Hybrid work model – the hot topic of coffee tables

As the situation at workplaces has become slightly more stable, it is high time for companies to level up their hybrid work model. In the first part of her blog series, Ruusa Kokkonen explains why it’s worth your while.

In the beginning of the year Miltton carried out a survey concerning the experiences of hybrid work. Later on, it has become clear that many companies are struggling with the challenges of hybrid work. The challenges are focused on managing hybrid work, adapting new practices and tools, and physical workspaces. When I myself moved from the architectural world to Miltton´s ranks in early autumn, preparations were just being made nationwide to end the remote work recommendation and return back to the offices. Soon after I settled in at Miltton, we ended up gutting the topic of hybrid work together with my new colleagues specializing in working life skills and employer experience.

I will share the observations and views that we have found important in two separate parts. In the first part I will focus on opening up what is it all about and why it is worth taking the bull by the horns when it comes to the issue of hybrid work.

A ticking organizational time bomb

A glance at the online discussion forums shows that in companies where hybrid working is technically possible, the ban of teleworking will not be swallowed:

“Work efficiency in the open-plan office will collapse and then again the work amount will stretch into the evenings and weekends.”

“An hour will be wasted while commuting”.

“I have already applied for new jobs, one reason for this is precisely because the employer has no intention of allowing more remote working”.

Many have adapted well to remote working. However, there is no point in denying the risk that hybrid work will impact negatively on team spirit and motivation in the workplace in the long term. Every remote worker has most certainly found themselves presenting their ideas in Teams for silent audience which only shows the names of the participants. The faceless row on your screen echoes emptiness and no one is making even a bit of a sound. Little by little, panic takes over and you want to rush the pace of the performance. The silence of others is easily interpreted as a personal failure.

The risk in a gesture-free and customer-focused remote work culture is that first you forget the names of your colleagues’ spouses and eventually the fact that behind the screen there is an actual human being with real life challenges.

If there are no natural moments to catch up with others in the company’s remote working culture, how could anyone know when it is time to give your colleague some slack? Not to mention how to be supportive when someone is going through a divorce or water damage? How to intervene fatigue if we only see each other as glimpses on the screen?

This autumn, both business leaders and employees have thought about what the work model should look like in their work, now when the state of emergency is eventually over. Employees are looking for the managers to outline the boundary conditions for employees when planning their own workday.

For the employers it is still difficult to perceive, what would be the best way to relate to the hybrid working model, taken into consideration their business.

Where is the future of work going anyway? How temporary is the excitement of remote working? Is it too hasty to put the office space in a totally new shape? How to lure the staff from their sofas back to the office, and is it worth it?

Hybrid work skills as a competitive advantage

Change is often seen as a threat rather than an opportunity. Because of this many companies are procrastinating creating the guidelines. However, the past two years have showed that poorly managed hybrid work carries risks related to well-being and motivation at work, which are in the worst case realized as long and costly sick leaves and incapacity for work. They eventually have an impact on the productivity of the entire company. According to Heltti’s data which specializes in occupational health care, the sick leaves related to mental health has for the first time in Heltti’s history exceeded the physical health reasons during the coronavirus pandemic. Research by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health also shows that well-being at work has deteriorated, especially among persons aged under 36, during the coronavirus epidemic, and remote workers living alone are most at risk.

The pandemic threw us in at the deep end, and by necessity we adopted the needed tools on the go. The change of work environment and work habits happened in an instant, and many companies had little time to focus on anything other than surviving the next deadline and staying afloat in a crisis.

Now when the situation has become slightly more stable, it is high time to level up our hybrid work model. It´s time to reflect on the common ground rules for staff and invest in skills that support hybrid work and the effective deployment of tools. While mediocre hybrid work skills are a condition for surviving in working life and business, an advanced set of hybrid work skills can offer a competitive advantage.

It will be interesting to see how this complicated situation can be transformed into an opportunity: a more functional working life and well-being at work, and therefore a higher commitment and better performance at work.

In the next blog post I will present some concrete examples of what good hybrid work skills can mean in practice, of the importance of working with a multichannel approach for the company and different personalities, and of questions that should be considered when designing hybrid workspaces.

Ruusa Kokkonen is a user experience and brand development advisor who has her educational background in architecture. She’s well attuned with matters such as working environment, urbanism, construction industry and property development and completely fed up with working from home.

At Miltton, among our + 350 experts, we have work life coaches and trainers, change leaders, communication professionals, researchers, service designers and an architect. That´s why we have packaged a turnkey solution where dialogue between scenarios and employees create a clear operating model and space layout, supported by internal communication and a solid hybrid skills training package. The solutions can also be customized according to the customer´s specific needs.