Is the future of work the post-andemic ‘hybrid model’?

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Regular face to face contact, camaraderie and time together at the office are important, says Dorset Chamber ‘s CEO Ian Girling,

Hello and a warm welcome to my February column – can you believe it’s February already? I hope 2022 has got off to a good start for you and I think we can look forward with some positivity and the fact that hopefully we have now finally turned the corner with the pandemic and get on with things.

Personally, I was delighted when we could get our teams back in the office with the end of the ‘work from home’ guidance. After two years, I have mixed views on working from home. I’ve always been a firm believer in trying to be a family-friendly employer, doing what we can to enable people to strike a
good work/life balance while keeping their productivity in the workplace high.
Home working can offer many benefits. As I say, it helps maintain a good work/life balance (although it can sometimes result in people working longer hours than they would in the office) and takes out the need for travel, helping ease road congestion and reduce our carbon footprint.
This was all so evident during the various forms of lockdown over the last two years. It provides a freedom in our daily lives and many have adapted well to home working. Both my wife and daughter are permanently home-based and it works very well for both of them. They use technology well to keep in regular contact with their colleagues and both have a good home setup.

Downsides to home working

However there can be downsides. It is vital that people have the right home environment to work productively. Balancing a laptop on your knees to work isn’t at all ideal, and employers have a duty of care to ensure employees have the right environment if home working for substantial amounts of time.

We’ve all read also about the social isolation that many experienced when home working. We’ve come to realise that face to face time with our colleagues is important – not just for our wellbeing but also that productivity and creativity rises when you are with your colleagues. Home working may also not be such an attractive prospect for people who live alone.

The obvious solution is….

It’s also important that home workers do not become isolated from the business; a focus
can tend to be on just your area of responsibility. It’s vital that we keep our teams fully engaged and they don’t become disconnected from the wider business. Communication is key. An obvious solution that many have adopted is the hybrid model, where employees work partly at home and partly in the office. This can allow the best of both worlds, offering the benefits of home working but still maintaining that contact and engagement with our colleagues. Many firms have actively adopted this approach and indeed many employees are requesting this. I’ve missed having our team together and am really happy that finally we are back together. A few staff are working on a hybrid basis but we are making sure there are times when we are all in the office together.
It’s been great to see our office come to life again after the pandemic and for me, that regular face to face contact, camaraderie and time together is so important.
While it’s been a very difficult two years for us all, we’ve learned so much and it’s important we embrace the positives that came through as we adapted our working practices during the pandemic.

by Ian Girling

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