Updated: Jan 27
Happy New Year! I hope that you, reader, enjoyed a well-deserved break. As we begin what I hope will be a more positive year, I thought it would be a great time to talk about a workplace trend: Hybrid Working and its relationship with a visitor management plan for different businesses. Do we need a new visitor management tool for hybrid working? Was the term an overused term in 2020? Despite the name, I believe hybrid working will be popular with businesses and employees across the country this year.
Who knows what we have in store this time; we've already kickstarted 2021 with a mixed bag with the launch of the Oxford vaccine, but tougher restrictions across the UK, expected to last for at least the first quarter. Whatever happens in 2021, we will adapt and grow.
I will cover the following topics:
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working combines the physical office space and alternative workspaces, such as your home. This approach, when combined with other factors such as flexible working or a 4 day working week, allows employees to have more control over their work-life balance while maintaining productivity for the organisation they work for. We need a plan to adapt to this new normal.
Homeworking for good?
LinkedIn News Editor Andrea Beattie recently shared a news story that suggests working from home permanently could be a better workplace for us all; I respectfully disagree. Sure - many of us are content working from home, with the necessary tools and equipment to continue our jobs well. But I don't believe that working from home permanently is simply better than having time in the office, here's why:
Health and wellbeing
We know that many employees have experienced Covid related anxiety in the last 12 months; Bupa suggests 65% of respondents to their survey in May 2020 felt anxious about returning to the office. But it's not just the virus itself causing a decline in mental health. In November, CIPD reported an array of homeworking factors contributing to poor mental health; including irregular hours, home-schooling (in addition to working), poor work-life balance, reduced exercise/social interaction, lack of routine, and much, much more. There's no wonder we're not feeling ourselves; after dealing with this for just shy of a year now, it's more than understandable.
So to simply stay at home, for some, is not an option. Parents juggling their working and home lives, employees who have limited space will struggle to work effectively. Employees who live alone will suffer from isolation and loneliness. For some, working from home full time is seen as a necessary task until restrictions ease; we shouldn't assume that everyone is happy to be at home full time.
Tools and equipment
When the first lockdown was announced in March 2020, workers grabbed their laptops and went home to work for what was expected to be a few weeks. As we've progressed through the year, many people have created makeshift offices; as I wrote this blog, I'm in my spare room which has been converted into a home office. This is a privilege: having a quiet room with extra cash available to buy a desk/chair/monitor and other office equipment is something that many simply cannot do.
The BBC covered this topic back in May and gave advice on how to work effectively from home. Without the correct office equipment, our postures can become strained and in turn, we'll start to experience aches and pains. Facilities Managers have worked hard to create ergonomically sound office spaces for us; we're all familiar with desk assessments by now, which are a requirement in every workplace. The logistics of Facilities and IT teams carrying out individual assessments for employees at home is unrealistic; so employees are faced with a challenge of making sure they have an ergonomic office space. Easy for some, not so easy for others.
It's no secret that our economy is suffering thanks to the pandemic. Approx. 370,000 workers were made unemployed in the months between August and October, and the High Street struggled to cope with tough restrictions that led to a lack of footfall.
Homeworking will cost the economy £15.3bn per year if we continue to stay at home at the same pace as we have during Covid. Our morning commutes, coffees, lunches, Friday drinks, and spontaneous purchases on the way home all had a huge impact on the economy. The average office worker spent £1700 per year pre-Covid; perhaps our spending habits will change, but office workers are needed back in some capacity to help repair the economy.
Should offices remain?
Despite fifty of the UK's largest companies confirming they won't be returning to the office anytime soon, office spaces are still important, albeit perhaps not in its pre-Covid capacity. We need offices to complement office working, and for the reasons why home working shouldn't be a permanent fixture for businesses:
Health and wellbeing
Tools and equipment
However, office spaces will need to change to accommodate those who enjoy working from home; for instance, providing a space for:
Collaboration with colleagues on projects
Engaging with customers or partners with an appropriate visitor management tool
Teambuilding, teamwork and building rapport with other areas of the business
Socialising and celebrating success as a team
Matthew Hammond, Chairman of the Midlands Region for PwC, articulates perfectly why offices must remain in a post-Covid world:
"We have colleagues who may be working at the end of their bed or on a return unit in their kitchen. That is not sustainable or healthy for the longer term. As employers we invest a huge amount in providing the right environment, the right seating, the right technology so people can be at their most productive."
The benefits of hybrid working
I don't disagree that homeworking is good for us. According to an academic study by the Universities of Cardiff and Southampton, 9 out of 10 people agree that working from home has had a positive impact on their health and wellbeing and would like to continue doing so in some capacity.
A one-size-fits-all approach to homeworking should be avoided, or we risk creating an unhealthy situation for many office workers across the country.
For me, some benefits of hybrid working are:
Flexibility: being able to fit work around your personal schedule, such as childcare or appointments, creates a great work-life balance for employees
Collaboration: meeting employees in an office space allows group creativity and teambuilding opportunities that may not have been possible via Zoom.
Focus time: working from home takes away office distractions and allows us to knuckle down to meet deadlines.
Customers: engaging with new clients or building on existing relationships requires an office setting.
Trust: hybrid working will only work with mutual trust between the employee and the organisation. Allowing employees to create their own schedules between the office and home can only create a fantastic workplace culture.
What's the plan for businesses implementing hybrid working?
There are three points that you should undertake as a minimum when planning hybrid working in your organisation:
Engage with employees
We know that not all employees enjoy homeworking, and we know that there is a lot of anxiety about returning. Building trust between the organisation and employee is integral to your office return and future ways of working.
One way in which you can build trust with your employees is through clear and effective communication. Your team look to leaders for answers; if you're a team leader, departmental head or manager, or a member of c-suite, you must remember that your team are looking to your for direction and instruction.
You need to communicate directly with employees to find out what they need. You can do this in many ways, such as:
All staff survey
One to one conversations
Town Hall meetings
Have honest and open conversations with people, they'll appreciate it. Compromise and trust your team to make good decisions for themselves and your business. Document your agreements and review them where necessary.
The Visitor Management Plan: Make it work for everyone
There is definitely not a one size fits all approach to hybrid working, so try to steer away from creating limited choices for people. Having said that, too much freedom might not work for your business either.
Creating a visitor management plan for your office(s) will help you to understand what space limitations you have, and from there you can inform your employees and create a flexible working pattern with your team. For a visitor management plan, you should look to answer the following questions:
How many people can you accommodate in your office at any one time, adhering to social distancing, etc?
What roles need an office presence if any, and how many seats do they need?
Do you have customer-facing roles, do they need to be available at certain times of the day?
What are your opening hours at the moment, have they changed during restrictions?
What is the current Government guidance for your office location(s)?
What will your office be used for moving forward? Meeting customers, collaboration?
Once you have answers to these questions and gathered employee opinions, you'll have a clear idea of how to proceed. For the best visitor management plan example. head over to read our advices on visitor management best practices.
Using a visitor management tool to create a great experience
After spending ten months at home, those who enjoy homeworking are going to need a reason to leave the safety and comfort of their homes to return to the office.
It's not always just planning to enhance your visitor's journey, creating a safe and unique experience in the workplace becomes significant. A workplace where employees can meet with customers, collaborate with their peers and enjoy a sense of normalcy. This is what an efficient visitor management tool can bring to your office:
Safety: ensure your workplace has an effective visitor management plan in place to manage footfall
Desk booking: work smart and introduce a way for employees and visitors to book their desks before they arrive
Peace of mind: people need to feel safe, a physical change to show them that you're taking Covid-19 seriously. Screens and tape won't cut it!
Read more about visitor management tool Vgreet.
How to evaluate the best visitor management tool?
As we listed some points in our visitor management system guideline, here are some principles you need to think when planning to bring employees back to your office.
1. Think about your visitors
Start walking the customer journey and think of your visitors.
Spend one day with an employee, a contractor and a visitor and watch how they use your building, what things do and don’t work, question them about what needs to change.
2. Start talking “return on investment” not cost
Budgets as a term are replaced by returns on investment and returns on the experience you delivered.
3. The seamless experience
With visitor management techniques in mind, question if this visitor management system has touchless procedures, ensure employee safety in reception, and impress your visitors no body else can.
4. Read reviews
In short, I believe hybrid working will provide many of us with a more balanced lifestyle. It will allow us to continue putting in productivity at work while managing our personal schedules.
A complete homeworking solution is great for some, but not for everyone. We must consider the implications of working from home and create a solution suitable for all.
If you want to implement hybrid working, you should:
Find out what your employees need
Create a solution that suits employees and your business
Create a reason for people to go back to the office
Review your visitor management plan and ensure your employees feel safe to return
I've compiled this blog by reviewing opinions, articles, white papers and guidance, but I'm sure I've missed points. I'd love to hear from you!