I’m lucky to know a few business owners/leaders and we talk regularly – sharing war stories, insights and experiences. Sometimes it’s just good to talk, but occasionally that sharing can prove valuable when tackling the issues of the day. One recurring theme that has come up regularly over the last few months is hybrid working and how leaders are changing their working practices to cope with that.

Several of my friends have downsized their office space over the last year, and in turn they’ve generated significant annual savings – sizeable six figure sums in some instances. But they all recognise the need to collaborate and to provide a workplace where teams can meet, chat, listen, watch and, most importantly, learn.

There was a time when a third, a third, a third was a welcome billing structure for any search assignment. It now seems to be the rule of thumb for working from the office. Most of the people I’ve spoken to have downsized their office desk space to 33% of their total headcount. i.e. 20 desks for a 60 person business, so a third of their workforce is in the office at any one time. Sounds eminently sensible in the new world we now live in.

But herein lies the challenge – how do you achieve flexibility with a fixed number of desks/space? How do you respect your people’s choices whilst maintaining fluidity? How do you ensure a diverse environment that promotes creativity? How do you stop breaking your business up into daily silos, where some people never see each other? And the biggest problem of all – how do you prevent 100% of your people wanting to work from home on Monday & Friday? These are all questions we debated for hours. Beer was involved.

So what’s the answer? I’m really sorry to say that I’m not sure we reached a specific conclusion. One friend said his version of hybrid working was stating which two days each of his team would work from the office. One friend left it to common sense and one ran a booking system on a strict first-come, first-served basis. However, they all agreed that Monday and in particular Friday would be a problem.

I’m not sure that I have the answer either I’m afraid, and it will very much depend on what suits individuals and their employers. But from my detailed chats over the last few weeks I can definitely provide a few thoughts and suggestions:

  • Everyone in your team has unique domestic circumstances, so listen to what your people want and need before imposing a quasi-hybrid working model that tries to please everyone and doesn’t actually work properly for anyone.
  • Recognise the value of human interactions for your business and encourage them. Maybe use some of that overhead saving on team-based activities.
  • Celebrate working from home and the office in equal measure, and make sure your employees see the clear benefits of both.
  • Avoid being overly formulaic as it will stifle impulsiveness and creativity.
  • Don’t be afraid to get it wrong – we’re all finding our feet here, and it’s OK to test and learn.

For what it’s worth, here at BrandPointZero we’ve recently taken more office space and doubled our rent. Not because we believe in office work, but because we’re growing – and by the rule of 1/3, 1/3, 1/3…we’ll have 36 people before we need to move again.

I’m really interested to hear different perspectives on our Next Gen Employer Thinking series, and as you’ll know I’m always up for a chat, coffee, lunch – especially if there’s something interesting to chat about.