Professor Amanda Kirby
Chief Executive Officer
During Covid-19 some of us might have found working from home an ideal situation for optimal working and our productivity has increased. We may have even also seen an improved work life balance. A lack of commute has given us hours back in the day to take the dog for a walk, do the gardening or even talk with our partners more.
The advantages of ‘WFH’ has allowed many of us to create our work settings in the way we prefer. It has meant we can stand, sit, or lie down to suit ourselves. We may even have developed new work outfits that split us into two i.e. Work shirts on top and track bottoms below!
Working from home is not everyone’s dream. Others may have found being at home all the time a nightmare situation as home and work constantly collide with each other. Dealing with barking dogs, crying kids, sharing workspace and bandwidth with others may have made you despair and longing for the days of the office once again.
There is good evidence that home working has led to longer working hours with an average of an extra 30 minutes per day. The start and end of each day are often ‘bleeding’ into our home life with no clear cut offs. A real challenge can be the constant demand and expectation to be available at all times .Additionally, the assumption that we are at the end of a computer ready and waiting to respond. This has resulted for some with increased feelings of anxiety and certainly impacted on some people’s wellbeing. Burnout is a term we are hearing more and more.
However, for some this has been a real revelation. For those who are neurodivergent and who may perhaps find open plan, noisy settings a nightmare to work in, or someone with a physical disability where the barriers of commuting have always limited the chances of where to work this time may have been the best ever. Interestingly we were flung into a change of working that meant suddenly that online meetings were the norm rather than the exception. Endless journeys for a one hour meeting instantly disappeared. For some home working may have really opened up opportunities for applying and gaining new jobs during the pandemic. This has somewhat levelled the playing field and even led to widening opportunities. We can now apply for a job in Scotland or South Korea from our home in Cardiff.
So can we define hybrid working and is the future? Alternatively are we going to revert back to the way we were? Do we want to? What does hybrid working actually mean in reality?
To start, there is not a one-size- fits-all solution. It would be lovely if this was a single solution or a set formula i.e. hybrid working equals three days of work at home and two days in the office, or vice versa. However ,the reality really means that each job and each workplace may need to discuss, develop and then define what's right for the jobs being undertaken and also for that person. Times and demands change. Someone with young children may find flexible hours work for them; someone with living alone may want the companionship that office life provides. If we are not flexible we may be missing out on real talent as well.
For me working from home has increased my productivity. I can't imagine writing this article in a busy open plan office as distractions like background noise would make it impossible for me to focus. However, I love to meet different people and have creative conversations bringing together ideas over a table( real and virtual).
In the past 18 months I've undertaken hundreds and hundreds of webinars and meetings. I have met people globally. Without the technology it would have been entirely impossible to have done so. I've written a book during lockdown with a wonderful person called Theo Smith, (another Welsh person), who works in recruitment. I've never met him face- to- face. We are publishing a book this week by Kogan Press called: ‘Neurodiversity at Work Drive Innovation, Performance and Productivity with a Neurodiverse Workforce’.
My plea when I look at the definition of hybrid: ‘of mixed character; composed of different elements’ is to each discuss what it means to us. We need to develop and try out what works and to move forward rather than going back. The old ways didn’t work for everyone before.