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Hybrid working: skills for leadership
Hybrid working: skills for leadership

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1.3 How we work now: more than just a change of venue

As Dyer and Shepard (2021) note, hybrid working is more than just thinking about it as working from somewhere else.

Activity 2 Your take on hybrid

What does hybrid working look like and mean to you?

How and where do you think you can work remotely?

List or describe where you might work, and how you would support your team working in their preferred hybrid situation(s).

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What does it mean to work in a hybrid way?

According to the ACAS website [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , hybrid working is a type of flexible working where an employee splits their time between the workplace and remote working (ACAS, 2022).

The short video that you watched in Activity 1 provided one definition of hybrid working. Now watch this longer video on defining hybrid work, which explores different interpretations of the various terms used to describe a range of flexible and remote working models: Defining hybrid work: is this what the future of work flexibility looks like?.

In the video the presenter explained what they felt was meant by the words remote, hybrid, dispersed, on base, etc. While the terminology is being used interchangeably, it is important that employees stick to a consistent use of the phrases and terms they want to adopt in their own organisation.

Some people find that their local coffee shop is where they feel they get their best work done: what should be done for those employees? A phrase that has been coined for this type of working environment is a ‘coffice’. What next: a ‘pubffice’? What about if they want to work in their local library or student union, or other ‘collab space’?

Digital nomads

If you allow your employees to ‘work from anywhere’, you may be asked whether they can work outside of the geographical area they are employed to work in. ‘Work anywhere’ or being a ‘digital nomad’ often conjures up the image of working on beaches. It potentially allows employees to have ‘flexibility to live in a geography of their choice’ (Choudhury, 2022) and some companies such as AirBNB and GitLab have announced they will support this. However, companies and their employees will need to investigate a range of requirements including any tax implications of being employed by a company in one country and working in another; often it can trigger payments of social security contributions in the new country (Osborne, 2022). So while it sounds great to be able to give your employees the flexibility to work remotely in some faraway exotic location, in practice it can be quite complicated and costly.

What is the right environment for hybrid working?

It is important that leaders take the time to see how their current policies around working practices support and adjust for these situations and that a common understanding is created. Leaders should listen to the voices of those that work in their organisations when outlining what is meant by ‘office’ and ‘remote’, as making it feel that someone has to either be in the office or at home as the only means of working remotely can actually reduce productivity.

There has been plenty of research which has suggested that for some, sitting looking at the same four walls can numb creativity, and actually a bit of chaos in environments like coffee shops, or somewhere that has natural lighting and a space to stand, can help people think more creatively. However, for others this could be overwhelming and a sensory overload, and their perfect ‘office’ environment would be a library or other quiet and comfortable space. When creating policies around acceptable working environments, consider what is non-negotiable and what flexibility and options are there for staff to be able to work at their best.

The Open University has focused on redesign working spaces, to make them more inclusive and accessible, and to allow teams to come together differently. In the following video, Dr Nick Barratt, Director of Learner and Discovery Services at The Open University, explains the approach and shares the insights the OU hopes to gain from it.

Download this video clip.Video player: hyb_1_2022_sep121_ou_show_homes_nick.mp4
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Activity 3 Your ideal space

Where do you do your best work?

Think about a time when you had a really fantastic idea and where you were when that happened. What was the environment around you that led to that?

If you had to design your ideal office (space a) and home space (space b) what would be in each space and what would you exclude?

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