‘Blended working’ may become the norm for many companies

Niamh O’Brien, Director, BDO Talent Management featured in The Irish Times Special Report on The Future of Work. Read Niamh's extract below.

Many love it and some hate it, but working from home in some form looks to be one of the legacies of the Covid-19 pandemic. What looks likely is that most companies will opt for some sort of hybrid model, with “blended working” becoming the norm, with part of the week spent in the office, and the remainder in the home office (or at the kitchen table).

“A company culture is much easier to manage when in an office-based workplace and so companies are now having to adjust their culture to reflect the blended model,” agrees Niamh O’Brien, Director, BDO Talent Management.

By having a combination of onsite working and remote working, there are added complexities that do not exist when a company just offers one or the other and this requires a structured framework to ensure success, she says. “One of the biggest challenges for employers will be ensuring there is a consistency in how work is distributed as there can be a very real fear of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with employees who are physically in the office having the advantage over those who are working from home.” Having visibility around career progression and opportunity can be easier when in an office environment and this is something that employees need to factor into their work structure – connectivity will be key, she advises.

“By ensuring there are clear guidelines from the outset, companies can see the full benefits of a blended or remote working model but it will take work.”

And while necessity is the mother of invention, the spike in innovation seen during the beginning of the pandemic will become difficult to sustain over the long term. “Companies are looking to ensure that time in the office is focused on areas such as innovation and collaboration,” says Niamh.

“We are seeing a heavy emphasis on the physical working space and how it can be best utilised for innovation, collaboration and creativity. I think we will see fewer open plan offices, with more innovation hubs – designated spaces where teams can come together to innovate and collaborate and less fixed desks,” she explains, adding that BDO has a dedicated innovation team that works closely with the various business units to drive innovation in a “meaningful and measurable way” across the firm.

Niamh concludes that the blended model clearly wins out over fully office-based or fully remote working. “Blended working facilitates social interaction and a sense of connectivity while also allowing employees to have reduced commute times, fewer distractions at times that work for them and generally a more balanced lifestyle. Similarly for employers, we are seeing increased employee engagement, more productivity and a happier workforce when a well-structured blended or hybrid model is implemented.”

Content adapted from The Irish Times special report, ‘Blended working’ may become the norm for many companies