Upheaving work practices, spaces and culture will help redefine the purpose and reinvent the future of work, posits a research report.

Instead of associating working hours with workplaces, the impending paradigm of the future may be to link purpose with work and dissociate the mechanical aspects.

Drawing on experts studying the future of work, workspace design and psychology, a study has been launched to help business leaders and post-pandemic workforces to realign mindsets to get ready for what it terms “hybrid working”.

The report, commissioned by communications technology firm Poly (formerly Plantronics and Polycom), highlights a granular shift in focus from “place” to “purpose” of work as businesses respond to the COVID-19 crisis, redesign their operations and reinvent the way business is operated.

Out of city co-working spaces, ergonomic work-from-home work setups and virtual water cooler moments—these are some of the new icons of hybrid working, where employees enjoy flexibility and choice, and businesses thrive through motivated, collaborative and productive teams.

Said Pierre-Jean Châlon, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific, Poly: “The ongoing pandemic has upended the way businesses operate in the region, with organizations forced to either adapt, or risk being left behind. Looking beyond the first phase of workplace transition to adopt remote-working, we are now witnessing a shift towards a new way of work—Hybrid Working. Businesses that stand to thrive in this ‘next normal’ will be those who prioritize human connections and collaborations as they look to reinvent current work practices, spaces and culture for their employees.”

What hybrid-working entails

Businesses now have the opportunity to challenge convention and redefine what ‘work’ really means. Hybrid working will introduce:

  • New working patterns – new policies that bring employees flexibility on when and where they work
  • Outcome-based working – taking the onus off the hours and locations, to being productive and delivering results
  • Optimized investment – looking beyond the company office to create collaborative, technology-enabled personal workspaces anywhere

According to ‘applied futurist’ and report contributor Tom Cheesewright: “Even before the pandemic, the nature of work was changing because the nature of business is changing. Today, few can claim that technology is a barrier to changing practices, but the lockdown has highlighted the need for investment into the cultural and behavioral components of flexible work. The future is a flexible working environment that caters to the needs of all employees, giving them the most fulfilling work experience and in return allowing them to maximize the value they return to the organization.”

Hybrid working spaces

The report also explores why creating the best environments for employees to be productive and collaborative will be vital to the new hybrid working era. It sets out the following key global trends for hybrid working spaces that may emerge in 2020 and beyond:

  • Home offices will be given as much attention as the kitchen—ergonomically-organized and crafted into places that inspire
  • A prevalence of co-working—organizations will invest in co-working spaces outside of cities to attract talent. Group collaboration and social connections with colleagues and others will lead to cross-fertilization of ideas and innovation
  • Cityscapes will change—will we continue to see high-rise office buildings? The city as a structure will stay as apartment living means the city is integrated into people’s lives; restaurants are an extension of their kitchen, and gyms their workout space.

Managing cultural change

Megan Reitz, professor of leadership and dialogue at the Hult Ashridge Business School in CITY, believes that businesses need to ‘hardwire’ fundamental habits into their teams’ culture to bring hybrid working teams together and ensure employees can speak up. For teams to be agile, innovative, ethical and compassionate, the report says that work cultures need to be:

  • Inclusive –diverse teams do better, but you must be able to harness and appreciate difference
  • Inquiring ‘one-size’ management does not fit all. Employees will respond differently to hybrid-working and managers must learn the skills to inquire, be curious and ask questions
  • Purpose driven we are seeing a well-overdue widening of purpose, and this focus on impact will serve as a compass in times of change, and make for a more meaningful workplace

As organizations respond, redesign and reinvent their business models, technology will play a fundamental role in enabling the shift to hybrid working. Said Châlon: “As teams become more disconnected physically and connected virtually, technology becomes the key that bridges communication between and across teams to optimize work efficiency and productivity. To stay ahead of the curve, businesses will need to respond, redesign and reinvent their practices and meet their challenges head on, adapting to whatever changes they face.”