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Hybrid office a ‘dangerous’ model for companies

Getting people back to the office is just the first step. The big challenge in 2021 will be managing the hybrid.

Hybrid workplaces are set to become the default setting for companies here and around the world, but the mix of working from home and in the office is now being challenged by some practitioners and consultants.

Jon Williams, co-founder of consulting firm, Fifth Frame, is sceptical of the way companies are embracing the hybrid model – even though he is a strong advocate of choice and options around when and how people should work.

For Williams the problem is that when specific days are mandated as days in the office, this usually works for the company’s rather than the individual’s benefit.

“Hybrid is backwards as it reduces flexibility,” he says. “It’s variety but not optionality. You save on space but you force people to come in on the days that you want them.”

It’s a “set and forget” approach to rosters but Williams argues technology should allow employers to manage the complex staff needs. And he warns the hybrid model can reduce the innovation and collaboration needed in business.

“(For innovation) you need people to work outside their direct teams, outside their reporting roles to do things across the organisation. If you force a structure on people to be in on certain days of the week you actually reduce the opportunity for innovation (by people meeting each other informally).

Williams says that most Australian CEOs continued to work in the office during COVID and did not share the WFH experiences of staff.

“Now they want them back,” he says. “But they are also saying that if a staffer can work from home, then that job can be done offshore.”


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