HR Indaba panel considers the sustainability of the hybrid work model


Hybrid work arrangements are becoming the norm, but what are the challenges? And is it sustainable?

For IT company Silverbridge, the Covid-19 pandemic was more of a boon than a curse, because it accelerated many of the company’s long-term plans, like allowing staff to work from home. In fact, according to Ruth Wotela, people wellness executive at Silverbridge, it was during hard lockdown that the company decided not to renew the lease to its head office and instead supply staff with Wi-Fi, office furniture and UPSes so they could successfully work remotely.

“It’s easy for our business to be hybrid, because we are a technology firm,” Ruth told delegates at the HR Indaba. “But I believe that our change to remote working is a response to a changing world and work culture. We asked ourselves, are we getting value from our way of working? And from there we made a very deliberate choice to do what is best for our business and our employees,” she explained.

Post-pandemic, Ruth says companies need to examine their overall strategy and what is working well before deciding on a hybrid work model. “In our business our focus is on output, and we’ve seen an increase in productivity since we have become a remote business. Our employees working from home works for us.”

However, for KPMG, the opposite was true. As an audit firm, their business is largely client-facing and full remote working was not an option. “We learnt how not to do hybrid working,” laughed Makgotso Letsitsi, executive director: head of people, citizenship and transformation at KPMG. Makgotso said the firm mandated people to come back to the office two days a week and received pushback, which forced them to re-evaluate their communication and hybrid model.

“We relaunched an agile working policy in September. We introduced principles and were clear about what we mean when we say WFH. We were specific about the different hubs we introduced and what each entails and where you were expected to work from and for how long you work. A big consideration for us were our trainees, who need to be trained in person,” she said.

Before deciding on a work model, organisations need to evaluate the following, she advised:

  • An employee’s role in the organisation and their obligation to client delivery.
  • An employee’s personal circumstances.
  • Are the current offices inviting and conducive to collaboration and new ways of working?
  • The organisation’s values and how they shape the culture.

She said, importantly, there needs to be alignment at leadership level of the way forward and how it will be communicated to staff. “A hybrid strategy needs to be an organisational strategy and not owned by HR. It starts with a tone from the top: the strategy needs to be driven by the leadership of the company.”

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