What’s the big trend in remote / hybrid working?

So what happened to Covid?  At least here in the UK, it’s as though someone just suddenly switched it off!  Practically the very large majority of people are now behaving socially just as they would have pre pandemic.  It always amazes me how huge problems in life can suddenly disappear, often just as quickly as they manifested themselves!  For me it’s another example of that very phenomena, one I first came across when reading ‘Who moved my cheese’. 

However, whilst social norms have predominantly returned to pre pandemic practices, the same cannot be said of office working.  Yesterday I took the commute into London at peak hours for a day with one of our clients.  The training journey was most enjoyable!  I had a seat in both directions and most of the time I had a spare seat next to me.  Pre pandemic I would have always had to stand for the 45 minute journey, in a carriage that was increasingly packed like sardines the closer we got to London Bridge.  The reality is, whilst some ‘return to the office’ is taking place the new norm is definitely some form of hybrid arrangement.  Certainly in the city there seems to be a lot more traffic Tuesday to Thursday, much less Mondays and Fridays, but even the busy days seem to be somewhere between 30 and 50% less than it used to be.  

In my post ‘Hybrid working, the new remote working!’ we talked about some of the emerging hybrid models.  Here we can with increasing certainty talk about the main trends that are emerging.  

Controlled or free to choose?

There are two clear camps emerging within the organisations we work with.  One is to structure, define and control the levels of office attendance, the other is to provide complete freedom for managers and teams to work it out for themselves.  Both approaches have merits but we believe the majority of organisations are favouring a defined model over total freedom.  Interestingly, in those freedom of choice organisations there is an undercurrent dialogue that questions the level of parity between different functions or teams that are making different choices on this front.  

Weekly Pattern models

Another growing trend we’ve spotted is what we might call a weekly pattern model.  This may have many different variations, but effectively define a standard week.  An example of this might be:

  • Everyone in: Tuesday & Wednesday.
  • No one in: Friday.
  • Select one day to be in from Monday and Thursday. 

Retain or downsize the facilities?

It’s still early days to make a call on this but we are finding most organisations we work with have (for the time being) kept their entire office space available.  This of course may have more to do with leasing commitments than long term intention!  Our observation is that many buildings we are now visiting are being significantly under utilised.  We are also finding that some organisations are reducing office space very significantly.  One of our client has already reduced a city centre space catering for hundreds of people, down to an out of town space with 10 seats!  That’s an astonishingly large reduction, which may speak of their real commitment to hybrid (or even more) remote working intentions.  I guess you could argue if you are going to capitalise of reduced office costs, you might as well go for it in a major way?  It will be very interesting to observe if this grows and a trend over the coming months and years.  

Hybrid model choice questions

Clearly the impact of the pandemic is having a lasting effect on the way we view and carry out our work.  

Here are some of the questions that seem to be informing hybrid model choices:

  • What space do we / will we have?
  • What is our purpose in attending the office?
  • What do our customers require of us?
  • How practical is it to carry out our role remotely?
  • What do our people prefer?
  • What’s do we want to retain that’s been really good over the past couple of years?
  • What’s the best way to get the outcomes we need?
  • How much social connection do we want to facilitate?
  • What’s our view of parity across different teams?
  • What’s the cost impact?
  • Whats the environmental impact?
  • How flexible to we need to remain?
  • How complex is what we do?

Without doubt the experiment continues, but it’s useful to keep our ear to the ground on the emerging trends so that this can inform our preferences and positions.  

Keep tuned into us here at iManage to keep on top of what’s happening in the world of the digital nomad. 

Bob Bannister

Ships Captain