To Workplace Hybridity, and Beyond: Exploring the new working landscape
As conversations around the future of work continue, companies are deciding which recent adaptations will stay and where pre-pandemic practices will return. Employers and employees are engaging in discussion around how working models should look and – while hybridity wasn’t quite word of the year 2021 – it’s certainly set to stay in our lexicons; with businesses of all sizes keen to harness the best mix of physical and remote working.
Organisations throughout the tech and ad tech sectors have been leading the way when it comes to flexible working models, establishing practices that balance employee satisfaction, mental health, and continued productivity. In this piece we explore how companies are making the new working landscape work for them. In particular, we focus on two specific trends: the rise of Gen Z and sustainability.
Finding the balance
The pandemic kicked off a hot debate around the future of work. While some companies opted to allow indefinite home working – including Twitter – other sources predicted a preference for returning to office spaces full-time. Amid the uncertainty, however, hybridity emerged as an increasingly popular middle road; with a McKinsey survey indicating nine out of 10 organisations will be combining remote and on-site working.
Currently, this blended approach is the model that looks most likely to stick. In fact, 79% of senior business leaders say employees will never return to offices in the same way. With hybridity on track to become the new normal, companies are also now recognising the need to listen, learn, and adapt.
Household name tech firms are approaching re-configuration in the spirit of openness, with Microsoft placing listening to employees and incorporating feedback into processes as a core component of its strategy and company culture. Ad tech companies have also been addressing the need for clear communication around returning to physical workspaces. Indeed, many have strived to include employees in their discussions around working arrangements, showing understanding that staff need to feel heard and be informed.
With half of UK employees saying they would consider quitting their jobs if hybrid working wasn’t available, the need to find solutions that work for all sides is paramount. But the conversation around flexibility and hybridity encompasses many more factors, including the economic case for physical offices and the need to prevent city centres becoming ‘ghost towns’. Discussions around flexibility, work-life balance, and the future of work also need to include two other key factors; the future workforce (e.g., Gen Z), and the future of the planet.
Giving Gen Z your A game
Familiar with communicating, working, and socialising digitally, the shift towards remote working would arguably have presented less of a jarring transition for digitally native Gen Z. Yet while many younger employees who started jobs during the pandemic only set foot in a physical office quite recently, 80% of 18-24 year olds would have preferred to onboard in-office.
Though not the first age group to highly value greater flexibility in the workplace, it is a significant motivator for Gen Z. A BBC survey found only 26% of advertised roles included a flexible component: if wider research suggests Gen Z responds well to workplace flexibility, then perhaps more employers should consider flexible solutions, including implementing hybrid working models, to effectively leverage the Gen Z talent pool.
It is, however, worth acknowledging that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach for younger workers; with some surveys suggesting up to half of employees aged 18-24 would prefer to be in the office permanently. To maximise hiring scope, organisations will therefore need to remain agile and open to evolving practices.
Keeping it green – Hybridity vs Sustainability
No exploration of hybridity would be complete without covering sustainability. At first glance, a greater number of people regularly working from home has obvious benefits; with reduced travel meaning lower emissions. But the reality isn’t quite so simple.
Past GingerMay blogs have examined the sustainability considerations businesses need to have in mind for long-term hybrid working strategies. These include ensuring home-office setups are sustainable, choosing renewable energy providers for shared spaces, and seeing environmental results as part of overall business performance. Sustainability can be a positive part of a company’s ethos and value sets, and employers and employees can teach one another about the most effective ways to make ‘being green’ easier.
The ad tech space is also leading the way in promoting sustainable values, with businesses and agencies taking a more defined eco-friendly stance. For instance, four out of five ad agencies are prepared to turn away clients who lack clear sustainability ambitions or planning, with many already doing so. The Advertising Association (alongside the ISBA and IPA) has launched an environmental training certificate that gives industry professionals practical tips on the everyday sustainability choices they can make, regardless of location.
The pandemic has fuelled lasting disruption on a global scale. But disruption also breeds innovation and evolution, and there are clear signs the business world is already embracing both. Data from LinkedIn indicates there has been a 60% increase in job titles related to the future of work, and a 304% spike in titles that reference ‘hybrid work’ since the pandemic began. Clearly, companies are engaging with the opportunity to embrace hybrid workplaces, taking us closer to a flexible workplace culture that works for all.