Introducing hybrid working models during a global pandemic was always going to be messy. Both the practical implementation and employee feelings and attitudes were always going to be influenced by the ongoing nature of the pandemic. Reluctance to return, ongoing challenges with issues like childcare, requirements for self-isolation and rates of infection – these many challenges mean that we have yet to experience ‘true’ hybrid working.
Now, in the UK, many employees are once again looking at an period of working from home (timeline unknown) in order to slow the transmission of yet another new variant. Uncertainty is back. Even though some employees will have to continue to attend their offices and might do so in a flexible way, this still isn’t likely to be hybrid working in its truest sense.
What does this mean for our current hybrid work experiment?
This is not the end of hybrid, just an interruption. We don’t know what the immediate future will bring in terms of restrictions or how long the new work from home guidance might last. For now, we need to focus on supporting employees that are anxious or vulnerable, and where necessary re-establish any working from home protocols and processes.
As for hybrid models, we can take this time as an opportunity to reflect. What have we learned to date about what is going well and what is not? What challenges arose that we did not foresee? How are people feeling?
We can reflect too on how managers are finding leading a hybrid team. How it has been so far for issues like work life balance, inclusion and team cohesion.
The employee voice asking for hybrid was both consistent and loud. We need to start to understand if, even during this messy period, hybrid was beginning to deliver on its promises and potential.
Then we can take these lessons forward when the time is right.