Is a hybrid of remote and on-site working right for the post-pandemic workplace?

The impact and implications of working from home have had some long-lasting effects on the ways that businesses see the workplace functioning in the foreseeable future.

Not least of which is a new set of work-related health issues, as highlighted in our recent survey.

One of the solutions that organisations are testing out is a hybrid of remote and on-site working, with some employees on the premises and some working from home.

Despite the success of remote working during the pandemic, previous examples show that this might be harder than it looks.

Indeed, in 2013, the CEO of Yahoo! chose to end their remote working experiment. For them, the negatives far outweighed the positives.

Is that still the case?

A recent article by global management consultants, McKinsey & Company, explored how pandemic-style working from home may not translate to the “new normal” workplace.

We’ve taken a look at some of their suggestions.

The risk of two organisational cultures

Since this hybrid style of working will include a mix of physical and virtual workers, it runs the risk of creating two organisational cultures.

Many organisations will have built their culture on the basis of collaboration and a common purpose. This lends itself more to in-person work and remote workers may start to feel isolated and unhappy.

This could have a knock-on effect on productivity, affecting staff morale and performance.

Rather than try and force the shape of a business into the “new normal”, as an employer, you should look to create the hybrid work model that best fits your company culture.

Choosing the right working model

The hybrid working model can be seen as a line with extremes at either end.

This “continuum” can offer varying degrees of in-person and virtual working.

The McKinsey article looked at six potential models. 


Source: Reimagining the post-pandemic workforce

For the most part, businesses will need to focus on two primary factors; the type of work employers do and the physical space they need to support that work.

Very few companies are likely to need either of the more extreme examples.

A fully virtual model is only relevant for a select few companies in specific circumstances. And an entirely on-premises model ignores the flexibility that many employees need for a healthy work/life balance.

This leaves most companies somewhere in the middle.

The middle ground of hybrid working 

The approach that you take in this middle ground will be dependant on a number of factors. These would all need to be taken into account when deciding which hybrid model is best for your business and the health and wellbeing of your employees.

These factors include:

  • The percentage of employees working remotely
  • The percentage of employees working on-site
  • Clear objectives for all teams
  • Agreed outcomes for all teams

You can read about each of these factors in more detail in the McKinsey article.

Managing the transition to a hybrid working model

As mentioned above, there’s a risk of competing cultures emerging and the in-person workforce dominating while virtual workers feel overlooked.

Addressing these potential issues will come down to leadership and management styles.

Leaders who may have made their presence felt in the physical workplace will need to find a way to do this virtually.

While the concept of “management by walking around”, coined by business management writer Tom Peters, works perfectly in a physical workplace, this hierarchical leadership isn’t possible with a virtual workforce.

In a hybrid model, leaders will need to rely on more inspirational forms of leadership.

Senior managers will need to become role models for this mixed approach, balancing remote working with on-site appearances at the workplace to show that they support both approaches.

You can read more about inspirational leadership in Elizabeth Wamaitha Mwangi’s LinkedIn article.

Encouraging chance encounters

The chance encounters and informal interactions that occur when work colleagues bump into each other have been shown to foster creativity and innovation.

We’ve previously looked at how your office design can promote workplace wellbeing,  but these chance encounters won’t happen as easily in a virtual environment.

One way to encourage them is by freeing up part of video-call meetings for discussions on any topic, whether work-related or not.

Leaders can extend their open-door policy to the virtual world by offering informal chats to staff members.

Regular check-ins on text message can also ensure that team members are kept up to date on the latest information.

Measuring the success of a hybrid working model

It’s important to measure the right metrics when looking at the potential success or failure of a hybrid working model.

These will differ from company to company but be realistic and don’t expect huge changes over a short space of time.

Above all, be flexible and willing to adapt as you learn from the ways that your employees are using the new working model.

Find out how our COVID-19 occupational health services can help your business support a hybrid model of remote and on-site working. 

Contact the team at Fusion today.

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Categories: CoronavirusEmployeesHealth & WellbeingOccupational Health

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