The Remote vs Hybrid Debate Webinar With SafetyWing: Takeaways

Hosted by Safety Wing and led by Founder and Keynote Speaker, Rowena Hennigan from RoRemote, our external HR expert Ginni Lisk, joined the discussion about the remote vs hybrid debate.

Ginni Lisk sat on a panel with Louis Demetroulakos from Playroll, Lee Carlin from Talanta, and Matt Drozdzynski from Pilot.

This article will show you the main takeaways from the webinar, from both Ginni Lisk and others on the panel, discussing the pros and cons of both remote working and hybrid working.

What Are The Main Pros Of Hybrid Working?

Ginni Lisk:

I find words like remote and distributed inherently quite negative. So, I think one of the benefits of talking about hybrid is that it is inherently flexible and does sound like something that is a positive cultural addition.

I think therefore, it gives HR practitioners much more remit to be doing positive cultural work through these periods of change, and certainly in terms of thinking about the future of work, I think that hybrid is what is optimised for a future of work.

For individuals, there's lots of talk about generational differences and why hybrid working is useful, but actually just as humans, coming out of pandemics and in current macroclimates of change, people do feel like they want more autonomy.

Frankly, if you’re not meeting people where they're at, you're going to be at a competitive disadvantage.

For the majority of individuals, either extreme is too much: never being able to engage in person with your colleagues versus always having to be in an office.

I think hybrid working allows for real intentionality around the purpose of locations and the types of work people do. It gives people the ability to not feel guilty about needing to be potentially antisocial to do, for example, deep work.

We're not all in the same type of roles, right?

There are roles, like certain engineering roles, where quiet and focus are needed for you to deliver.

However, it also enables people to go in and really benefit from time together.

Ultimately, I think it gives a huge opportunity there to create opportunities for all kinds of people to do their best work.

Louis Demetroulakos:

I like to look at the pros of hybrid in the context of how they can promote innovation and collaboration.

It invites these kinds of opportunities to actually be in person, sit around a table, write ideas out together, and really hash things, which can be really great from an innovation perspective.

Of course, increased face-to-face interaction can also be really good for morale and can similarly have an important impact on innovation and taking new ideas from idea to implementation.

Innovation and collaboration can still happen in a fully remote model, of course, but there may be some communication nuances you might not be able to pick up over a screen, or you might get some benefit from conversations that happen after the meeting breaks, for example, when you're walking to the snack bar and bump into your colleague.

Those kinds of moments are really critical for collaboration, innovation, and for taking ideas and driving them forward in a productive way.

What Can Go Wrong and What Advice Would You Give To Someone Who Wants To Implement A Hybrid Model of Working?

Ginni Lisk:

I think my one piece of advice would have advice would be don't go straight to policy.

Quite often I have seen businesses skip a number of steps and think “ok, how can we in this sort of very top-down way?” and skip right to that policy and put terms and conditions in place.

So, I think my advice would be to be more designed focused and driven in the gap.

Take more input from the people this is going to impact and particularly listen to your leaders and managers, especially thinking about how this could help to optimise things like that cross-functional collaboration.

Lee Carlin:

I think the intentionality of hybrid working is absolutely critical.

I think the idea of saying, “you can work in an office two, three days a week and have two to three days off” is great.

However, without the intentionality around creating structures and processes designed to make sure teams are communicating, there is that face-to-face contact, you understand days in which certain teams will benefit from being in the office with others, etc, etc, it’s not going to work well.

I think you really need to make the hybrid model really intentional, otherwise, it can just become a case of “I go to the office some days”, and essentially actually people are working remotely for all intents and purposes.

Louis Demetroulakos:

You can't afford or appear to favour certain employees or certain seniority levels in the company.

This is where having a good policy in place can ensure that you're addressing those potential issues of equity - for example, whether someone's commute is longer than others or someone's home environment makes for a very difficult commute to the office.

Making sure that a policy is in place that takes that feedback in from the employees but also is consistent enough to kind of create a structure is essential.

What Are The Main Pros Of Remote Working?

Ginni Lisk:

The clarity that remote creates is why you don't end up with this sort of muddy middle that can happen with hybrid working, where you're trying to work out the rules of engagement and how that can be equitably different.

It's all just this is a baseline simplifier I do completely acknowledge that it is probably from that perspective, easier. Not in a lazy way either just in a way of clarity and managed expectations. I think that is the overarching core benefit from my perspective.

Lee Carlin:

One key advantage would be it gives access to a global talent pool - you no longer need to be restricted by the location of employees and compete with companies for the best talent [in a specific area].

There are a huge amount of untapped talent pools right across the world, but also in the UK, for example, the north of England and other places that have typically been ignored by many employers, there's fantastic talent.

The opportunity to contract people wherever they may be is a huge advantage when it comes to getting the skills and competencies you need to succeed as an organisation.

Matt Drozdzynski:

If you invest the right sort of resources into doing remote and you put the right structure in place, one of the benefits that I think people don't realise is how scalable that model can be.

The downside is you end up having to do a lot of work early on, both in terms of your communication and the processes inside the company, once it's done, you don't have to worry about it again.

I think by choosing to be remote, you're front-loading a lot of that effort, and you have to think about a lot of these things out much earlier in the lifecycle of your company. But, because of that, you have a much more scalable platform to grow from.

What Is A Disadvantage of Remote Working?

Ginni Lisk:

I think there is a real risk in creating gaps. If you have awesome access to this global talent pool, the one thing that is certainly true is that people are more discerning about authenticity.

A company can profess to be any number of things but how it behaves and how it actually demonstrates its actions. So I think a disadvantage is often again that this becomes quite quickly a sort of a front-end HR teams problem around how you interface with human beings and that sort of people experience and on that side of things.

I am steadfast that flexibility and choice are really important. But actually, I think this is primarily more of a broader business operations conversation.

There are only very few companies that by design can bake in being remote or asynchronous.

If there are timezone overlaps, data flows, etc, all of that generally needs more investment than I think I see it getting in businesses that talk about being remote.

The question to ask is, are you actually creating more dissonance for your employees by going remote?

I think it's a question to ask as an entire business and not immediately just go straight to the HR team. Instead, think about it collectively and more holistically.

I think there is also a really important point to make there around not forgetting the provisions that you should be making or a baseline set of morals and ethics you should operate with as a business anyway, remote or not.

Additionally, if you're going to meet people where they're at, they're going to be people who have preferences.

You have to work with those preferences and think more about the structures and the systems that you're creating to enable people, than what they're doing, where they're doing it, and monitoring output.

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