Any business owner or manager expecting employees to flock back to the office once restrictions are lifted and slide straight back into the traditional nine to five is in for a serious shock.

It just isn’t going to happen. The working world is facing a complete reset – and companies need to prepare now.

As the UK emerges from lockdown, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has warned businesses that employees may quit if they are not allowed to work from the office. But, despite the office environment being essential for culture and collaboration, many employees have been compelled to work from fome (WFH) throughout the whole pandemic and this has opened their eyes to a new way of working.

The future is clear: hybrid working is here to stay and the right hybrid working model will fast become key to attracting and retaining talent.

Truly flexible working

With a recent study revealing that 73% of workers want to be able to work from home after the pandemic, this is a once in a generation opportunity to create a working culture that meets the needs of both employees and employers. Forget the so-called flexible working policies of the past, where individuals were ‘permitted’ to work remotely one set day each week. This is about giving employees the choice every day to work wherever they want – the office, home or a local co-working space.

It is also about recognising that people can work differently from home – and empowering them to do so. Forget the nine to five; ditch the five days a week. If an employee likes to get started at 7am while the house is quiet, why can’t they finish work at 3pm? An app that shows when an individual is online, in a meeting, or at lunch, provides a simple way of keeping track of the hours worked, allowing for truly effective and productive hybrid working.

Creating a hybrid culture

Of course, some managers will struggle to make this shift; they will rail against the need to trust employees to do the job without continuous oversight and like Sunak, believe that the team building and culture built from physical interaction is invaluable.

Companies will need to reconsider how they are going to entice people back into the office. Whether it is fear or just a love of WFH, some people will need coaxing. This is where the office space needs to be reimagined to create a destination – an attractive touchdown space where individuals are encouraged to socialise as much as brainstorm and share ideas. Add in simple technology to book a desk or a meeting room and employees will have full visibility of the office and that the business is adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Hybrid policies will differentiate

A successful hybrid working model will work for both businesses and their employees, giving people the autonomy to work how and where they want – and to change the approach as they feel. WFH in the summer, in the office in the winter; flexing hours around school holidays; or simply heading into the office in search of company. With the right culture and the right technology, employees can be empowered to work wherever suits them best. And that makes them more productive, happier – and less likely to move elsewhere.

Hybrid working is the new reality and if companies are to nurture and retain top talent, they need to get the right policies, processes and culture in place now.

By Dan Harding, chief executive at Sign In App