hybrid people magnetic

Hybrid working sucks for people (or does it?)

The tension of where work gets done in our post-covid workplace is palpable. We’re seeing a massive variation of experiences and expectations throughout our workforce. Seniority, job function, business models, location and legal implications are all contributing factors. But there are also real risks. As we head into a national (if not global) recession, alongside a cost of living crisis. The responsibilities of the conscious employer are mounting and the lines are blurring as employers are being asked to shoulder more.

From well-being to financial strain, against a backdrop of increased business costs, changing customer needs and working even harder to deliver more value. We brought together an exclusive group of leaders to get under the skin of their biggest challenges and to compare notes. The resolve? It’s tricky. And it’s not getting simpler any time soon. Hybrid working suckls for people. Or does it? Sharing experiences and swapping notes helps, here are some key takeaways from the conversation:

The missing pieces

Hybrid can and does work in many instances, but there are still key areas to address:

  1. Comradery, community and purpose. The assumption is that attrition rates have a direct correlation to the fact that people aren’t in the office.
  2. Mixed messages. There’s still a control vs productivity tension: “I want to see people in office as they’re more productive” vs “I’m more productive at home”.
  3. Serendipitous connections. Organic knowledge/idea sharing that boosts productivity in an efficient yet authentic way hasn’t yet been cracked remotely.
  4. Early career development. Access to peer to peer learning and development opportunities are significantly less when working hybrid or remote.
  5. Property portfolios are under utilised and under valued. Large, empty commercial offices or units are being paid for and wasted.
  6. Care and wellbeing. Our people face new challenges. Keeping up with ways to support mental and physical wellbeing remains a complex and nuanced task:

“I’m working harder on the care and wellbeing of my people. We are experiencing higher suicide rates across the organisation. So far 4 people in 9 months have ended their lives. I feel a huge sense of responsibility to our people.”

“We surveyed our line managers. 85% said they had the tools and support they needed.”

The cost of living crisis

With inflation rates at an all time high, businesses are looking to maximise efficiencies and reduce costs. Coupled with a cost of living crisis that’s only set to worsen as we head into the winter, the bubbling pressures under the surface are about to come to a head.

Purpose-led organisations that historically have heavily relied on their mission galvanising their workforce will not be exempt from what’s to come.

“Purpose doesn’t matter if I can’t pay the gas bill.”

With greater divisions in the workforce, employee value propositions that were designed mid/post pandemic are no longer attractive. With many people asking to drop their benefits package in favour of higher net salaries.

Not only does this reinforce the trend we’re seeing towards personalised benefits packages (which although preferable become out of date and irrelevant quickly), but it also begs the question; with an already slippery workforce, will those who left the labour market in the great resignation be able to afford the level of flexibility they originally sought?

Hybrid working sucks: Time vs Place

“Some people are leaving because there aren’t enough people in the office”.

The time vs place equation remains a challenge. With some organisations mandating a return to work and others adopting a wholly flexible approach, there’s a myriad of issues arising which could lead to greater divisions and discrepancies across our workforces.

In some businesses, younger employees are flooding into the offices with a desire to be present 4 or 5 days a week. They crave the social connection and the ability to learn from more experienced people. Businesses are still trying to work out how to get this balance right and figure out whose responsibility it is: The business? The leader? Or the junior employee to ask for help?

In contrast, other leaders put high attrition rates down to the lack of office connectivity and culture. Both come down to filling up physical office spaces. The responsibility is everyone’s and the ask is for more Senior people to role model and compromise:

“In some ways you’re not asking them to be in the office a certain number of days a week, you’re asking them to help nurture talent.”

Empathetic leaders are reporting ‘notification whack a mole’; with less immediate access and visibility of their teams when remote working, having detrimental effects on their own productivity as they’re unable to “spend the time on the right things”, constantly chasing or updating their teams.

For some ‘old school’ leaders, not working in the same locations has left them feeling “out of control” — likely exacerbated if their knowledge of the technology or systems isn’t as acute as their colleagues.

“People are deciding can I do my job effectively at home? Yes. Do I enjoy working from home more? Not necessarily. But is my life better? Yes.”

It’s clear from our conversation, there’s no one size fits all. With the layers upon layers of complexity; Some Leaders feel like they’re losing part of their culture, but the other part are saying it’s working so we must ask ourselves; what’s the real problem we’re trying to solve?


This is a private roundtable discussion where People Directors working across industries connect. We operate Chatham House rules at these discussions, and will not be attributing any quotes to the attendees. If you’re interested in joining our next one, and work in HR or the People Experience space, get in touch with Natalia.Walters@wearemagnetic.com.

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