Guest blog by Bryan Froud, JLL

The world’s biggest (unplanned) working-from-home experiment has seen many organisations and teams adopt hybrid working. Many have reported increases in productivity, though just as many are struggling to maintain and enhance their organisational culture.

In the past, workplace strategists were able to assign flexible working ratios based on a team and its primary functions. With the mass-scale adoption of hybrid working, the preferences of employees coming into the office has become hyper-personalised. We can no longer assume an employee or team will be in on specific days due to their job function or demographic. Instead, it revolves around the employee’s circumstances.

Sure, Gen-Z and Millennials are tech-savvy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to work remotely for the rest of their working careers. Maybe they live in a share-house with six others with no space for a desk and terrible internet bandwidth. Or maybe they’re just beginning their career and working remotely robs them of the opportunity to build a profile within their organisation or learn from more senior colleagues?

Reflecting on my own circumstances, I’m a new(ish) father with a 90-minute commute each way. Working from home is great for me; it allows me to support my wife and spend time with my family. Working from the office sometimes is also great because it allows me to focus and socialise with others outside my bubble.

In considering the workforce and the workplace, I find it helpful to distinguish between a spectrum and a continuum:

When light shines through a prism, it gives the full spectrum of its colours.

A continuum would be a coherent beam of light that is continuous in its monochrome colour, never deviating from its original colour.

To account for the hyper-personalised preferences of the workforce, many organisations are developing workforce personas to better understand employee preferences beyond just their job function or demographic.

I believe personas are a much better tool at catering for a hybrid workforce, though I caution clients and organisations to understand that workforce personas are a spectrum, rather than a continuum. Typically, many organisations look to identify and group employees into a single persona at a point in time, though in reality, that persona will change often over time.

Some examples

  • An employee many enjoy coming into the office because they live alone and in the heart of the city, but then they strike up a relationship and move further out of town, lengthening their commute and fulfilling some social needs.
  • A new employee is onboarded remotely, but to build trust and rapport with the wider team they need to meet individuals in-person… So both the team and new starter who were typically remote now come to the workplace more frequently to overcome the hurdles of trust, motivations and capabilities and transition back to remote working once that rapport is established.
  • A couple with kids, both with the ability to work remote, may come into the office every day – but only for half a day at a time so they can juggle the school run, avoid peak hour traffic and work the remaining balance remotely.

It’s incredibly refreshing to see organisations explore their workforce personas. It’s an opportunity to cater for the hyper-personalised nature of a workforce, encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to the workplace.

But we must take care to understand that employee preferences and expectations are constantly evolving, and a hybrid workplace isn’t a plan to ‘set and forget. It will require constant care and ongoing engagement.

About the Author: Bryan Froud

Bryan has 15 years’ experience in commercial real estate, across both corporate and government occupiers. He helps clients reimagine the future of work, by developing workplace scenarios and strategies to improve their portfolios and the employee experience.