Hybrid working - help or hindrance?

Hybrid working

At The Art of Work Ltd we’ve noticed the continuous hype and rhetoric around hybrid working is now reaching a crescendo but how do we make sure that the shift is a win-win-win for individuals, managers, and organisations? Read on to find out more…

Increasingly, our workplaces look set to embrace a mix of home and office working, with a recent BBC survey revealing some 43 out of 50 of the UK’s biggest employers confirming they do not plan to bring staff back to the office full time. People’s appetite for hybrid working appears to be strong and many businesses are busy making plans to reset their ways of working. The hybrid model hinges on giving people the choice, autonomy, and trust to reap the ‘best of both’ benefits from remote and in-office working. But, achieving a win-win-win won’t happen organically or by chance. So how do we create a new way of working that is inclusive and fair to all? How do we make sure our physical workplaces reflect this new reality? And how do we reset the psychological contract to retain trust and create a vibrant working environment for everyone?

At our recent forum in partnership with our great friends, Andy and Rich from RAW Brothers we took a closer look and tried to get beneath the surface both in terms of both ‘people’ and ‘place’.

For those organisations, the planning starts now. Some have already developed rules and protocols around how it will work, whereas others are not even on the starting blocks. Wherever organisations are on this continuum, we believe it’s vital to focus on the potential challenges and opportunities afforded by the new approach in order to create an engaging, supportive and productive working culture. There are two key areas of focus needed to explore the impact of hybrid on how we will work – ‘people’ and ‘place’.

Hybrid and people

As William Bridges said, “it’s not the changes that do you in, it’s the transitions.…the psychological process people go through to come to terms with the new situation”. In this instance, it is the recognition that the psychological contract – that unwritten ‘deal’ between employers and their employees – is likely to shift as the work landscape changes. Typically, in more stable times, this is in balance, with the expectations of the individual and employer well matched. In times of change, this can skew, with one demanding more than the other is willing to accept. So, for organisations, and leaders within organisations, it’s vital to pay attention to the deal, and how to keep it in balance as things change.

So how do we bring people with us as we move into a hybrid world? What are the considerations we need to focus on? We believe there are four key foundations for a successful transition.


Clarity is absolutely about understanding what success looks like and clearing a path for your teams to follow. People will be uncertain – it’s new and brings with it understandable fears and anxieties. Communicating your hybrid approach directly, with confidence, will decrease the chances of adding to the uncertainty. Being clear and confident will bring reassurance and more confidence in how the approach will work. But the onus isn’t just on leaders. Team members also need to make sure they are visible, clear about what they are doing and why and participate fully with each other to keep each other up-to-date.


Safety here relates to both psychological as well as physical safety. In these challenging times, it goes without saying that there’s a need to make sure the office environment is as safe as possible prior to encouraging employees back. But in addition, it’s also important that, as they enter this new mixed location working environment, where everyone feels able to voice concerns, share feelings and be themselves without fear of reprisals or negative consequences. and equally feel able to admit mistakes or flag issues as they happen. To make this happen, leaders at all levels will need to create a culture of inclusion, to ensure everyone has a voice and feels equally valued.

Critical to enabling employees to feel safe and supported will be the foundation of trust between team members, line managers and senior leaders. As we encourage a different way of working, that trust will provide the safety net allowing for missteps and challenges, as well as enabling more honest conversations. And the onus isn’t just on leaders but on everyone to help forge those stronger bonds. The challenge is we are so immersed in trust, it is such a part of the fabric of our lives, that we are often unaware of its existence so we take it for granted and are only painfully aware of it when it is absent


Autonomy means that everyone has at least an amount of influence on how they will work within the new protocols going forward. A key question which will need answering, is how much freedom of movement do they have to create their own work patterns. And the answer to this will vary widely from one organisation to another. Being clear on where they have ownership and room for manoeuvre is as important as clarity on the boundaries and ‘non-negotiables’. This helps them to and feel free to collaborate, to be themselves, and think independently within the framework of the new working arrangements.


Attachment links to the feeling of connection and purpose that we need to feel truly a part of an organisation. With a geographically split team, it’s easy for team members to feel isolated or distant from the core team, especially if some are in the office more often. Careful thought is needed to make sure the shared purpose of the team and organisation is embedded in all you do and that there is no feeling of disparity between different parts of the organisation. In organisations where there is a mix of front line and support teams, there may be tensions and a feeling of ‘them and us’ especially if the front-line staff have not had the opportunity for home working. Providing a common purpose and ways to break down barriers that may have developed is key.

Hybrid and Place

So, what does hybrid working mean for our offices and other workplaces? And what do we need to consider to generate new ways of looking at how and where we work?

A useful perspective is to look at the history of the workplace and our relationship with it. From the industrial revolution with top down leadership and where work dominated life, through to the more recent individualistic focus of ‘work hard/play hard’ our relationship with work has evolved with the times. And now we are in a position where we could embrace a new, more holistic values-based way of working, with a focus on global and humane considerations. We believe the pandemic and the impacts it has had on how we work and live has moved us closer to this. Alongside this, the new generations entering the workplace bring with them some different priorities. However, from our recent survey, it was clear that all generations favoured increased flexibility and human interaction – which would seem to suit the hybrid shift.

The hybrid living workspace

Prior to 2020, the shift towards a move towards a fully flexible approach to homeworking and the use of the workplace had been relatively slow, with only 30% of the UK workforce working from home at all*. The impetus of the pandemic which forced many organisations to accelerate home working options for many. The result was a more than doubling of those working from their home in 2020 with a number of studies indicating an increase in productivity. So now the argument for the need for being in the office have been significantly weakened, what does this mean for the future of the office? Well, we believe that the interest in hybrid rather than purely remote working, is based on the idea that there is a human need for social interaction and a place to collaborate and be creative. And whilst technology like Zoom has helped connect us during these challenging times, having a shared environment to meet face to face is still preferable and important. But perhaps it’s time to revisit the purpose of our workplaces and find new ways to use them. * Office for National Statistics, 2019

So, what does the future hold?

“We have a unique opportunity to balance social, financial and environmental costs and create a ‘new normal’.” GoSpace

We believe hybrid working provides an opportunity to forge a new relationship between individuals and the organisations they work for – one which allows for more flexibility, combined with places to connect and collaborate. But there are challenges, including how to manage the complex logistics involved in managing a potentially reduced capacity workplace with a more transient workforce. Innovative software companies like GoSpace are now providing ways to manage this in a way that balances the needs of the organisation with the potential costs (financial and otherwise) which could prove attractive to many organisations.

As ever, the key to success in any form of change, will lie with the people in organisations embracing the new reality and making it work. The conversations and wider interactions within and across organisations will be vital to help create a more vibrant, engaging and productive new future for the workplace of tomorrow.

Sandra Evans

Sandra Evans

Sandra is our Managing Director and co-founder of The Art of Work and put quite simply, is an acknowledged thought leader in our industry. Highly regarded as a futures architect and as a challenging speaker and practitioner, she is constantly in demand in the UK and overseas. Sandra consistently has her 'antennae up' for future trends and enjoys making sense of these for people today.