What We Learnt About Work in Lockdown, Part Three: Hybrid Working

What We Learnt About Work in Lockdown, Part Three: Hybrid Working

The last few months have caused many of us to question the very structure that underpins how we work. As we were unexpectedly granted a reprieve from the weekly wake, commute, work, repeat cycle that has become the mainstay of working life, many of us have taken full advantage of this newfound down time — whether we used it to slow down, give ourselves a kickstart, learned a new skill, or caught up on Netflix. 

It’s been no different for all of us here at Peakon. During lockdown, Product Manager AP befriended her neighbours — “something I never would have had time for” — and developed a complex sunflower cultivation process in her lounge, while Customer Success Manager Bobby cultivated relationships with old friends. US sales team member Tony took time out to enjoy lunch with his wife, Account Executive Shanice rediscovered her love of dancing, and I learned how to bake overly-elaborate kinds of pastries that now fill my freezer. 

This extra time has prompted us to think more deeply about the things we value about our lives, and what we’d like work to look like in the future — but that future looks very different for each one of us.

Throughout this series, we’ve looked at how we at Peakon have experienced work over the past few months. We’ve seen how our employees have experienced working from home, and what they’ve missed about the office. In the final post in this series, we reflect on what the future of work might look like — and what organisations may need to consider to make work work for every employee.

In lockdown, we don’t have that visible reminder of bumping into people anymore. I think it’s important to make sure we build in that time to have those conversations.

Tony, US Sales Team, New York

“Time in the office should become more intentional.”

“If you had told me working from home would be for this long at the beginning of March, I’d have said it sounded dreadful,” laughs Tony, a member of our US sales team based in New York. “Working remotely works for me, and it’s also made me realise that we could change how we spend our time in the office.

“At the moment, we’re in the office for most of our time by default — and we spend much of that time sitting at desks, working on our laptops alone, but sharing the same space,” he explains.

“In the future, I think it would be helpful to default to working remotely and have planned time in the office rather than the other way around. When the default is working from home, using the office becomes about thinking more carefully how to spend that time, and doing the things that truly benefit from in-person interaction — such as catching up socially and knowledge sharing.”

“Lockdown exposed the gaps in our team communication.”

“In the beginning when we transferred to fully remote working, we had a few miscommunication issues,” notes AP, Peakon’s London-based Product Manager. “They were just little things, but they were the things that you’d normally pick up on if you were physically in the meeting or working under normal circumstances. We had to start writing everything down — even the stuff we wouldn’t usually think to share.”

Shanice, an Account Executive based in our Auckland team, agrees: “Communication was one of my main sources of frustration when we were working remotely,” she says. “We’d have team meetings over Zoom, but if you’re not present, then you miss out on that key information.

“Instead of talking about stuff out loud in meetings, we realised that we needed to be more intentional about our communication. We started recording these conversations into Slack and emails so that everyone can benefit. This communication gap has become even more visible to us now we’re back in the office, but some members of our global team aren’t — which is why it’s especially important to keep sharing and communicating.”

“We need to be more inclusive and intentional in social interactions.”

“Before lockdown, I didn’t always realise the differing experiences parts of my team were having,” says Louise, Head of Customer Success based in our Copenhagen office.

“I’m used to managing some members of my team remotely, but running meetings on Zoom helped me understand how our Berlin team members feel when they dialled into a meeting and see our Copenhagen-based team all together in one room,” she adds. “It feels very different to be part of meetings when you’re not physically there. This experience taught me how important it was to build in the time to check in with people informally. I wrote so many more messages to my team members, just to say ‘hello, how are you?’.”

Tony agrees: “At work, you might bump into somebody and have a conversation. Those moments happen spontaneously in the office, but now, I have to be much more intentional about it — I definitely wouldn’t send a calendar invite to have a chat with someone normally.

“In lockdown, we don’t have that visible reminder of bumping into people anymore. I think it’s important to make sure we build in that time to have those conversations.”

“I’m more confident in what works for me at work.”

“My takeaway from this time is that I’ve been opting to do the work that suits me where and when it suits,” Shanice reflects.

“As a team, we’ve talked about trial ways of working as we’ve gone back to the office, and everyone’s had their own opinion and approach. A lot of people have been quite structured and decided to work from home on specific days — but I know I’m not committed to that sort of schedule. 

“In lockdown, I really struggled with not having any variation on where I was working, and I was one of the first to go back to the office because I needed that change of scenery. The office can be really distracting and intense at times, so I really appreciate having the ability to work from a variety of spaces — I love working in cafes, or working from home when I need some extra focus time.

“Since lockdown, I’ve been feeling more confident to make that approach work for me when I need to.”

Why listening to your employees will make work work in the future

As we’ve found from these conversations, each of our team members has had a uniquely individual experience of work during lockdown that has reshaped their expectations on what they value most in their professional lives.

We learned that in order for work to work, we need to change how we communicate with one another, and that we need to make more time for social interactions — and less time for meetings without a clear purpose.

However, one experience that we all shared was that we discovered a deeper appreciation for the individual — and all valid — ways each of us prefers to balance work and life.

As organisations consider what work will look like in the future, these perspectives serve as an important reminder as to the many different experiences employees all over the world are having. The key thing will be how organisations listen — and respond — to these experiences to make work truly work for their people, whether that’s in an office-based, remote or hybrid context.

If you’re considering a hybrid working model, take a look at our recent article on the potential pitfalls you need to watch out for here.