Emerging research brings more clarity to benefits of hybrid work

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at new academic research that provides an evidence base as organisations weigh up their options on introducing a flexible working strategy

Companies around the world are rapidly coming to the conclusion that the hybrid model now represents the next generation of modern working practice. But where is the scientific evidence to back this up? Where is the academic research that studies the benefits and the costs?

Two years on from the onset of the pandemic and the introduction of a more flexible, less office-based approach, the first published studies of hybrid work have started to emerge.

One such study is published in Strategic HR Review. This research paper follows the journey of international professional services firm Hawksford Group in its transition to hybrid working and evaluates the findings and results of the move. After an acquisition, the company embarked on a three-year strategy to embed smart working culture where flexibility, agility and creativity are supported.

The company pioneered a hybrid working experience in its Saint Helier office on the British island of Jersey where a third of the employees are based. The process included a £1.5 million office redesign and a template for how hybrid working strategies can be implemented across different geographical locations.

After conducting surveys around the degree to which employees wanted to work in a hybrid way, Hawksford opted to give up a third on its office space which allowed the firm to make a saving of around £300,000 per year on the lease.

‘The study emphasises that hybrid is not a case of “chaos rules”….’

Alongside a significant office redesign, Hawksford applied a new people strategy which aimed to eliminate hierarchy in the office space and create a democratised environment which provides access to everyone when they need it.

The results of the study found that hybrid working can help recruit and retain talent, upskill leaders, boost collaboration and team working, and rebuild the confidence of the younger generation in the time of Covid-19.

The studies emphasises that hybrid working ‘is not a case of “chaos rules”, it requires thought and a lot of buy-in and taking employees on a real journey’. The firm claims that it is already seeing some immediate benefits in the value of shared collaborative space. This has seen a marked improvement in collaboration and team working, leadership development, empowerment and employee engagement. Read the full paper by Richard Summerfield here.

Study shows a caring side

Other scientific studies highlight different aspects of hybrid working.  A 2021 case study from Austria, for example, by Michal Beno of the Czech Republic’s Institute of Technology and Business, is a case in point.

This found hybrid workers to be more caring, supportive and forgiving of colleagues – they treat each other with respect and display more confidence in each other compared to workers who are mainly based onsite. Beno’s research, ‘On-Site and Hybrid Workplace Culture of Positivity and Effectiveness: Case Study from Austria, is published in the Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies.

It’s not all positive news on hybrid working, however. A Norwegian research team identified through a study of academics and students that there may be a ‘flexibility paradox’ in which the complexities of working in a flexible way outside the office imposes restrictions due to the greater need to impose structure and planning.

So, the jury is still out on hybrid working, but at least there is now more evidence to consider.

Bringing research to Chicago

As the academic literature around hybrid comes into public domain, the WORKTECH22 Chicago will showcase some of the latest academic thinking in the field. Dr Gleb Tsipursky of consultancy and coaching firm Disaster Avoidance Experts will present his latest research based on best practices of hybrid and remote work. The research will outline the collaboration and innovation advantages a successful hybrid model can have on an organisation.

Join the conversation and buy your tickets to WORKTECH22 Chicago taking place on Tuesday 19  July at the Aon Centre in Chicago.  Find out more here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 12 July 2022.
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