The future is hybrid (and the future is now)

March 2020 marked the dawn of a new era of work. As employees around the world retreated into their homes, little did we know that this would kickstart a wave of innovation around the fundamentals of how people and businesses work.

What’s become clear since is that there’s no going back to the old work model. Employees and businesses alike have seen the benefits of taking a different approach. Like it or not, we are now in a hybrid working world.

The good news? This gives organizations a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reinvent the way we work. In doing so, we can throw off a tired, obsolete model and forge a more productive, more agile future.

As most businesses are quickly realizing, in this new world of work, where you work is less important than the work you do. But to radically reshape the workforce while upholding your business objectives calls for a nuanced understanding of the work itself.

This is what hybrid working is really about.

So, what do we really mean by hybrid working? There’s already evidence that when hybrid working focuses on the work itself rather than where it’s done, productivity and business growth follow. But what is it exactly about hybrid working that makes this possible? First, let’s look at what we mean by hybrid working.

On a basic level, hybrid working is a way of organizing your workforce by balancing time spent in central offices with remote working, whether at home, in satellite offices or in “third space” coworking locations.

But when you consider the implications for collaboration, innovation, skills transfer and business continuity, it becomes clear there’s a lot at stake in getting your hybrid working strategy right.

Employees could be working in different places at different points in time and that will likely change on a week-by-week or even day-by-day basis. This presents challenges for organizations in aligning people and performance against business strategy and objectives.

The right time, the right place Despite recent events, hybrid working has been gaining traction for some years. This has largely been down to employees wanting a better work-life balance while businesses look to reduce their overhead costs.

A recent study by LeadershipIQ found that 59% of employees say their work-life balance improves when they’re able to work from home, while only 9% of remote workers want to work “in the office” all the time.

From a management perspective, global research by Steelcase reports that 87% of leaders around the world expect to allow people more choice in where and how they work (a 38% increase from April 2020).

We’ve known for some time that location is no longer the determining factor for most work. While the recent focus on hybrid work models has been a response to challenging circumstances, it has provided the perfect chance to embrace the opportunities this approach offers to both individuals and businesses. It’s shown that now is the right time to redefine “place of work” and move location out of the spotlight.

What does this mean for businesses? It’s time to focus on how, not where, work is done.

Making hybrid working work Of course, hybrid working is not without its challenges. The reality is that it’s not enough to simply convert physical interactions into virtual meetings. Making hybrid work for your business strategy, operations and employees demands careful organizational design using robust data.

So, in this guide, we’ll explore some of the challenges we see and outline some actionable steps you can take to help you accelerate your hybrid working journey.


63%

of high-growth organizations have enabled “productivity anywhere” workforce models


69%

of negative or no-growth companies are still focused on where people are physically working


The Future of Work Report Accenture