The current situation in the world of work presents many people with new challenges due to the Corona pandemic. Working from home and caring for children, for example, have to be managed here every day. The study “Theses on the hybrid world of work” addresses this issue and presents possible solutions.

Why do people want the hybrid work world back?

The Corona crisis is currently making remote work at home an experiment under duress. As a result, companies have had to quickly and unbureaucratically establish a digital infrastructure where it had not existed before.
Employees have had to focus on new technological tools and quickly develop new methods and skills. In this way, they have learned that working from home can work for entire teams and divisions, even though they didn’t think it was conceivable. The fact that team meetings can be held not only in person but also digitally is also new. At the same time, employees have noticed that they can use the newly gained time in a different and at the same time meaningful way by taking fewer vacation trips or commuting to work.

At the same time, they have learned that they need inspiring moments and connection, which come from meeting colleagues in the kitchen or in the elevator. In the near future, there will probably be no going back to the daily office culture and at the same time no desire for a full-time home office. Hybrid work will therefore be completely normal in the future. So it is up to the people themselves to be able to shape this hybrid world of work in the best way for everyone. At the same time, the so-called Shift Collective is a descendant of this hybrid way of working.

Studylink

The current design of the research

A new study now aims to shed light on the future world of work. To this end, those responsible have opted for a “hybrid” design with a scientific mix of methods. This is qualitative, secondary and quantitative. In the qualitative interviews, a total of 20 senior executives from large companies, medium-sized companies and start-ups were interviewed, who are responsible for the future world of work because of their own role. In a 30- to 90-minute guideline, the research team gained insight into the current findings of the working world changed by the Corona pandemic and, at the same time, into the plans and strategies of organizations of that DACH region for the
period after the pandemic. The findings were presented- partially anonymized – in this study.

The study uses the terms mobile office and home office synonymously for the sake of everyday language, even if there are differences in employment law. In a quantitative survey, a total of 530 employees and managers were asked via a digital survey between November 2020 and January 2021 about their own personal perception of the current work situation and their ideal wishes for future conditions at work.

In a secondary study, the research team analyzed the top 30 studies and
findings that developed data-based results on hybrid working in Germany during the Corona pandemic. All of the findings are brought together in a co-creative development process in the ten theses of the study. This results in many recommendations for action for employees.

The importance of the Shift Collective

The Shift Collective is an alliance of innovative consultancies for a new economy. This is an economy that aligns people, profit and planet. Together, it is a meaningful partnership for businesses large and small in the areas of innovation, leadership and transformation. It is clear, not just since the Corona pandemic, that conventional patterns of work are not up to the complex difficulties of the future. New answers are needed, as well as a willingness to make bold decisions. These are decisions that will change companies and the way they work together in general. The most important goal is to resilient and ready for the future and to be able to react flexibly and quickly to changing conditions and possible crises. In order to sustain change in the world of work, people are driving change on different levels every day. Together as a community of courageous and humane pioneers, this certainly works well.

The 3+2 model

Today’s working world is particularly complex, and this also affects hybrid work requirements in companies. There is generally no simple solution. The interviews conducted with HR decision-makers revealed that companies rarely opt for a general solution for their employees, and almost all of them rely on options or flexible concepts from which employees are free to choose. The most important goal is to meet the diversity of processes, appropriate team sizes and applicable regulations.

It is noticeable that employees are increasingly involved in the development of future work models. In general, there is still too little knowledge about the advantages and disadvantages of these models, that the needs of the employees should be decisive. For example, an employee of Thermondo, a digital craft company with about 450 employees, reports that they still scheduled an employee survey in the summer of 2020.

The core question was how many working days employees should be at work in order to be able to do a sufficient job. The final result here was a figure of 2.6 days. From this, Thermondo had produced a 2+x rule, which states that 150 employees at the headquarters in Berlin must be at work for two days and the remaining three they can work wherever they want. This could be the actual workplace in the offices or even on vacation in Mallorca.
The result was a little more conservative in a media agency, reports the HR manager here. Starting with an arrangement of 20 percent remote work before the Corona pandemic, the offer here is also opening up gradually. The full team of CEOs at the agency has decided that this will be doubled.

That is, it will be increased to 40 percent. This equates to two days a week in remote work. In IBM, a digitally distinct corporation, Janzen, the head of HR, assumes probably 50 to 60 percent time in the home office. Only two to three days at the on-site workplace is a possible scenario. The Shift survey conducted reiterates across industries that a total of 65 percent of participants would like to work remotely at home two to three days a week in the future.

The interviews with HR decision-makers show that companies rarely opt for a blanket solution for employees, with almost all opting for flexible models from which individual employees can choose. The goal is to accommodate the diversity of processes, team sizes and existing regulations. At the same time, it is noticeable that employees are increasingly involved in the development of future working time models. There is still too little experience of the advantages and disadvantages of these models, so the needs of the employees are decisive.

The office as a place – of creativity, identification and connection

One of the most discussed questions for the hybrid working world is what role the
workplace should take in the distant future. While it was an unchangeable principle of the working world until some time ago, the investments in real estate close to the city and larger campus projects are revealing many perspectives. This was formulated by many experts in recent months in the departure to the workplace. The new analyses have shown that this will continue to have an important and at the same time radically changed influence on the world of work in the future. While 63 percent of the employees surveyed agree that operational
work can easily be done from home, some 76 percent want a place for good teamwork and informative exchanges. SO the office space becomes the place for the team and for creative space. Individual and new office concepts must be created for this. These are mainly fewer workstations and one-man offices, more areas for meeting colleagues and so-called creative spaces.

One executive board member of a major insurance group interviewed by the research team
therefore already had his own real estate re-evaluated and has decided that he will part with 30 percent of the space – and instead invest heavily in the remaining 70 percent.

Whether flexible workplaces such as coworking spaces will be newly rented by the individual companies in the
near future and made available to employees for creative meetings is currently still being reviewed by the companies surveyed in the project.

None of the companies surveyed by the research team wants to do without the office altogether. In this context, the impact of office space as a culture-shaping and identity-forming element is far too high. One management of a medium-sized company in the retail sector explains that it notices that employees are now not as closely connected to the company as they used to be. The HR director of a large IT corporation affirms the new challenge. In general, the culture is shaped by people and by the daily interaction of colleagues on site.

Above all, values are communicated very well on site. Above all, if the employees lose the closeness to the culture of their own company, then at the same time the existing employer very quickly becomes interchangeable. Employees can theoretically do the same job at another company. For this reason, it is a major challenge to ensure that culture is maintained in the hybrid working world.

However, hybrid work is not the swan song of the company’s own on-site workplace, but rather shapes a new type of evolutionary stage for it. Companies are therefore faced with the challenge of establishing identity, culture and employee loyalty in a digital space and repositioning the workplace to meet the needs of hybrid work.
Here, exchange, encounter and creativity become the most significant design principles.

Flexwork as an opportunity to combat the shortage of skilled workers


While hybrid working brings many new challenges for companies, they recognize above all the opportunity in being able to better retain or attract talent in their own and more flexible working environment.
Above all, companies with disadvantages in terms of location or a highly competitive
supply of skilled workers stand to benefit from this. The HR director of a large IT group explains that the company
can now make better offers to customers that are also attractive to the best talent – and for which they don’t necessarily have to move to the country right away.

On the other hand, colleagues from international or rural areas can be included more optimally.
The more flexible deployment of part-time employees through hourly or selective working hours or shift work phases with longer breaks becomes attractive for companies and also for employees without the need for lengthy commutes. In this way, both sides benefit from the flexibility and the companies only pay for what they really need. And employees can better combine their own work with other pursuits, family or hobbies.
The Chief Customer Officer at the company Thermondo, has a fitting example of this. In this way, employees who work in customer service can flexibly take on shifts, for example in the morning and evening, and at the same time have a longer break at lunchtime if there is ever a need. This is optimal, and they wouldn’t do that if they were in the office, that these four work-free hours at midday are of no use to them in that case. In this way, hybrid work becomes a stimulus program for work matching, internationalization and flexibilization – and in this way can become a gamechanger primarily for “hidden champions” in rural regions. The
elimination of geographical distance as a limiting factor can improve the matching of job seekers as well as employers. In the end, economic productivity can then be increased.

Digital fitness as hybrid work with good technology


With the Corona pandemic, digital transformation has experienced a major upswing in Germany. Here, new types of tools were developed, disseminated or integrated into already existing environments. This was a successful act for many IT departments.

Creative formats for digital work

Before the Corona pandemic, dressing up the Employee Experience was one of the most important tasks of HR departments. In the lockdown, this was put to a particularly tough test for a long time.
In the interviews, individual managers recount their experiences of how provocative the onboarding of newly acquired employees is in the remote setting. When employees feel like teams, it’s very
difficult if the employer can’t find a point of reference for allies in this new situation at work during the team meeting or while walking through the rooms. In individual cases, this can even lead to termination after only a few weeks.

Conclusion

This study describes the current changes in the world of work brought about by the Corona pandemic. Various examples were explained of how the companies can cope with the changed situation and also that the employees can benefit from it.

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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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