What do employers need to do to prepare for more hybrid working in the future?
How will hybrid working work? Survey after survey shows that a mix of working from home and working from the office is what most people want post-Covid, but it is up to employers to put that into practice at a time when most minds are firmly engaged in the everyday struggle just to get by. Some have introduced apps and other technological ways to regulate office usage. Many are said to be reviewing their office estate.
Siemens has adapted its Comfy app to enable collaboration when some people are in the office, but don’t know where colleagues might be sitting on any given day in the absence of set desks. The app allows people to share their location so colleagues know where they are and can find them and sit near them. The current model is based around the current Covid-19 scenario, but can flex to cope with the post-Covid scenario too. At the moment, it has been programmed to help with social distancing and desk booking. It helps make it easier for facilities managers and other colleagues to see who is in the building and who is working from home so they can plan when is the most beneficial time to come in. Other benefits include reducing overheads in terms of utility costs – only the parts of the office in use at any given time need to be lit or heated, for instance.
But aside from the logistical issues, what can employers do on a policy basis to enable hybrid working. One employer which has been debating this is Microsoft. In a recent blog Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer, talked about the need for flexible options and about the company’s new guidance to back that up. She says the company recognises that working from home part of the time (less than 50%) will be standard – assuming manager and team alignment, that working a flexi schedule is also standard and that geographic location may also be flexible if more workers opt to work remotely on a permanent basis.
The guidance is designed to encourage open conversations about how this will work in practice. For instance, it states that employees who opt to work from home permanently will give up their assigned office space, but can still use “touchdown space” at Microsoft offices. It says employees can move across country for remote work, but says compensation and benefits will change and vary “depending on the company’s own geopay scale”. It states that those who move will need to cover their own relocation expenses. It outlines that Microsoft will cover home office expenses for permanent remote workers. It recognises that a one size fits all approach won’t work and that some roles will still require people to come into an office or to have in-person training.
It is likely we will see much more of this in the next months. The changes are likely to reach all areas, including HR roles. A recent report by the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work and Future Workplace listed 21 HR jobs of the future to deal with a fast-changing workplace buffered by climate change, automation, Covid and other transformations. One of those roles is a work from home facilitator. Having the infrastructure in place is crucial to being able to survive in an increasingly uncertain work scenario.