want to split their time between the physical workplace and home working in the future.

According to the Economist, New Zealand, which emerged from lockdown last year, has 27% of people in employment working at home at some time during the week. So perhaps there is a gap between what people want and what employers let them do?

Be that as it may from our research, most people, given the choice, want a blend of home working and office working, or Hybrid working.

 

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Why Hybrid?

So why should employers listen to this and resist the desire to return everyone back to where they can see them?

Talent

Many sectors that are bouncing back and growing again are seeing increased competition for skills in the job market. The recognition that people can work from anywhere is expanding the reach of companies who used to recruit in a smaller geographical area and pushing up wages outside of traditional hotspots. Given the clear preference for Hybrid working (A study by Gallup found that nearly 33% of American employees would change jobs for more flexible work!), this is proving a significant part of the decision to stay with your existing employer or accept a new role with someone else. A study by Gartner found that by supporting a flexible work culture, employee retention rates could increase by 10%.

Productivity

A nine-month-long Stanford study found that remote workers took fewer sick days and breaks and were 13% more productive than their in-office counterparts. Done well remote working can really boost your productivity. At Chess, we have seen significant boosts to performance in teams that used to be traditionally office-based. Mostly, I think, due to the discipline required to run a team of remote workers effectively and the increased focus on systems and procedures it has necessitated.

Happy People

A study conducted by Owl Labs found that many workers feel that even one day of remote work can leave them feeling happier. Among respondents, 86% of people believe that working remotely alleviates stress and improves general well-being and health.

 

Agility

Warnings of a third wave and the likelihood of future pandemics suggest we would be wise to remain agile if we need to go in lockdown again.

Cost-saving

The cost of running a business is high, and physical offices are paying for rent, electricity, water, property insurance, office snacks, office supplies, and much more. By hiring remote workers, many of these costs are reduced or eliminated. It’s estimated that companies could save up to £8,000 a year for each employee.

 

Adopting Hybrid

Whilst it remains to be seen the true impact and adoption of Hybrid working, there is no doubt that in a Hybrid working model, the key challenge will be maintaining a consistency of approach to people who are not in the office to those that are.

Meetings

Avoid ad hoc meetings and coffee chats. Meeting with someone because they are in front of you inevitably removes the opportunity from those that aren’t. Stop conference room meetings if possible and run all meetings as if they were remote. It is almost impossible to make the experience equal for people who are present and those that aren’t. It’s best to avoid mixed-format meetings if possible, and either have them fully attended or fully remote. If you have to have mixed meetings – make sure you invest in the technology required to make the online experience as good as possible and make sure you go out of your way to include remote participants.

 

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Leadership

The best place for leaders in a hybrid office is working remotely. The best way to make sure leaders understand the true challenges faced by remote workers is to get them to be remote workers themselves.

Location

Suppose your (head) office remains the crucial centre for collaboration, social events and access to leadership, and you chose a hybrid working model. In that case, you will make it harder for people to work or live remotely from your main catchment area and enjoy the same opportunities as people living near or working in the office. Therefore, it is vital to understand what the office is for (and therefore what it isn’t for) and give extra thought and effort on how to be truly remote-first or face an uphill struggle to make this work.

Culture

Our people are our most valuable asset and it is vital we focus on their wellbeing and engagement especially during times of change. At Chess we prioritise employee engagement through regular 121s (using our engage app) where we measure attitude energy and performance in a monthly 360 review, take employee feedback through quarterly company-wide surveys and provide happiness training from our Exec Chairman, David Pollock. As David says when it comes to feeling positive: “Attitude is key. How we visualise an outcome really matters – and that can make good things happen – or be a significant barrier.”

Work securely from anywhere

Chess are one of the few companies that are specialists in helping our customers implement a fully converged secure remote working strategy. We can provide the connectivity, the devices, the security and the collaboration software to connect your people so that they can work better together and protect your data, reduce your costs and grow your business. Speak to one of our consultants about defining a strategy for your business. 

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About the author

Stephen Dracup

Stephen Dracup

Stephen is an experienced telecoms & IT professional with over 25 years industry experience. After graduating from the University of Manchester with a degree in English, Stephen started his career with Lister and Co PLC working for them for 12 years, rising to the position of Head of IT.

Stephen then set up Hoodpoint Communications, specialising in providing business phone systems and ran the business for eight years until it was sold to Chess in 2005.

Stephen stayed on at Chess as Managing Director steering the company to its best financial results. He recently became Chief Operating Officer and looks after the successful further development of the business.

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