What does behavioural science say about hybrid working?

20 Oct 2021 By Advertising feature

With no post-pandemic playbook, businesses are flying blind when it comes to developing a hybrid working strategy. The team at Thomas International explains how behavioural science can guide employers and help its people thrive

The pandemic revolutionised the world of work. In days, millions of workers moved from working in offices to bedrooms and kitchen tables. As the crisis continued, it became clear that the remote work experiment was irreversible. 

Some major institutions – Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and the BBC to name a few – have mandated a full-time return to the office. But they are in the minority, and at risk of being perceived as nonprogressive. 

Most companies (four in five, according to the Institute of Directors), plan to continue hybrid working following the pandemic. But like any experiment, employers must build a body of evidence for what works. With no post-pandemic playbook for hybrid working, businesses are flying blind.

What is clear is that the absence of a strategy for hybrid working puts firms at a disadvantage. Amid the clamour of voices affirming that it is here to stay, the challenges of remote work persist. According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five (20 per cent) businesses say that hybrid working compromises communication and productivity. Organisations that seek to continue evolving at the pace necessitated by the pandemic need to address these challenges if they are going to future-proof their operations. 

Everything hangs in the balance

After a year of unparalleled disruption and radical organisational restructuring, taking a position on the right balance of remote versus office working may feel especially precarious.   

Prior to the pandemic, the average daily UK commute was an hour, so home working has restored five hours a week on average to office workers. This has positively impacted employee productivity, psychology and work-life balance. 

Yet other studies have revealed a workforce in burnout, with younger people suffering the most from the changes to the workplace. Research has also found that remote working can lead to feelings of isolation, detrimentally affecting employees’ mental health.

Businesses and employees stand to gain financially from a hybrid or remote working policy, with firms saving on unused office space and employees on rail fares, which are set to increase yet again. Remote working could also lead to easier scaling, an expanded talent pool, and employee retention benefits as 85 per cent of remote workers want to continue despite the easing of restrictions. The people have spoken and they prefer hybrid working.

This leaves businesses to negotiate its challenges. Colocation made communication more straightforward and hybrid work has important implications for organisational culture and centrally, for people management. Managers of remote teams face new roadblocks, which will rapidly make themselves obvious if businesses fail to tackle them. 

Science can save the day

Just as epidemiologists have created a vaccine, behavioural science provides solutions to the new challenges of hybrid work. Psychometric assessments combine technology, psychology and data to offer organisations an objective measure of how individuals and teams respond to change, and how they are really faring in the new hybrid work environment.

For instance, a composite team Personality Profile Assessment can be a superpower for managers of remote teams, while the recommendations provided by a High Potential Trait Indicator assessment can shape strategies for successful working. Crucially, psychometrics can help organisations predict how individuals will respond to hybrid work, flagging probable communication breakdowns and interpersonal challenges before they detrimentally affect project outcomes. 

Leaders might envisage HR as a last bastion against scientific and digital transformation. But the businesses that integrate them will define the future of work.  

Learn more about how psychometric assessments can support successful hybrid work in your business with Thomas International.

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