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Hybrid working: how do you combine the best of two forms of working?

23 September 2021 Kathelijne Verboomen Employers

Acerta Panel Webinar

What do they mean by hybrid work, and how far have employers gone with it? Prof. Dr. Marijke Verbruggen (KU Leuven), Lesley Arens (#ZigZagHR), Dr. Chris Wuytens (Acerta) and Miet Vanhegen (Acerta) discussed the results of the panel survey on hybrid work, and added some interesting insights during the Acerta Panel Webinar. Discover the key points below.

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Hybrid work: the approach is new, and the potential is huge

The two worlds that hybrid working combines are: office work and home work. But at the same time, hybrid work is about so much more than just flexibility of workplace and working hours alone. And even though the work form is still being developed, this is already certain: the approach is new and the potential is great.

1. Working independent of time and location is just the beginning

Marijke Verbruggen starts with a warning: working independent of time and location will never be an option for everyone - there are simply some tasks that have to be done at a fixed location. Therefore, hybrid work should not only be about that. A form of hybrid work will also have to be found for non-desk workers if this is not to become a polarising form of work, she warns. Until that happens, it's important that hybrid work is equitable.

2. The trick is to know where to work, and when

The new thing about hybrid work is not so much that there are choices, but how these choices are made. In any case, NOT by stating beforehand: with us employees can work two days from home. The correct starting point for hybrid working is: what is the most efficient for which activities? Some activities are best done simultaneously (synchronous), others not (asynchronous); some are best done in the office (analogue), others just as well elsewhere (digital). Chris Wuytens clarifies with an example: meetings. Classically, it is synchronous and analogous: everyone presenting and debating together in the conference room. In the hybrid form of working, the presentations are circulated in advance, each participant looks at them when it is convenient (asynchronous) and during the meeting (synchronous) the debate is immediately started. "It will soon become apparent how much time companies have lost by always wanting to work synchronously," says Chris Wuytens.

3. Trust is the condition, policy is a good idea

A crucial condition for giving this more flexible way of working every chance is trust. Trust should be the basis for designing a policy on hybrid working, says Lesley Arens. Otherwise such a policy becomes an endless enumeration of rules of what is not allowed. And that risks undermining the benefits of hybrid working, including greater ownership and autonomy.

A policy for hybrid working will also be individual rather than organisational . The existing rules are certainly not yet completely in tune with the hybrid work form, with its reality and its possibilities, notes Miet Vanhegen. Can someone work from a holiday home abroad? And what if they end up in an accident or fall ill? ...

4. Back to the office. Which office?

Most people were happy when they heard that working in an office is possible again, but one in three is not necessarily enthusiastic about it. What people expect from the return to the office can also vary quite a bit. What do people think they're doing there? And what should the office ideally look like? This is another exercise that companies will have to make, taking into account their own vision and that of their employees.

5. Leading: not too much, but also not too little

Executives are, even more than usual, key figures in a hybrid work organisation. Communicating a vision, giving direction, creating trust, guarding social cohesion... within a flexible work form, this requires specific (new) skills. Managers have mastered the 'hard' skills - the technical ones - after a year and a half of corona. But translating corporate strategy without undermining autonomy and trust, and also without giving the 'go ahead' signal, is new. Just as hybrid working is also new to the team members. People experience more autonomy, but they also experience how difficult that can be. Some find it difficult to de-connect when the physical separation of work and home is removed. Forcing this separation by closing down the network at 6 p.m., for example, is counter-productive for those who do not need the separation between work and private life.  Leadership will also have to become more individual.

As for the tipping point we are experiencing, our experts would certainly like to give you this positive advice: allow hybrid working to be a learning process, deal with it consciously, and above all, embrace the potential.

Start now with your hybrid work format

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Director Acerta Consult

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