Designing a hybrid work organisationEmpleoBeLux
Post-pandemic hybrid work models should be carefully planned, taking into account individual and organisational needs.
With the end of the pandemic in sight, organisations are rethinking when and where their employees will work. Over half of office workers want to keep working remotely for three or more weekdays and while employer enthusiasm is somewhat lower, this does seem feasible for 20%-25% of the workforces in advanced economies. Many companies will likely adopt a hybrid combination of on-site and remote work, with work from home estimated to be optimal at one to three days a week.
While this hybrid future creates opportunities for geographic mobility and for tackling regional inequalities, employers will need to find well-functioning models of organisational flexibility for their workforces. An update to the European Union’s 2002 Framework Agreement on Telework could facilitate the implementation of flexible working conditions in a way that ensures minimum protection for on-site and hybrid workers, while fostering harmonised standards within the EU single market.
Hybrid work comes with organisational challenges that are often grouped into three categories: bricks, bytes and behaviour, ie the spaces, tools and culture of remote work. What is missing is a fourth B, a blueprint for the allocation and coordination of tasks across time and space. While traditional organisational design deals with the question ‘who does what task?’ the hybrid model must additionally ask ‘who does what task when and where?’
Flexible work arrangements have existed for over 50 years and cover both time and space dimensions. While in 2013 more than 65% of EU28 establishments offered some form of flexitime, only 30% of employees in the EU27 reported in 2019 having a say in the start and end times of their work day, and of those only a third could decide their hours without restrictions.
When rethinking flexible work arrangements, companies have to consider whether (1) to align employees’ working time (synchronous or asynchronous), and (2) whether to have employees work in the same space or be dispersed geographically. The traditional model of work is synchronous, co-located work, while flexitime and telework provide flexibility in terms only of when or where work is done. The combined freedom in terms of place and time of work is known as an anyplace, anytime policy.
A series of challenges have been established by experts:
- Challenge 1: Assessing the potential for individual flexibility
- Challenge 2: Designing an optimal configuration of flexibility at the collective level
Research shows that teleworking increases coordination costs: less opportunity for informal coordination (in terms of networking, coaching and one-on-ones) increases the need for formal coordination (more time spent on meetings, calls, or answering e-mails). This increased coordination cost reflects the presence of task interdependence which, in a hybrid context, needs to be investigated through two additional lenses: spatial and temporal.