The hybrid work model: a short-term fad, or the future workplace?

| 20 October 2020

Have you heard about the Welcome Stamp Scheme set out by the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley? She is inviting people to live in Barbados for a year while they work remotely. Sounds too good to be true. The work-life of dreams and inconceivable earlier this year, pre-lockdown.

I have to admit working in Barbados would beat a day’s work from my laptop in my kitchen. The school run might become a little complicated though!

Barbados remote working is likely to be an unrealistic option for many, but the home workplace and home working is not going to end soon – not completely anyway. Many businesses will go back to similar routines as before, and this of course depends on the sector and the nature of the work employees are required to undertake. There’s a definite trend of hybrid working models emerging now businesses have acclimatised to working from home practices and want to achieve the “best of both worlds”. The hybrid workplace has big implications for every aspect of talent strategy – from attraction and retention, to leadership development. The question is, will it be short-lived and sporadic, or become ubiquitous across UK’s workforce?

Change is here & has impacted the workplace as we know it
Have you read about the Government’s major media campaign to encourage workers back to work – primarily to save the businesses and city centres that rely on commuters and passing trade. As well-intended as it is, businesses will ultimately make decisions based on what works best for them. We know of firms who are moving back to a full-time working office model for the foreseeable future, big London-based consulting and financial services firms for example. Our own business, a people consulting business, is included in this category.

On the flipside, there are businesses opting for hybrid or total remote working. The “virtual law firm” is a term that sprung up this week. Josh Hardie, CBI’s Deputy Director General, has noted: “Remote working has been a real success for many firms and employees, and none of the many benefits should be lost.” Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, has further emphasised this point: “The pandemic has also catapulted working life into the future, encouraging more staff to take up a permanent blended working approach. This shift should be embraced by employers and not discouraged by the Government.”

Schroder’s Chief Executive, Peter Harrison, said recently that: “The contract between society and business has changed forever. The office will become a convening place where you get teams together, but the work will be done in people’s homes.”

In the City, Lloyds Banking Group is reviewing its office space needs and exploring new ways of working. Investment banking staff at JP Morgan will be able to rotate between office and home on a permanent basis. Only some essential staff and recruits in training will need to be onsite.

NatWest will adopt a hybrid model – 50,000 of its 65,000 staff are set to work from home into 2021, with elements of the model retained beyond that. Linklaters has said its global staff could spend 20-50% of their time working remotely from now on under its long-term agile working policy.

One thing is for certain, change is here, and it’s a good opportunity for all organisations to review their talent acquisition and retention strategy through a new lens.

The impact on talent: addressing opportunities & threats
Does this new workplace model create some exciting opportunities in talent attraction and consulting? I believe that it does. For example, remote working allows us to consider a much broader talent pool for certain roles; the commute time is less important, if a consideration at all. Any opportunity to widen the talent pool, particularly for hard-to-fill roles is good news. Remote software developer roles, for example, are now more commonly seen.

Flexible working options are likely to become important for how candidates perceive businesses when evaluating career decisions – this presents opportunities to gain an advantage over competitors through adaptable working policies. Early careers and junior-level employees may prefer to join employers that will have them on-site for the majority of the time. Many mid-career candidates may prefer to be at home for a significant proportion of their time.

On the threats side of things, advocates for a full return to workplace have highlighted the negative impact on collaboration. The absence of water-cooler moments and bonding over the ups and downs of office life. It will be harder for junior staff to learn on the job from more experienced colleagues.

An area of concern is leadership development. Remote working may stunt the growth of high-potential future leaders – this is an issue that’s vital to address for obvious reasons. Can this be navigated through online courses, virtual mentoring schemes, or is this something that can only be done face-to- face?

Ultimately, whatever the risk, whatever the opportunity, it will be easier to take the right decisions if organisations have access to the latest talent research and market intelligence. Perhaps, you’ll be targeting remote workers in Barbados in 2021?

Natalie Douglass is a director in our talent intelligence team. If your business is firming up its plans on property, phased returns or hybrid models, then it’s important to talk to your external recruitment, talent strategy and human capital suppliers. There are risks to mitigate and opportunities to capitalise on. If you’d like to discuss the talent implications of the new world of work, please get in touch

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