Hybrid working improves communication and helps to level the playing field when it comes to promotions, a business leader says.
Alok Alstrom, founder of the Future of Work Institute (FoWI), has worked from home for the last four years and has colleagues in 10 different European countries.
He says there are many benefits of ditching the traditional 9 to 5 set-up, besides the obvious cost savings of shifting the workforce to a remote or in-office mix.
Mr Alstrom said: “A more hybrid working model definitely leads to productivity and efficiency gains. Commuting is one of them because people are more concentrated when they can choose where they work and it meets their needs.
“But as well as this, I believe the benefits of a remote work set-up are mostly indirect. For example, we see improved documentation since communication must be done via email, text or messengers.
“At the same time, this has improved the effectiveness of our communications. People tend to think through what they want to communicate more thoroughly rather than saying the first thing that comes into their head, which reduces friction.
“Plus, the increased documentation and sharing of data via the cloud has helped to reduce lost work, as well as improve collaboration.”
Mr Alstrom says hybrid working has helped to reduce ‘cliquey’ atmospheres that can sometimes be a downside to office working.
He said: “In some ways, it has helped to democratise some work environments. In a typical office setting you can sometimes have what I call an A and B team.
“The A team has a closer relationship with the manager and sees more career opportunities as a result. In a remote environment, with people physically separated, that dynamic is typically reduced.
“This helps to level the playing field when it comes to things like promotions.”
Workers are able to tear down the traditional 9 to 5 workday model and rebuild it into something that fits their personal lifestyle. Mr Alstrom says this is the reason the UK’s gig economy is on course to surge 300% in three years, according to data from the FoWI.
The flexible way of working sees people paid for each ‘gig’ they perform, rather than a specific daily or hourly rate.
This means they can work across various apps doing different jobs and at a time to suit them.
As well as its many benefits, Mr Alstrom says there are some difficulties which must be overcome to make hybrid working as efficient as possible for both employees and employers.
He said: “It’s definitely more difficult to build a coherent culture in your company. You miss the socialising that builds those bonds and shapes the way you approach business.
“And without those social bonds, it’s much harder to build trust between colleagues. People find it easier to become irritated by an individual that they don’t really see – it’s kind of similar to the road rage effect.
“Also, while communication effectiveness improves I see that the actual efficiency of communication suffers.”
Mr Alstrom says employers must make a special effort to remain social and connected.
He said: “The first thing to recognise is that whatever happens with technology, we’re still by evolution social animals. I don’t think we’re going into a reality where people aren’t going into any office, they are just going into an office that’s closer to where they are.
“It might not be an office where they only meet colleagues, it might be an office where they meet friends or people from other places that work with other things. I don’t think that people will be confined to their homes, but I think they will be more local.”
Mr Alstrom added: “We stay connected spontaneously through emojis and memes in the various platforms we use. We used to reinforce the social aspects through all-team outings, but that’s become more difficult with Covid 19.
“No one should think we can upload ourselves to the cloud and never meet each other. We still need physical contact.”
The Future of Work Institute shares insights and collaborations with researchers to provide stakeholders within the labour market and gig economy with up-to-date data and stats. You can see their latest report here.