While flexible working existed long before COVID-19, the pandemic upped the ante, forcing companies around the world to adopt more flexible working practices. Businesses everywhere were given no choice but to re-examine their approach to hybrid working models. Many found they were able to embrace a fully digital workforce, with teams continuing to work positively and productively, in many cases, regardless of role. Since then, however, attempts to introduce hybrid working as the ‘norm’ have proven problematic, with continuing concerns about engagement, productivity, and technical capability. Since the pandemic, we have talked extensively to leaders about the continued evolution of flexible working arrangements.
In our latest research Rethinking Leadership for the Hybrid World of Work, we heard how senior leaders were experiencing the post-pandemic workplace, the issues that remain most topical, and the decisions being weighed as they attempt to navigate the myriad challenges and build effective working norms. 20 senior leaders took part from a range of sectors and global organizations.
Despite repeated claims of increased productivity, efficiencies, and other benefits, our conversations with leaders found widespread ambivalence about flexible working. We have determined that there is a real need to think critically about how the future world of work is shaped and that the challenges ahead –and the resulting impact on managers – must be carefully considered.
Our research was conducted in the preliminary stages of the move to hybrid working. We anticipate our insights and accompanying toolkit developed with our participants, will inform a strategic and considered approach as leaders look to embed new working arrangements and support managers in leading performance and culture change in a hybrid context.