The coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly made it necessary to reorganize our style of work, which affected, among others, employees with children. Today, the market is dominated by a hybrid model that combines the advantages of working from home with office work. Business Link and Skanska share the conclusions of the report "Changes in work style due to the pandemic", the purpose of which was to check the managers’ view on hybrid work.
One of the greatest advantages of working from home, as indicated by respondents, is flexibility. According to managers, it is an important aspect that helps reconcile childcare with professional duties. At the same time, they admit that remote work has significantly disturbed the work-life balance. This is especially important for parents who have a problem with isolating themselves from their children and household chores while working (e.g. due to remote learning or the lack of a sufficient number of rooms at home). Saving time is also mentioned as a key advantage of remote work – not having to travel to the office or the ability to hold business meetings online are a great convenience for employees.
The loss of "coffee breaks"
Home office has a negative impact on the company's organizational culture. An example would be new hires who often feel the lack of a sense of belonging to the team. The answers of the respondents also show that isolation from the office translates into deterioration of work synergy and creative processes. Moreover, the respondents mention the deprivation of the "coffee break", understood as an opportunity to not only grab some coffee, but also have a casual conversation with a colleague in the corridor and take a much-needed break from work or deal with other important matters. The lack of such breaks causes greater fatigue and reduced productivity.
– During the pandemic, we discovered that emotions at work exist and that they should not be overlooked. Managers who feel and address these emotions were appreciated. Empathy helped to shorten the distance between employees and supervisors, showing that on the other side of the screen there is also a person who faces similar challenges, feelings and frustrations in the pandemic reality as ourselves. An employee is no longer a resource. Now he is the most important part of the company – above trendy innovation, technology and optimization. Because these words turned out to mean nothing without the employee’s participation, notes Olga Kozierowska, President of the Success Written in Lipstick Foundation.
Hybrid as a response to today's needs of employees
– The hybrid model is increasingly becoming the dominant work style. Importantly, this is happening not only due to the still uncertain pandemic situation and the related sanitary restrictions, but it is also connected with the consciously chosen strategy of individual companies. The hybrid model turns out to be the answer to the new expectations of the employees shaped throughout the pandemic, allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of both remote and office work. This is confirmed by the results of Skanska’s study conducted in December among office workers, which showed that hybrid work remains the most preferred model for every second Pole, stresses Ewelina Kałużna, Head of Strategic Workplace Advisory at Skanska and Managing Director at Business Link.
An interesting discovery is the fact that flexible working hours turned out to be a key aspect that prevented parents from taking leave from work to care for their children. – As can be seen from the perspective of managers, the family has become part of work – the presence of children during online conversations or a barking dog in the background are now completely normal, adds Magdalena Ujda-Tarczyńska, Corporate Communications Manager at Skanska’s commercial development business unit in CEE.
The respondents indicate freedom and the ability to make decisions as the main advantages of the hybrid model. According to them, this solution gives a sense of greater control over their professional and private life, and allows to organize the day tailored to their own needs.
Two types of hybrid work: limited and unlimited
According to the surveyed managers, there are two styles of hybrid work: limited and unlimited. The former is based on an imposed number of days in a given time frame, while the latter has no arrangements in this regard. The respondents stress that the limited style is to some extent a contradiction of the freedom that is to be ensured by the hybrid model of work, while the unlimited one is associated with certain risks with regard to teamwork management.
– Hybrid work requires flexibility also in terms of team management. Employees expect some compromise when it comes to scheduling working days from home and in the office, while employers may not always give them enough freedom in this term. Only 19% of Polish employees admitted that they have complete freedom in managing work from home and office. This approach results from the organizational culture in our country, but it is worth emphasizing that the expectations of employees are one thing, while it is also important to maintain the operational effectiveness of the business. It seems that the search for the most optimal, mutually satisfactory solution is currently one of the biggest challenges employers face, especially since this work model will stay with us for longer, says Magdalena Ujda-Tarczyńska.
Challenges of the new working style
According to the respondents, the new style of work is also associated with certain challenges, including limitations in helping the employee transition to remote work and managing the resulting difficulties. Moreover, according to the respondents, it is difficult to manage a team that works partly at home and partly in the office. Adapting the office to the hybrid work model also turned out to be a big challenge.
– Flex spaces, before the pandemic, were occasionally considered by large clients for creating space in offices. Today, they are becoming a key element of the hybrid work model strategy. A corporate model based only on traditional head office and employees' houses is not an ideal solution. So, the increased interest in flexible workplace management is no longer surprising. At Skanska and Business Link we have long recognized the potential of synergy between a developer and a flex operator in terms of adapting offices to today's needs. The result of this cooperation is our hybrid offer, the so-called core & flex, which is an ideal complement and alternative between an office with limited access and home, points out Ewelina Kałużna.
Effective virtual communication and the importance of additional benefits
The respondents recommend taking several steps that will help to improve online communication and achieve a better balance in this respect. Among the proposed solutions were Fridays without meetings, reduced conference time, careful selection of meeting participants and the obligation to turn on the cameras to have an insight into the level of audience involvement.
Managers also specified the need to provide additional benefits for employees. In case of some companies in which the respondents work, such benefits already exist. For people who have children, it was helpful to subsidize up to 100% of paid leave or additional paid days off. The mental and physical comfort of all employees has also become an important area for the organization. In some companies, employee assistance programs were expanded, and additional training and workshops (also for employees' children) and psychological consultations were organized. These types of activities were especially important for people who lived alone, for whom isolation was the most severe.
About the study
The study was commissioned by Business Link and Skanska’s commercial development business unit. As part of the qualitative research, in-depth individual interviews were conducted among people in managerial positions from various industries, including real estate, IT, HR, energy and finance. The partner of the study was the Success Written in Lipstick Foundation.