Working from home

Hybrid Working – Love it or Loathe it?

In the ‘olden’ days, choosing where to work was easy. You picked the company based on your own personal criteria whether that was a financial package, career progression or even the commute. If you lived in Streatham would you take a job that was based in Shoreditch? My rule was, if there was more than one change on the tube or train then I’d have to think hard whether the role was right for me. We spend eight or nine hours a day, five days a week in an office… so the culture of that office, where it was located and what the vibe was like were all important considerations.

The pandemic has changed all that. Now, most companies offer hybrid. The freedom to work from home and the office is the new norm to varying degrees. Some businesses insist on 3-2 days others are more relaxed with only one day a week in the office required. This is a new ‘grown-up’ approach to how we work, but the freedom we craved comes with a price.

I’ve been talking to young graduates recently, trying to get a feel for what they need, what their requirements are in our new world of work. Those I’ve spoken to are first jobbers in London, new to the city and full of expectation. However, what comes up consistently is the feeling of being isolated. Working from home four days a week (one in the office) with meetings over zoom is leaving them with a disconnect to both the organisation and their colleagues.

There’s no longer the office culture that there used to be; listening to and learning from more experienced colleagues that they have direct contact with or going to the pub with their peers after work. Even access to their line managers sometimes isn’t as easy as they’d like. Many are in rented flats, their commute is from the bedroom to bathroom to kitchen, whilst working all day alone. Not only are they missing the sociability of the office, but for the organisation, the chance to make them feel part of a ‘family’, to bond, to build loyalty and grow is more difficult to achieve. It’s hard to feel part of something when you are just assigned a series of tasks without really knowing how they fit in to the bigger picture.

So what can we do?

For some businesses, a hybrid way of working is here to stay and there are many employees who will love it. There are those, however, who won’t. Particularly those who are just beginning to establish themselves. They don’t know the workplace before Covid, they think hybrid is normal and therefore that disconnect is not something they necessarily raise but employers should become attuned to it. If a graduate trainee is sitting in their kitchen alone all day, holding diarised meetings over Zoom, there’s no opportunity for those ‘water cooler’ moments, a chat with wider colleagues as they make a coffee in the team kitchen.

Organisations need to look at hybrid culture, the ramifications on employees for the wider business and work towards correcting any imbalance that may arise from a workforce that doesn’t physically sit in the same room all day. Communication is key, ensuring that managers are available, that your young employees are feeling valued, that their first year in the workplace is well structured, that when they are in the office, they are getting a 360-degree view of the whole business and how it works.

Remember that there are special interest groups within the Market Research sector that can offer vital networking and socialising opportunities for people new to the industry or who have moved to a new location. Its worth signposting these groups to any new hires as an extra source of support.

&more is a great group for those in early careers and we also have WiRE, CoRE, AQR the MRG, Research Club amongst many others.

Have open communication with your staff about this, keep asking the questions and you will help your staff remain motivated, they will feel included and involved and hopefully increase employee satisfaction and retention.

For our candidates, the advice is probably a bit easier. Take into consideration the employers office working policies. Some will love the idea of four days at home and one in the office, but many won’t.

When applying for jobs be realistic of your needs, are you sociable and need regular face to face contact?

For your career progression are you the kind of person that would benefit from being fully immersed in the business or simply, do you feel able to sit at your kitchen table and work for eight hours a day?

Hybrid working has given many the freedom they wanted, especially those employees with young children. It can, however, cause problems for those at the beginning of their careers and employers and employees alike need to be realistic when considering what it means for them.

Communication is key, so please make sure you are talking to your team, checking that they are ok and feel supported and not isolated. A happy and motivated team is key to everyone’s success.