How behavioural science can help with hybrid working

Understanding the complexities of human behaviour and personality traits is key to enabling managers to better support their team, says Sabby Gill

The future of work is here and it’s hybrid. The past year has forced thousands of us to break away from our offices and commit to working from our bedroom and kitchen tables. And we’ve all seen more of each other’s cats and children than we ever thought we would. 

While restrictions have eased across the country, and more of us are travelling outside of the UK and heading back to offices, a number of firms are still hesitant to put a pause on the great hybrid working experiment. Take Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Both are mandating employees go back to the office with little flexibility. Amazon on the other hand has deferred its expected date for regular in-person attendance to January 2022. But with no handbook, businesses are flying blind. 

It’s clear that having no strategy will not work in the long run for businesses. But like any experiment, employers must use the past year to build a body of evidence on what works – and what doesn't – for hybrid working. It’s about finding a solution that’s fit for now and suits everyone within the company. 

Fortunately, the world of science can help businesses dig deeper into the physics of hybrid working to help them adapt to this new reality.

Finding the balance

Before the pandemic, the average UK commute was an hour – wasted time staring endlessly out of train windows. Home working gives commuters five hours a week back, on average, to do as they please. Whether this is more time in bed, time with the family or exercise, this has a huge impact on people’s psychology and can increase productivity and work-life balance. And for businesses, harnessing remote working can help save money on unused office space, leaving leeway to use funds to scale and expand talent. 

But having moved wholesale to working from home for more than a year now, we know things aren’t so cut-and-dried.

Remote working can lead to loneliness and isolation, especially for those who live alone. For managers and HR teams, it’s easy to organise regular checkups on team members and host online quizzes to boost morale, but businesses need something more tangible. Managers too face challenges when carrying out their duties in a remote context. Team performance and development is difficult to monitor as clear, defined communication is harder to carry out. So, what is the right balance? 

Science is the missing link

Access to science, like psychometric assessments, can measure how teams are really coping with hybrid working. In practice, combining technology, psychology and data enable managers to measure response and provide personalised recommendations to teams on how to best cope. By understanding the complex nature of human behaviour and each individual’s personality, you can really recognise what makes your team tick. 

For example, managers who identify team members as having a particularly extroverted style –  those who enjoy group work and look to others for ideas and inspiration – will prefer an in-office environment so they can feel socially connected to their peers. Or those with high levels of conscientiousness will likely prefer continuity in their approach to work. They will need added support in adapting their targets and performance to suit hybrid working.

Other behavioural techniques can also help businesses understand the psychology of individuals. The High Potential Trait Indicator, which measures personality traits, is an excellent indicator of performance and potential. It explains the complex connections between thoughts, emotions, and behaviour in the workplace. This can be used to predict and enhance the success of hybrid working. 

Let’s make this experiment count

If anything, the pandemic has taught us there is no right way to work. And just as science combated coronavirus, it can revolutionise the future of work. But businesses must fully understand the complexity of human behaviour if they are to make hybrid working a success. It is a cliche but also a truism to say that we are all different. We react and cope in different ways and by truly acknowledging this, businesses will create a brighter tomorrow.

Sabby Gill is CEO at Thomas International