Following the pandemic, the attitudes of businesses and individuals around the working environment have evolved. The concept that people should waste hours of their day getting in and out of work, to sit at a desk, when that same work be done more effectively from home has caused a rift in some industries.
That’s not to say that we should knock all office buildings down, or end all face to face interactions. It’s not an invitation to stay at home for the rest of our lives. It’s just that we have to consider the benefits and the improvement in quality of life that the new ways of working has brought for so many people and businesses.
The solution is balance. Hybrid working combines the advantages of remote working with the need for collaboration, learning, and positive human interaction. Spending a few days in an office with others provides valuable interaction and creates a space for collaboration, whilst giving people the freedom to work wherever is most comfortable and productive. It’s about accepting that some people will do their best work at home, free from the noise and interruptions of office life (and yes, some may still choose to stay in the office).
It also goes without saying that not all industries can benefit from remote working, and it’s obvious that some sectors have to see a full return to be effective. But in the world of high-stress marketing, where people work hard and play hard, hybrid working appears to be prevailing.
At tmwi, we adopted the simple policy that “people should work wherever they feel most comfortable and productive, but collaborate and meet in the office”.
Hybrid working has lead to increased awareness around mental health and employee wellbeing. The personal benefits to staff are obvious; Less time in traffic means more valuable time back (not to mention better carbon footprint), and the benefits of this are significant. There are also the cost savings in fuel and travel, and the convenience and comfort of conducting work in their own environment. I can’t count how many days or weeks worth of my life have been spent stuck in traffic on the M42, but I welcome the opportunity to do less of that.
However, it’s not just the employee that benefits. By looking after staff, businesses create a positive working culture, which emphasises trust and responsibility. Ultimately businesses should want their staff to wake up in the morning and want to work for them, to be happy, enthusiastic, and deliver their best. Happy staff go the extra mile, do their best quality work, and take pride in themselves and the business they represent. Conversely, staff that suffer under dictatorial rule are oppressed and unhappy, they often feel strangled, and are more likely to not put all of their effort in, and the quality of output deteriorates noticably.
The opportunity for businesses to recruit has grown. Where we once had to recruit new staff locally (within daily travel distances), flexible working has broadened the radius of viable candidates. There are now more options for building a good team.
To be competitive in the marketplace, hybrid working in our industry is critical. In order to recruit, and retain existing staff, businesses should avoid giving competitors an advantage, particularly as the market is currently very buoyant.
Some business leaders don’t like hybrid working, and usually for two reasons. One is that they are micromanagers, and they find it difficult to do this remotely. Second is that they operate under the delusion that “presenteeism” is equivalent to productivity, which is also usually linked to micromanagement.
Micromanagement doesn’t work – it’s the hallmark of a bad manager. It breaks down morale by removing freedom and trust, and by devaluing employee self-worth by taking away responsibility. It also makes things worse for businesses, because it destroys any accountability.
To get people back in the office for a few days isn’t difficult if you have the right culture. They key is to build respect and support. It’s up to managers to help facilitate a balanced working approach, by creating positive reasons for office use, so people know they are coming to the office with a purpose, and not just to sit at a desk. But it’s also necessary for managers to put in the right tools and processes to enable seamless remote working.
Fundamentally, when you pick it apart, there’s no reason for our industry to be either fully office-based or fully remote. It’s not a question of productivity, or capability, nor of morale or collaboration. We’ve proven that hybrid can work by balancing the best of all worlds, and allows employees and businesses to both reap the rewards and prosper together. Where businesses are failing to adapt and meet the new expectations of employees, people will vote with their feet, for as long as there are businesses willing to cater to their needs.