‘Hybrid working hell’ awaits organisations that don’t address workplace culture

Devil takes the hindmost when it comes to hybrid workingA new report – ‘Hybrid Heaven or Hell? The journey to hybrid working’ from Poly and the Worktech Academy claims that organisations should carry out an audit to evaluate aspects of of their workplace culture and establish what works and what needs to evolve for hybrid working success. The report includes research from Gallup, Gartner, and Harvard Business Review, as well as Poly’s own insights and findings. The broader research trends were also discussed and debated in a New York roundtable attended by senior workplace design and technology leaders. The report highlights that organisations have been faced with challenges of building and retaining culture which could have a lasting impact on innovation, talent retention and growth.

“Hybrid culture cannot be left to chance. Now is a crucial time for organisations to take stock and rebuild a culture that is fit for hybrid working,” says Sof Socratous, Head of Northwest Europe, HP Poly Hybrid Work Solutions. “This means relearning the expectations of work: how people like to work and where. Those that fail to do so will risk going to ‘hybrid hell’, leaving employees feeling unengaged and unhappy.”

These challenges are only being exacerbated by the workforce becoming even more distributed and fragmented. 2022 saw the rise of the shorter work weeks, employees applying for digital nomad visas, and trends such as workcations – where people work abroad to maximise annual leave – taking off. As the world of work shifts and employees unshackle from the traditional 9-5, organisations need to ensure they foster a culture that supports hybrid working.

The report claims that one of the biggest barriers to fostering culture is redesigning the workplace, which should support and nurture culture, but shouldn’t drive culture. As a result, many organisations are struggling to make their old spaces work for new ways of working. Poly office persona research found that, pre-pandemic, individual desks took up an average of 65 percent of office space. In response to hybrid work, this is expected to fall to about 40 percent.  Organisations need to carefully consider how they redesign their spaces to support culture in a hybrid environment.

Poly’s research suggests 77 percent of organisations are redesigning the office to support new ways of working. One trend that is on the rise is organisations taking inspiration from restaurants, both in the form of booking spaces to work and how they organise their space. For example, hotelling which is where employees make use of a corporate booking system to reserve desks in their own workplace, for a day at a time. This shift will also see the rise in mobile workspaces as organisations introduce bench style desks and hot desks to ensure everyone has somewhere they can work when visiting the office.

“The shift to hybrid work presents an opportunity for organisations to remake cultures and their workspaces for the 21st century. This requires organisations to clearly define their core cultural values and frame what that means in a hybrid world,” says Sof Socratous. “This includes taking a strategic approach to consider people, spaces, and technology. Firstly, analysing why people want to come together – what do people need to achieve and where does physical presence add value? Once the culture has been defined and employees’ needs are understood, then the spaces can be redesigned, and technology can be adopted to ensure equal experiences for everyone.”

Image: The devil takes the hindmost. An illustration from Joseph Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus