Sat. Jan 22nd, 2022


(adjective) Divide our work weeks between different places: houses, offices or even the beach

In the Before Times, “hybrid” described cars driven by people who save for a Tesla. Not anymore. In 2021, hybrids became a regular part of workplace jargon. How long it stays there will depend on two things: the trajectory of coronavirus and the attitudes of employers.

In 2020, most so-called knowledge workers switched to homework, an awkward arrangement that caused early pandemic argot (“WFH”, “Zoom fatigue”, “you are quiet”). By mid-2021, there was a tentative return to offices in many parts of the world.

But few people wanted to return to commuting every day. The compromise was hybrid work, making it possible to split weeks between the traditional office and the home, where new routines were built around child care, pandemic puppies and pelotons.

Employers received fringe benefits to get workers back to their desks, even part-time. Think of roasting meat, making cocktails – and cash. Some beginners too teams moved in Airbnbs for a stay in a cool resort or city. It’s hybrid work in order, but being with colleagues 24/7 may not be for everyone. Or anyone.

What is valuable about most hybrid work is that it offers more choice and agency. Its flexibility gives some of the people most affected by the pandemic in the workforce – it would be parents and carers – more opportunities to build a lasting work / life balance for their families.

Hybrid work also forces leaders to trust that the teams they no longer see in the office are productive and engaged every day – and to adopt new management styles to accommodate that changed reality. At a time when people are resigning from their jobs a record number, smart employers will take note – and stick to some elements of hybrid practices when the pandemic subsides.

isabel.berwick@ft.com



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