Why making hybrid working work better should be a key focus

17 June 2024 Consultancy.com.au 4 min. read
More news on

While hybrid working has over the past years become the new normal in business, there still remains a considerable way to go to optimise the here-to-stay model, writes Brendan Maree, Vice President and Country Manager ANZ at ProHance.

Has giving employees the option to spend some or all of their time toiling from home been a good thing for your business? More than four years have elapsed since the onset of the pandemic that, just like that, turned workplace norms the world over upside down, but many Australian organisations have yet to give this question the serious consideration it deserves.

Now is a great time to start tackling some of the complexities this here-to-stay model has thrown up.

Why making hybrid working work better should be a key focus

Brendan Maree is Vice President and Country Manager ANZ at ProHance

Post the protracted lockdowns that forced thousands of traditional enterprises to send their staff home with laptops – nearly a third of Australian workers were working from home by mid-2020, according to Roy Morgan research – businesses of all stripes have retained the practice; allowing employees whose roles are conducive to remote working to carry on as they have been.

Keeping the workers satisfied

And there have been few complaints, from said employees, at least! Almost two thirds of workers want to see work-from-anywhere models retained and 50 per cent want the right to choose their work location, according to 2024 research from Ecosystm. Forty-one per cent say they want flexible hours, while a mere 15 per cent stated they were happy with traditional nine-to-five-in-the-office arrangements.

Given its popularity with workers, it’s a brave employer that will summarily withdraw remote working privileges or even attempt to wind them back a trifle, as one of Australia’s largest businesses learnt to its cost last year. Sparks flew at the Commonwealth Bank when 49,000 of its employees were ordered to spend at least half the week in the office and the matter subsequently found its way to the Fair Work Commission.

Understanding what’s working well

Against that backdrop, optimising, rather than obliterating, extant hybrid working arrangements is a prudent move, for organisations that want to keep their teams on side and in their employ.

But doing so is difficult in the absence of hard data – on how, when, where and how well employees are performing the tasks assigned to them.

Their typical downtime hours, the parts of the day when they’re most productive, the apps they’re using most and least often to collaborate with colleagues, and how well they’re adhering to compliance guidelines…having granular details on all these elements of the workforce and workplace experience is essential, if organisations are to devise hybrid working models that are fit for purpose.

And what isn’t

In the absence of this empirical evidence, it’s impossible for HR teams to recognise and understand the emerging daily patterns that could result in lost productivity, burn-out and poor utilisation of staff. That’s a very real risk to organisational health that forward thinking leaders will likely want to mitigate, as a matter of urgency.

Striking a happy balance between monitoring the status quo and acting on feedback from staff – creating the sort of ‘listening culture’ that makes workers feel heard and valued – is also challenging, as is balancing the needs of employees against organisational requirements.

Tools that make taking the pulse of your workforce easy

The good news is, gathering the data you need to craft the perfect hybrid working strategy – one that delivers for employer and employees alike – is easy when you have the right tools.

Deploying a workplace analytics and operations enablement platform will allow you to gauge the effectiveness of your current hybrid working arrangements right across the enterprise, using a range of different metrics.

Choose a cloud-based solution that enables you to monitor your employees’ activities and engagement levels in real time, and perform in-depth data analysis on the daily, and you’ll improve your understanding of what’s working and what’s not, when your team are in and out of the office.

Armed with those insights, you’ll either have the confidence to make changes for the better to your hybrid working policy, or the comfort of knowing that your current set-up is serving the needs of the organisation and the people whose collective efforts are critical to its productivity and growth.

Happier hybrid arrangements for the long term

The Covid pandemic ushered in a series of seemingly irreversible societal changes, chief among them the expectation that individuals will have the option to work from home some or all of the time, when their roles allow.

With hybrid work here to stay, optimising the way it works in your organisation in the upcoming financial year makes sound sense. Tools that help you do so in a data driven way are likely to prove an excellent investment.