Review of 2023: the struggle to make hybrid working happen

The big future-of-work story of 2023 was the move to adopt hybrid working across a variety of business sectors. Here we recall some of WORKTECH Academy’s key stories on an unfolding drama

2023 was the year in which organisations around the world moved towards a state of ‘hybrid permanence’ with flexible modes of work taking hold in companies across a variety of sectors. But it wasn’t plain sailing. Many businesses struggled to adapt. There may have been wider adoption this year, but it was hard to find consensus among senior leaders on the best way to make hybrid work happen.

WORKTECH Academy was there to cover every step of this unfolding story – not just with our regularly updated Hybrid Working Radar in our Innovation Zone for members and partners, but also with a series of articles looking at different facets of the debate. Here are some of the highlights of our hybrid working coverage in 2023.

Impact on office real estate: Early in the year, we reported on two data-led studies from the US Census Bureau and Cushman & Wakefield which showed the extent to which the rise of remote and hybrid working has affected American business districts, workspace demand and daytime city populations. These studies set off alarm bells for the US office real estate market which have been ringing ever since. Read our report here.

At the tipping point: By spring 2023, companies were at a ‘tipping point’ in terms of their readiness for more hybrid patterns of work. But some were more prepared than others. We worked with Crestron Electronics to explore this tipping point in terms of people, place and technology. Read our report here. We also developed a Modern Work Readiness Score so employers could assess where they were on the journey.

A growing rift with employees: In July 2023, a global survey from the WFH Consortium revealed a widening gap in 34 countries between company demands for a full-blown return to the office and employee expectations to work at least some of the week from home. We observed that ‘the story right now is not so much how these two conflicting positions can be reconciled but whether it is even possible’. Read our report here.

‘A sea of mud is an apt metaphor for hybrid getting bogged down in a mass of contradictory positions’

Getting bogged down: When the Burning Man Festival in the Nevada Desert was flooded out in summer 2023, leaving revellers stranded in a sea of mud, we saw this as an apt metaphor for hybrid working getting bogged down in a mass of contradictory positions. Burning Man has been studied by many companies for clues to on how to create radical inclusion and intrinsic motivation – the opposite effect to unpopular company mandates to return to the office. Read our report here.

The great reset: As the year wore on, we reported on how companies around the world were redesigning and repurposing their office space for the hybrid era. Our coverage extended from such trends as adaptive reuse  and healthy workplaces to one of world’s most iconic office developments, Centraal Beheer designed in 1972 by Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger, being repurposed for residential.

Cities go hybrid too:  Just as companies adopted hybrid strategies in 2023, so cities looked in that direction too. We reported on a new report from the McKinsey Global Institute which advised cities to develop more mixed-use neighbourhoods, construct more adaptable buildings, and design multi-use office and retail space in the era of hybrid working. Read our report here. As an example of a more hybrid city approach, we chose the Azabudai Hills development in Tokyo. Read our story and watch the video.

Fixing hybrid collaboration:  Finally, we examined one the of main sticking points of the new era – hybrid collaboration – in partnership with Canada’s ET Group. Achieving meeting equality between in-person and remote participants depends more on understanding underlying organisational beliefs and social interactions and less on technology and design ‘fixes’ according to our report here.

Our very best wishes to all our subscribers, members and partners for the festive period. We look forward to continuing our hybrid working coverage in 2024.

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