Hybrid working. Something that was rarely discussed before the pandemic began. Now, hybrid and flexible working is almost a given across most industries. Collaboration is crucial as we move toward the hybrid format, and businesses need to reimagine their work and the role of offices. There is a much larger emphasis on employee productivity, safety, and happiness, and people’s attitudes toward being in the office have changed – culture revolves more around people, rather than the office.
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working is when some employees work from a central office, and others work from home (or remote from another location). This doesn’t mean the same ones in the office all the time, or the same ones at home – it is entirely flexible and employees can do some of both.
Is hybrid working the future?
There are lots of differing opinions on hybrid working and whether it is a solution here to stay.
The first challenge will be changing the routine again. People work well within routine, and we get tired quicker when routines are changed or in flux. It’s likely there will be a struggle at the start to adapt, but once settled into a proper routine again, it should work well.
Most of us have now experienced and enjoyed the best of both worlds. We get office time to build relationships, bring back more fun and human interactions within the working day, but also get to work from home to help with the work/life balance. Commute times and the benefits of being at home, such as family, independence, and flexibility, are things that people no longer want to compromise on. The emphasis on striking the balance between work/life is more important than ever before.
What does this mean for meetings? Is hybrid working sustainable for meetings?
You have probably also had the experience of the new meeting dynamic, where some people are on screen having logged on to a meeting at home, whilst others are in a meeting room in the office. We are all pretty used to this by now and have formed some sort of opinion about whether we like it or not.
Yes, we love it!
There is a lot of investment going into making meeting rooms better to suit hybrid working. We are constantly seeing new tech for meeting rooms that is there to serve the user experience. There are plenty of things that you could invest in which might rack up to be quite costly, but this isn’t the only approach. Having the right tech and telephony solves a lot of the worries and problems – without spending ridiculous amounts of money.
Needless to say, the lack of commute for some makes the experience very eco-friendly, and for those that choose to be in the office, they get those human interactions and social breaks that are also really necessary.
Hybrid isn’t for everyone though. There has been some reluctance by businesses to adopt hybrid working approaches because they simply don’t like the luxury of having both. Video meetings are fantastic with 5-6 people. But anymore – especially in a hybrid scenario – and it becomes chaotic and awkward. You can’t pick up on body language or social cues, and often the person on video feels disconnected from the people in the room.
It seems a lot of people are still having nightmares about the spider phone – those scary-looking spider conference calling machines that would sit in the middle of the meeting room, where you’d have to dial in, and nobody would be able to hear each other. Obviously, the tech is much more sophisticated and dynamic now, and we have evolved particularly fast in the last 18 months. But there is still that underlying worry that the people in the room get irritated with people on the call or video because it’s disruptive and sometimes hard to manage.
Some businesses have even decided to deploy strict policies on hybrid meetings: either everyone is in the room, or everyone is on the call; there is no in-between. Others don’t feel it's been that successful during lockdown and therefore don’t see both worlds fitting together.
Finding the middle ground
Perhaps companies should consider refreshing their ground rules for the new world. Even before the pandemic, businesses were rethinking conventional practices that were no longer efficient, for example maintaining huge amounts of paper files, and always having face-to-face meetings.
There are circumstances where hybrid is the only option. For businesses who work with clients or employees internationally, or employees that have always been remote, this is the best situation for them to be in because of the focus on improving hybrid working.
Etiquette is also something that needs to be given more emphasis. There needs to be a good agenda and a coordinator or chairperson that carefully handles the meeting. Not everybody is going to be able to travel, and office capacities are changing.
The right tech and the right mindset
Now seems like a better time than ever to invest in some good tech. Efficient meeting room devices, good audio tools like mics, and a standard agenda at the start of meetings will make the future a lot easier. We are also becoming more aware that for wellbeing and maintaining a healthy work/life balance, it’s better to have hybrid flexibility.