In many respects, COVID-19 has taken us by surprise, also in terms of everyday office life. All of a sudden, working from the kitchen table is quite normal. The long-refused notebook is now standard equipment. On the other hand, the “office grapevine” has pretty much fallen silent, and coffee together is only available online at best.
At some point, the pandemic will be over and everything will be as it was before. Will it? Probably not quite. Ideally, the best of both worlds will become the new work style, a combination of the before and after. What might this hybrid working world ideally look like?

The strengths of the home office

Many have long dreamed of the possibility of working from home. That means not having to slog through rush-hour traffic and being able to sit at a desk in sweatpants for a change. Or maybe it means being in a completely different place, such as on the balcony of your vacation home with an ocean view? That’s not so realistic in COVID-19 times. But it is a possibility for the future.

For businesses, the home office offers some advantages. Less office space is needed and there is less need for social spaces. Compliance with Corona rules is much easier with reduced office use.

Whereas visiting customers in person used to be good form, everyone involved is now finding that in many cases it is more effective to meet online. There is more flexibility in terms of time and location. This not only saves travel and accommodation costs, but also a lot of time. By eliminating the need to travel, less CO2 is produced, thus additionally protecting the environment.

What’s missing when working from home

You dream about something until it becomes reality. Then you realize that there are not only advantages. This is how it can go with mobile working.

It starts with a suitable workplace. The majority of employees do not have a separate workroom at home. The playing children run through the living room and the best seats are already occupied by home schooling. If then the partner also works from home, it can become very tight. That’s when you might wish you had life as a single person back. But alone in your own four walls all day? The ceiling threatens to fall on the head even of stable personalities.

Health protection can often come up short outside of the employer’s sight. There is a lack of ergonomic office furniture, good lighting conditions and sufficient space. In addition, there are psychological stresses, such as the lack of separation between work and private life or the feeling of having to be constantly available.

Personal and informal contacts are an important part of everyday office life. A quick “Can you show me that?” solves many questions through official channels. None of this is possible in the home office.

The hybrid working world as a model for the future

The months-long trial phase triggered by Corona has delivered many useful results. One thing has become very clear and has also been confirmed by surveys: hardly anyone wants to work exclusively remotely. Most would like to work two to three days from home and the rest of the week on-site. This trend runs through all age groups. So it’s clear that there is broad support for hybrid working among employees.

Of course, these benefits can be implemented predominantly in the office environment. Sales and customer service can also be done well from home. Areas such as production, workshops, laboratories or transportation are less suitable.

For hybrid working to be a successful model, there are a few points to consider. A change in management style is required. Since there are fewer opportunities for informal exchange, these should be created online. On-site meetings are equally important. Working hours should be organized to allow face-to-face meetings from time to time.

If one really wants to save work space, the office organization must be changed. There will be fewer fixed places. Some employees will have to be gently introduced to this new situation.

Solving a problem at home is often a bigger hurdle than with the colleague next door. This applies in particular to questions of digitization. Setting up an internal service center helps, as does an expanded training offering.

Another important point is the onboarding process for new colleagues. Separated from the real working day, it is more difficult for new employees to get on board. The communication of the corporate culture and important onboarding facts must be planned particularly carefully.

The hybrid working world is a huge opportunity for the future, but it is not a foregone conclusion. Implementation should be well planned and not rushed. The valuable experiences of the pandemic period can be transformed together, step by step, into a successful model of tomorrow’s work.

Image: https://pixabay.com/de/photos/home-drinnen-dekor-design-kreative-2618511/

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Dr. Dominic Lindner
Author

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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