Since the pandemic started, hybrid work models had to be adopted by companies in all kinds of industries. As things are starting to wind down across the world, a choice has to be made between sticking with a hybrid work model or returning to pre-pandemic normality.
What is a hybrid work model?
Hybrid working is the blending of in-person and remote work, which may involve an employee dividing their time between the different work methods. There are a few different types of hybrid work models: A flexible model means that employees can choose their location based on their priorities, whereas a fixed model is where the organization sets the days and times the employee will work remotely/on site. Companies may also implement on-site/remote- first work models where employees will stick to one option for the majority of the time but have some flexibility to switch.
How many people work in a hybrid setting?
The concept of hybrid working became common during the pandemic, in contrast to pre-pandemic times with only around 5.7% of UK workers working remotely in January 2020. The pandemic and all of the things that came with it, such as social distancing and lockdowns forced workers to work remotely if possible. The share of UK employees working from home during the pandemic in April 2020 increased to 43.1% as this became an option for many industries. Of those who did some work from home, 86.0% did so as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hybrid working after the pandemic
In the UK, 85% of employees currently working from home want a hybrid approach of both home and in-person working in future. It was reported that 61% of supply chain leaders believe that the acceleration of remote work due to the pandemic will create a permanent hybrid work model, even at the frontline. Due to talent and labor shortages, supply chain leaders expect employees to be somewhat more demanding in what they expect from their job, so leaders should work to support their employees to eliminate the risk of losing them to competitors.
Hybrid working in supply chain: Building a human-centric approach
The idea of working from home typically involves an employee (who normally works in an office) sitting at a desk using their laptop or computer, working as they usually would, but instead using business communication platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams to have virtual meetings. However, it is not one size fits all- many people don’t have office-based jobs. So how can companies implement a flexible work model to support supply chain frontline staff?
Gartner believes that to remain competitive, supply chain leaders should transform their company from a location-centric to a human-centric work design. This involves three main strategic changes:
Providing flexible work experiences for frontline workers
The world of supply chain is dependent on stable schedules of operational and frontline workers, which originates from finding talent that is willing to adapt to the supply chain’s scheduling needs. Due to the recent unprecedented events, strict scheduling is perhaps a thing of the past, and companies that offer flexibility to frontline staff will win the talent competition of the future. In fact, organizations are almost three times more likely to see better employee performance when high levels of flexibility is offered.
In the report from Gartner, 56% of supply chain leaders say that they are investing to design work primarily for flexibility. As a result, supply chains of the future will involve flexible workspaces and schedules, as well as flexibility through technology, through the use of AR and VR.
Enable Intentional Collaboration
62% of the survey respondents are currently investing in providing communication tools for seamless in-person and remote work relationships. It is expected that there will be a shift to agile workspaces, collaboration between employees working both on-site and remote, and training programs to enhance collaboration.
Drive Empathy-Based Management
Suzie Petrusic, director of research with the Gartner Supply Chain practice says that “supply chain leaders will want to ensure they can drive empathy for nontraditional employees” due to the shifting employment models. Having a solid organizational structure with defined roles for managing remote and on-site employees is also important to ensure that everyone can be supported.
Does a hybrid work model fit for all industries?
Let’s look at the example of warehouses. Traditionally, workers need to be physically present to complete tasks. However, with the development of technology, a hybrid work model can work in such a setting. Driven by the increase of RFID tags and blockchain, less people may be needed in warehouses. Having sophisticated transport management systems and other technology such as 3D sensing allows supply chain managers to gather data about a warehouse in real time and monitor operations, even if they are not at the site. As well as this, forklift operations are able to go remote, as an employee can ‘drive’ the vehicle using real time video and audio as well as monitor forklift activity on-site. Driverless modes of transport are also being planned for the future. It is expected that supply chain managers will adopt blockchain technology in the future to accelerate both remote and autonomous technology growth. However, for this to function, companies need to successfully produce and process their data.
Although it can be rather complicated, implementing a successful hybrid work model can have many benefits overall. Even frontline supply chain workers can now make the most of hybrid working, and the flexibility, collaboration and learning that comes with it. Is hybrid working here to stay? Well, it is clear that the use of technology is the way forward, as well as offering support to employees.