Hybrid businesses - the practice of working both remotely and from the office - started out of necessity. 

Pandemic restrictions meant employees in businesses small and large in New Zealand and other countries were forced to work from home.

Although restrictions are slowly being lifted hybrid businesses models that offer flexibility are becoming the new normal. Businesses are reducing in-office hours, with employees working from home remotely for much of the week.

So why are we seeing businesses permanently adopting this new model and how can you make sure your business is successful with its “new look”?

With the taste of working from home employees are looking at more flexibility in their working conditions and likewise employers are seeing the advantages - particularly economically - and are keen on establishing a hybrid model in 2022 and beyond.

A recent survey by Microsoft New Zealand shows that nearly 70% of Kiwi business leaders are more likely planning to redesign office space for hybrid work.

When COVID restrictions ended in Britain a survey was conducted by Hitachi Capital Business Finance which found that 58% of people that work for large companies were preparing for a return to the workplace. Interestingly, however, small businesses were twice as likely as their bigger counterparts to continue working from home (27% versus 14%).

Certainly, New Zealand employees have embraced the idea of working both from home and in the office. Over half of New Zealand workers believe that their company will successfully adopt a hybrid workplace over the next year, according to international content platform Templafy.

“A recent survey by Microsoft New Zealand shows that nearly 70% of Kiwi business leaders are more likely planning to redesign office space for hybrid work.”

What’s good about a hybrid model?

So, what’s so good about making your business a hybrid? Well, let's look at the research.

Citing the Hitachi Capital survey again, small businesses in the UK say they have used technology to help their staff to work from home/office allowing them to become more agile (33%) whilst boosting their productivity levels (20%).

The findings also show that:

  • 18% said the reduction in overheads has helped them to become more profitable.
  • 24% said hybrid working has fostered a positive dynamic between team members.
  • 20% said it improved the effectiveness of their business network.
  • 17% said it has been easier to hire the right people and develop a more diverse workforce.

There are other pluses, such as customer flexibility (able to work at a time that suits your employees and customers); reducing real estate costs; having the ability to recruit and hire remotely in a wider talent pool; and reducing commuting time/costs.

As can be expected many workers have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and see the hybrid model offering a better life-work balance. 71% of workers in New Zealand surveyed by Microsoft New Zealand want flexible remote work options to continue.

Interestingly, working remotely has seen employees get to know each other better with family members (and pets!) being introduced to co-workers as they wander past Zoom calls. At the end of the day happy employees translate into better business.

However, the employees do have mixed feelings about working from home and in the office. Microsoft's survey shows that 65% are craving more in-person time with their teams.

One of the biggest concerns for employees – and the key factor in the success of a hybrid business - is a bigger reliance on technology.

About half of New Zealand employees believe their company does not have the right technology in place to support a hybrid working environment, according to research by Templafy. More than 80% believe a hybrid workplace would be successful if their company invested in the right technology to support it.  Employees also voiced their concern about the need to have more training in the use of tech tools to support flexible working.

So, the right technology (and tech training) is crucial.

That aside, there are other requirements needed in order to run a successful hybrid model. 

Before embarking on a permanent hybrid model it’s vital you survey your employees and customers to see what they think and what suits them (see ‘The Types of Hybrid Businesses’). The findings will help you structure your hybrid business appropriately. Once you have your hybrid model up and running you should regularly survey employees and customers to see if it needs tweaking.

The pandemic restrictions have undoubtedly given many business owners a good idea of which jobs can be performed remotely, and which jobs truly require employees to be onsite. It’s important to consider the job requirements and preferences of each employee before determining where and when they need to work.

It’s also important to formalise the working conditions, for example when should staff come into the office and alternately work from home? Expectations on how the hybrid model will work and what employers expect from their employees must be clearly communicated.

Regardless of where your employees work, establishing new foundations of trust by formalising communication channels to help build your team is essential. Regularly scheduled Zoom or video conferencing calls can help team members get to know each other, work on project updates, and work together through any challenges.

The hybrid business model may be the future for many businesses, including small business owners but nothing is set in stone with the uncertainty of the pandemic continuing. However, the big plus about a hybrid business is it can be more flexible and agile to adjust to our new world. 


The types of hybrid businesses

There are basically three hybrid business models, and each has their pros and cons, depending on the business.

The models are:

Remote first - while office spaces will still be available to employees, most people will be able to work remotely. Obviously, there’s some exceptions because some workers will need to have a physical presence to fulfil their duties.  This model can expand hiring pools while reducing costs, such as rentals and costly on-site office hardware.

Office-encouraged - employees can work remotely, but they are encouraged to come to the office. They can often choose how they want their workday to look, such as when they want to work remotely and when they want to spend time in the office. This model is a happy medium of maintaining face-to-face time and workforce camaraderie, while offering flexibility and choice.

Office-first with remote options - this model allows most staff to return to the office full-time with a minority working from other locations, including at home.  It’s suggested this will develop better connections between employees and a better sense of belonging.

 At the end of the day each hybrid model has a vital ingredient for small businesses in particular: the flexibility to run your business which suits your conditions and, importantly, your customers.

 

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