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How SMEs Can Best Prepare For A Hybrid Work Future

hybrid work

Last year, not all firms could offer remote working options for employees, but many of those who were able to are now considering how they can blend the best of home working with the best of working at physical premises.

Employees’ expectations have also changed for good. According to Microsoft’s recent Work Trend Index, 71 percent of UK workers want flexible remote work options to stay. Data from the CIPD shows that 65 percent of employers offered no option to work from home before the pandemic, a figure that has now fallen to 37 percent.

As SMEs now look at their return to physical premises, business owners and leaders can build the true hybrid workplace of the future. And there’s a strong reason to do so.

Two in five (41 percent) of the UK workforce are likely to consider leaving their current employer in 2021 according to Microsoft’s research, rising to more than half (51 percent) of ‘Gen Z’ workers. How firms approach the new world of work may directly impact their ability to attract and retain the best talent as the economy recovers.

Flexible working makes people feel valued. The autonomy to shape how we work reduces stress and boosts productivity, enabling a healthier work-life balance for your staff. Leaders can attract better talent by embracing more flexibility and should also consider how office space can be repurposed to support in person interactions and to foster creativity, to help minimise the barriers imposed by distance.

The case is clear for hybrid working, and agile SMEs – unencumbered by bureaucracy – are particularly well-placed to capitalise on the trend. But where do you start in building your hybrid workplace of the future? Here are some practical considerations to get you going:

Create a plan: Hybrid working won’t happen by accident. Leaders and owners will need to consider how to adapt for people, places of work and processes, ensuring a robust plan and policies are in place to embrace extreme flexibility in when, where, and how people work. SMEs who can reshape work around individual roles, preferences, and even personal lives, can enable workers to better serve business goals.

Rethink employee experience: Leaders must empathise with the unique needs of each individual within their firm. Not all employees will be comfortable following the same hybrid model, for example, working from home or in the office for a full week – therefore leaders should encourage different ways of working and interaction with colleagues to ensure employees feel connected. For example, firms could encourage team check-ins that aren’t always work-related, support regular voice-only walking calls to stave off screen fatigue, or randomly pair colleagues for monthly informal chats. This human contact will prove critical in strengthening bonds between employees, fostering creativity and allowing for moments of serendipity among colleagues.

Tool up for hybrid: It’s paramount that SMEs get the right tech in place, from collaboration platforms like Microsoft Teams to cloud-based telephone systems like Microsoft 365 Business Voice, which will route business calls to your employee wherever they happen to be on any device. And if employees work from home much of the time, how much will you invest in their home tech setup? Will a company car still be an attractive perk? Workers are more likely to need a powerful and reliable laptop, a high-spec phone, a large, interactive screen, a comfortable chair, the right desk, and high-speed broadband.

Lead from the top: Leaders should model hybrid working best practice to set the tone – taking regular days out of the office as well as getting offline at home when the working day ends, to avoid the rise of a new presenteeism either in the workplace or online.

As restrictions ease and we get to spend time with colleagues again, SMEs can now follow a hybrid work strategy that combines the best of the remote workplace and the physical workplace; empowering employees with the flexibility and autonomy of remote work and enabling the critical human link with colleagues and customers in person.

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