The hybrid debate is over – what now for the new reality?

The hybrid debate is over – what now for the new reality?

hybrid working
For years there was talk of people working remotely. The technology was in place, but there was a fear that the work wouldn’t get done without the control of an office. Then COVID happened and the choice was taken away. Everybody went home to see if it would work – if they would work. And now, a good two years after lockdowns, people are still working from home.

But is that what employers and employees want?

The people have spoken: they want hybrid

The answer is a resounding – yes! In the latest Hays Annual Salary Guide some 92 per cent of NZ employees say working in a hybrid mode is their preferred way of working. Slightly greater than nine out of ten workers would prefer to spread their working time between home and the office. And it appears that most of them are doing that, with 75 per cent of employees across 26 industries working in a hybrid or remote arrangement at the moment.
When you think that there are some industries such as hospitality, retail, mining, construction that need people at a site doing hands on work, it means that most of the remaining industries are all likely to be embracing hybrid conditions.
It’s certainly become an important factor for people looking for new jobs and also to retain employees in their current ones. People looking for jobs rate flexible working as third most important after a pay rise and learning new skills. And it’s the third most important reason to stay with an employer after team culture and job security.

The most common hybrid arrangements

The most common arrangement for employees who split their time between working in the office and working at home, is to have two days working remotely – at 31 per cent it’s around a third of all such arrangements.

Next most common at 26 per cent, around one in four workers, is to base flexibility around the needs of work. Coming to the office when needed, working quietly at home when that is preferable.

The next two most common are to have just one day working remotely (19 per cent) or two days in the office and three at home (15 per cent).

The extremes of mostly remote working are far smaller, with only five per cent working completely at home and four per cent having just one day in the office.

Are employers looking to change?

It seems from the Salary Guide that most employers are in tune with the needs of their employees, with 74 per cent saying that their hybrid arrangements will stay in place. There is however 22 per cent – one in five employers – who will require staff to be in the workplace more in the future. It will be interesting to see if that works for them, given the importance placed on it by employees when deciding whether to stay with their current employer.

How can flexible working be improved?

And so if it’s here to stay, how can vital working elements such as culture and communication be improved under hybrid conditions?
The first thing to remember is that not everyone has experienced remote working. For most of the workforce – and certainly the white collar workforce – it is second nature. But employees who have perhaps changed industries or graduated might be experiencing WFH for the first time. There are therefore some basics that need to be established and a remote working induction pack is ideal for this.
Employees should be encouraged to create a dedicated work area at home which is comfortable and appropriate for working, and also means they can delineate between home and work. One of the biggest issues of remote working has been not being able to switch off and stop work, rather than not doing enough.
That area also needs the correct technology to be provided by employers – a laptop, a monitor (or monitors), keyboard, mouse, headset etc. Without the right technology it’s like working with one hand tied behind your back. In the world of remote working, technology has become more important than ever. And that doesn’t just include hardware – there is a need for good teleconferencing software such as Zoom or Teams, and good project management and communication tools such as Asana, Trello or Slack.
But then there is also a responsibility on the employee to understand and master these tools. Embracing technology is very much part of the needs for better process and collaboration. Luckily that seems to be the case for most and actually in the latest Salary Guide the second most important thing to people looking for a new job was learning and development of technical skills. Only a pay rise rated higher.
Communication is vital for this to work, and over-communication and transparency is probably the key. Let people know when you’re available, when you’re popping out for a coffee, or anything that effects your day. People can disregard the messages if they like, but this communication builds trust and lets everyone know what is happening.

In terms of culture, set some boundaries. Casual, but not too casual clothing might be something you put in place. Cameras on for all meetings is a good policy. And set up virtual socialising as part of a regular schedule of meetings. Virtual water cooler chats.
And finally, be adaptable – both as an employee and an employer. The last four years have seen flexibility like never before and now is no time to stop.
Oh, and I think you’re on mute…


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