Why hybrid workplaces are the way forward in the battle for talent
Labour shortages are costing business more than US$1 trillion every year.1 Hybrid working can be a key strategy to boost the employee experience and close the talent gap.
As we emerge from the uncertainty of the last few years, companies are experiencing a fight to attract and retain the best workers.2 Across Europe, approximately 60 per cent of companies are now facing talent shortages.3
But the challenge is not just finding skilled people, it’s keeping them. Around 56 per cent of employees are planning to switch jobs based on a negative employee experience, work overload and work friction.4
Winning this battle means creating workplaces that people want to work in and that bring the best out of them while they’re there – and while they’re not there. For knowledge workers flexibility is key. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that hybrid working can be an extremely effective and popular way of organising office-based work. One report suggests that 55 per cent of US workers prefer a mixture of office and home working,5 while a number of economists have claimed that such a model can increase long-term job satisfaction.6
Ticking all the boxes
It’s not surprising that the hybrid model is proving popular, with employees and staff alike. Workers can design a schedule that suits them, and for employers the time staff spend commuting can be reduced and spent on more productive tasks during the working day.
“Employees who are given more autonomy may approach their work responsibilities with less stress and anxiety, it could reduce short-term and long-term sickness or other HR or occupational health-related issues,” says occupational psychologist Anna Sergent.
Considering that burnout has been a key reason for the growing wave of resignations seen by global organisations, this could be a crucial strategy to improve the employee experience. A paper from the Kellogg School of Management, in Illinois, US, shows that offering schedule flexibility increases applications for a role.7
Hybrid working also expands the talent pool and allows new people to enter the workplace, such as those who do not live locally, have disabilities or may have caring responsibilities. As Gary Harold, chief executive of SPS UK & Ireland, a company that helps businesses build smart hybrid workplaces, says: “You have disabled people that can't commute two hours on a train every morning, or working parents. Why wouldn't you try and tap into that resource? Previously you couldn't because you needed them in the office.”
With sustainability at the forefront of corporate planning, adopting a hybrid approach can also help companies reduce their environmental impact, cutting paper and minimising emissions. This is another tick for talent acquisition, as workers are increasingly attracted to companies with strong sustainability credentials.
However, research from Forrester has found a few ways in which the hybrid model falls down, if not executed properly.8 There are challenges around accessing documents, collecting mail and organising office space when so many workers are remote. Some managers worry that home working could start to damage corporate culture and make it more difficult to collaborate or integrate new starters. If companies aren’t careful, they can end up with the worst of both worlds, rather than the best.
Take hybrid meetings. In-person participants too often find themselves looking at their laptops while sitting next to colleagues in a conference room, leading them to question why they are in the office at all. Meanwhile, remote participants can struggle to be heard or feel included in the discussion.
The tools to make hybrid working a success
For a smart hybrid workplace to work in practical terms, it must combine the flexibility and autonomy the post-Covid workforce has come to expect, with enough physical contact time and networking opportunities to keep employees happy and motivated in the long term.
The right tools and structures are vital. Digital mailrooms allow you to scan and digitise physical mail and then send it electronically to the right recipient. This means staff are able to work from anywhere but still get access to key documents. Smart lockers enable workers to pick up parcels at their convenience. Meanwhile, digital office portals can allow people to book meetings rooms, hot desks and event spaces remotely, allowing teams to come together in person when needed.
“It's not just all technology, you need processes to support the technology,” says Harold at SPS. “You need some consistency around things like retention and document management, otherwise people will all do different things in different ways. You also need training and development, so people know how to do remote work effectively.”
The workplace has been permanently altered by the events of the last few years.
Getting hybrid working right can be an essential way to not only win the war on talent but in creating more effective and inclusive organisations.
Find out more about how SPS can help you adapt to hybrid working
1 BCG (2022): Migration Matters: A Human Cause with a $20 Trillion Business Case
2 Gartner, September 2022. ‘Gartner Survey Reveals Talent is Top Challenge Facing CFOs Through 2023.’ Available at: www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2022-09-16-gartner-survey-reveals-talent-is-top-challenge-facing-cfos-through-2023. Accessed March 2023
3 Relocate Global, August 2022. ‘Acute skills shortage 'felt across Europe'’: Available at: www.relocatemagazine.com/business-hr-talent-management-acute-skills-shortage-felt-across-europe-dsapsted-0822. Accessed March 2023
4 BCG (2021): Investing to Win Talent; Gartner (2022): How the Great Resignation Is Impacting Customer Experience — and Your Workforce
5 SIEPR, June 2020. ‘How working from home works out.’ Accessed March 2023
6 CEPR, February 202. 'The impact of working from home on productivity, happiness, and careers: Views of leading economists.' Available at: cepr.org/voxeu/columns/impact-working-home-productivity-happiness-and-careers-views-leading-economists. Accessed March 2023
7 Maria Ibanez, Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, April 2022. ‘How Schedule Flexibility Affects Job Applications.’ Available at: papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4073723. Accessed March 2023
8 Forrester, September 2022, ‘Master The Messy Middle Of Hybrid.’ Available at: www.forrester.com/report/master-the-messy-middle-of-hybrid/RES178135. Accessed March 2023