Page published on 24th November 2022
Page last modified on 24th November 2022


On 10 November 2022, together with Smart Working Revolution, we held an Inclusivity Unlocked! webinar entitled “Harnessing hybrid”. Taking as a starting point the assumption that the majority of workplaces now have some sort of hybrid working model, it focused on how to make those systems more effective and inclusive. 

We were delighted to welcome Ruth Gawthorpe, the CEO of Smart Working Revolution, and Jenna Massey, Practice Director at Gill Jennings & Every. The webinar was chaired by Andrea Brewster OBE, Lead Executive Officer of IP Inclusive. 

Hybrid working can be more productive, more effective, more innovative and more inclusive, but in order to make it work for employees, employers and customers it is important to get it right. The move to hybrid working should be viewed as a transformative process. Companies need to listen to ideas and feedback before and during the shift, and not be afraid to adapt and change as the process goes on. A recurring theme was the importance of management to the process; managers must lead by example to establish new working practices and cultures and so it is essential to invest in management training that can be filtered down to all levels of the company.

Ruth opened with the suggestion that moving to a hybrid working model should be viewed as a transformation which impacts every corner of your business, from inclusivity to productivity, and from employee needs to customer demand. She also stressed the importance of basing any feasibility studies on data not intuition and of investing in the leaders. Jenna was able to offer invaluable hands-on experience of this transformation process as Gill, Jennings & Every are working through it at this time. 



Through early feedback Jenna had found that having set days to work at home and to work in the office still felt inflexible to some employees, and Ruth agreed that it is important to consider which type of work is best done at home or in the office, so a good hybrid model needs to be flexible to suit both the employees’ needs and the business needs. Ruth suggested taking flexibility even further and considering an annual hourly average rather than monthly so that, for example, working parents could work long hours during term time and take time off during the summer. Jenna found that when people were empowered with flexibility, the company attracted a more diverse talent pool and saw a drop in absences and lateness. To ensure inclusivity it is also important to consider those who may prefer to work in an office and so provide both hot-desking areas and more traditional fixed desks. 



Jenna commented on the importance of maintaining networking and even increasing collaboration across teams when people may not see each other daily, which they have supported by moving towards a hot-desking approach. Ruth described the “proximity bias”, which occurs when people notice the contributions of those they are working physically close to more than those working remotely. There needs to be a strong shared vision from management down that virtual presence is as valid as physical presence.



This led smoothly to the importance of leadership buy-in, with management training being essential to equip managers to support staff. There may also be a need to train and support existing staff in new ways of working, both in terms of technology but also in a new working culture, with managers normalising contact with people who are out of the office. For new starters flexibility may need to look a bit different as they need to make those essential networking connections and learn the new core skills of working remotely. 



Of course problems may arise in new hybrid working environments. Jenna talked about the Mental Health Action Plans and wellbeing surveys her firm had put in place to help people struggling with the increasingly fluid boundaries between work and home, and how respecting people’s boundaries needs to be management-led.

Ruth suggested making clear distinctions between home time and work time, even if they are in the same place, by going for a walk or run or going to a particular place and doing a particular activity to cement the shift from home to work and vice versa. 

The lack of spontaneous conversation when people work remotely was also noted, but there are ways around that with regular team meetings, picking up a phone, instant messaging and even some new apps designed to replace “water cooler” moments. 


Summary: how to make the best of hybrid working

  • Spend time to get the basics right: IT infrastructure and physical space
  • Listen to your people and your customers. Learn from but don’t focus on what has worked for others. 
  • Try it. It is a transformation process and will take time. Keep what works and change what doesn’t. 
  • Invest in management training to ensure they can support their staff.
  • Trust your people and empower them with choice. 


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