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Adapting to the new normal: Hybrid working 2021
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Adapting to the new normal: Hybrid working 2021

The ‘Adapting to the new normal: Hybrid working 2021’ report, released today by Pitcher Partners Melbourne, Bastion Reputation Management and Bastion Insights, reveals a disconnect between employer and employee expectations of hybrid working arrangements.

The gaps, which are primarily centred around people and performance management and communication, are likely to grow if businesses don’t have the right frameworks in place for an effective transition to a COVID normal environment.

Consultation and communication are key in planning the return to work

Based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 employees and 300 employers across Australia, the report found some of the key benefits and challenges of the flexibility that arose in workplaces throughout 2020.

Return to work planning was an area where major gaps appeared. Four-out-of-five employers said that their return to office plans were based on discussions with staff, but only half of the employees surveyed said they had been consulted by their managers. If not addressed, this disconnect can lead to more complex and long-standing challenges in the future if a business doesn’t establish strong two-way communication with its employees along with effective frameworks to manage the other risks associated with a hybrid working model.

What is a hybrid working model?

The rapid shift to remote working throughout 2020 showed employers that flexibility and autonomy can drive productivity while delivering a range of other benefits to employees. As workplaces across Australia determine how employees can safely return to work, the hybrid working model has become a common solution. This model focuses on ensuring employees are safe. It is also a means to deliver the benefits of flexible working arrangements while addressing some of the downsides of remote working.

In a hybrid working model, employees typically have the option of working from home or in the office to take advantage of the benefits provided by both environments. How this looks in terms of who is in the office on particular days is usually a decision driven by a business’s structure and operations. While a hybrid working model offers employees autonomy and flexibility, it could impact engagement and performance if it’s not planned and implemented properly.

Employees value autonomy and flexibility

According to the survey, most employees reported that they felt a hybrid working model would positively impact productivity and their ability to perform their jobs. Despite these benefits, employees identified isolation and a lack of socialisation as key challenges they’d need to navigate moving forward. In contrast, employers identified managing staff as the single largest challenge of a hybrid working model, along with concerns such as cybersecurity risks and handling sensitive information.

Employers need to develop a clear plan and frameworks

The report outlines the extent to which workplaces have undertaken the necessary planning for hybrid work arrangements. One-in-four employers surveyed did not have a return to office plan, and smaller organisations were less likely to have a plan in place. Given the range of risks that need to be addressed as employees embrace a new way of working, organisations must have effective two-way communication and establish frameworks to measure productivity and performance. Key risks that need to be addressed include the lack of attention given to cybersecurity training and performance management. Fostering a culture that motivates employees to operate at their best is another critical part of successfully implementing these frameworks.

Cybersecurity, protecting data and employee performance should be top of mind in the planning process

The fast transition to remote working in 2020 demonstrated that many organisations weren’t equipped for the change, particularly in the areas of IT and human resources support. It is critical that organisations give proper consideration to cybersecurity, protecting confidential information and effective performance management frameworks, and direct their new year planning to these areas to ensure a smooth transition to a future hybrid work model.

If you’d like to discuss how your business can establish the right frameworks to manage your cybersecurity and people management effectively, contact a Pitcher Partners specialist below.

Download the report

This content is general commentary only and does not constitute advice. Before making any decision or taking any action in relation to the content, you should consult your professional advisor. To the maximum extent permitted by law, neither Pitcher Partners or its affiliated entities, nor any of our employees will be liable for any loss, damage, liability or claim whatsoever suffered or incurred arising directly or indirectly out of the use or reliance on the material contained in this content. Pitcher Partners is an association of independent firms. Pitcher Partners is a member of the global network of Baker Tilly International Limited, the members of which are separate and independent legal entities. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.
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