Over the past three years the pandemic has disrupted the landscape of where we work and introduced new challenges, both from broad business perspectives and in terms of interpersonal communication and collaboration in the workplace. The rise of hybrid workplace models has helped workers adapt, allowing them to choose between working from home, the office, or elsewhere, as it fits their needs around childcare, personal health, or other factors. After some initial resistance from certain industries that heavily prioritise an in-office presence, businesses have truly embraced remote working largely thanks to the range of virtual tools now available to them.
This evolution in workplace expectations has resulted in some dramatic shifts, including how competitive a business can be in attracting new candidates based on how it structures its working model Globally, a number of demographics have indicated that they are more likely to apply for remote positions than on-site roles, including women (46% vs 40%), candidates without a degree (59% vs 54%) and Gen Z workers (21% vs 18%) (Microsoft, 2022 Work Trend Index). This report highlights how employee expectations have changed, with the primary reasons employees quit being: personal wellbeing or mental health, work-life balance, risk of getting Covid-19, lack of confidence in senior management/leadership, and lack of flexible work hours or location. Surprisingly, “not receiving promotions or raises I deserved” was seven on the list. These findings cement how crucial it has become for workplaces to offer hybrid working opportunities in order to attract candidates of diverse identities, ages, and backgrounds.
Introducing hybrid working models is not a silver bullet to solving workplace issues. Employers must work to ensure that hybrid working works for everyone, not just those who are physically present, and their workplace is truly an equitable one. This means adapting processes and providing the technology resources that gives all employees an equal footing in the workplace, whether in person or virtual. Business leaders cannot simply introduce a hybrid model without taking a close look at their employees and adjusting fundamental aspects of how the business operates and colleagues interact with one another.
Another important aspect to consider is meeting equity, which means that everyone in the hybrid workplace has equal opportunity to communicate, contribute and share ideas, wherever they are located. This has become a barometer for success – employees, partners and customers all expect seamless communication regardless of location. Beyond equipping remote workers with adequate cameras, microphones and video conferencing platforms, business leaders must recognise the value of meeting equity, and the impact it has on performance, wellbeing and talent retention.
Conventional wisdom might indicate that hybrid working models would appeal less to older generations that were less accustomed to working remotely and with digital tools. However, our research has shown that 74% of people of all ages are now confident with technology, with 86% stating that they prefer meetings that embrace technology. As new technologies play an increased role in workplace communication and collaboration for all employees, from Generation Z to Baby Boomers, workers have made their preference for hybrid models of work clear.
Equity is now an imperative, and the recent, drastic changes to today’s workplace demand that business leaders keep pace by fostering flexible, hybrid work environments that work for all of their employees. These tectonic shifts in the ways we work are not easy to adjust to, and leaders will need to continue listening to their employees to identify new pain points that might emerge. However, providing employees agency in choosing their day-to-day work environment provides myriad benefits that helps retain workers and attract the most competitive candidates.