As businesses consider their future plans one question to consider: does hybrid working suit one generation more than another? One might think that our tech savvy younger generations would prefer the freedom that digitisation has brought to the world of work allowing them greater flexibility in where they work; however, recent reports by engagement and industry specialists seem to suggest the divide between those who prefer being in the office to those who prefer hybrid working is not so clear cut along generational lines. Emma O’Connor Head of HR Training, discusses further.
Does hybrid working suit one generation than other? The answer is perhaps more nuanced.
All employees are different and their preferences are too. It is difficult to generalise.
On the one hand, one could say those in older age groups typically prefer hybrid working. But those who have space at home to work, are more settled in their careers, who have a higher salary or who have other commitments, such as childcare, might also generally prefer working in a more hybrid way. Again, younger staff might migrate to a more office-based approach to working but again, this is not always the case. Those on lower wages, certain jobs, different personality types, those who crave a routine and boundaries of being at work or those who see the office as more than just a place to “work” might prefer working from the office too. So, yes, in some cases preferences can be divided between age lines but this does not give all the answers and we might see the generations merge.
Where you live too may also have a part to play. Those with a long commute may prefer to stagger their working week, whilst those living on their own or in a flat-share with poor facilities and internet connections, may prefer the office. Some employees may miss the sociable side of work - there are only so many zoom socials one can do!
This goes back to purpose – what are businesses seeking to achieve by adopting a hybrid working model? This will vary between businesses and sectors. Employers should not sacrifice diverse, inclusive and creative workspaces in their quest to repurpose office space. Workplaces provide much more than simply being a place to “work”. Workplaces are there to provide interaction, mentoring, support, learning and development opportunities and dare I say it… fun!
Businesses also have to balance the needs of individuals against the needs of others within their teams. If senior staff are working remotely, what does this mean for your junior talent – where are their career development or knowledge pathways? One solution might be using cross-generational mentoring to support a culture of collaboration to help develop skills and growth across the business.
A “one size, fits all” approach to hybrid or office-based working may not be so easy to divide along generational lines. What is perhaps more important is adopting and changing the business’s mind-set and aligning this to workplace culture to create high value career opportunities wherever or however your people want to work. This will be a challenge but also essential to retaining and engaging staff regardless of age.
Where businesses and their workforce are now may not be the same as in 6, 12 or even 18 months’ time so do not feel rushed into making a permanent decision. As generational differences merge, seek the views of all your staff and allow room to grow and plans to change within a clear framework of expectations, trust, empowerment and delivery.
To discuss return to work issues, including how to create inclusive workplaces and how managers should lead remote or hybrid teams, the contact Emma O’Connor on [email protected]
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