Hybrid Work: The Best of Both Worlds
2023 has brought a new look to the workplace and the word ‘hybrid’ is the new black. Here’s the perspective of one of our Lead Engineers, Sérgio Lopes.
From fully Remote to Hybrid Work
Driven by the pandemic in March 2020, remote working opened up a new range of possibilities for how businesses could work and structure themselves. As a result of the government’s requirements to protect public health, Critical gained practical experience working from home – something which was already possible before the pandemic.
Advantages of Working from Home
Nowadays, working from home is all the rage. Greater agility in work arrangements, flexible hours, allowing employees to work alongside their own lives, and the ability to maximise productivity – it’s no surprise that staff turnover is down, and morale is up.
Working from home means added trust. You’re free to manage your workload according to your rhythm of work. At the same time, heading into the office brings people together physically, giving positivity a boost, fostering connections, and attracting and retaining top talent in your organisation.
The Fallacy of Full Remote Freedom and Autonomy That Turns into Isolation
Despite the many positives, working from home can leave you feeling disconnected from your co-workers, and this can lead to a negative impact on your mental health.
An office provides a clear physical distinction between work and home life. Take away this concrete boundary and it unleashes a whole host of problems: a struggle to switch off from work, failure to find work-life balance, longer hours, increased stress, and an inevitable burnout. We should use remote workdays as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, manage our work around our time, and remember to take regular breaks – although this also goes for working in the office too!
Why Flexible Work Could Work for You
Office: The Innovation Hub and the Community Epicentre
I was hesitant about going to work on-site, especially after enjoying all the benefits of remote working. However, the hybrid model turned out to be a great solution. When I did go into the office, there weren’t many people there, so it became a little frustrating. However, it was a great opportunity to reach out to colleagues, to invite them for a coffee, and to catch up. Well, this approach became a roaring success and snowballed into a regular thing. More and more people wanted to meet up, so we began to create groups, organise meals at restaurants, and dedicate special days to coming in and brainstorming in person.
We are social beings by nature. Nothing beats a pleasant office environment that fosters a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Being surrounded by co-workers who share a common goal and strengthen the individual purpose of your organisation.
Hybrid Working Approach
I only started to seriously think about a work-life balance when working in hybrid mode.
For me, splitting time between home or other remote locations and the workplace is frequently the most productive solution. I love this approach! There are days that I prefer to stay at home and go rowing on the Tagus River and then continue working from a comfortable place with a view of the river until sunset. Still, there are other days when I like to be in the office surrounded by new people to meet, share, and learn from them.
Being together enables you to support others. You become aware of when they are down or dealing with a problem at work. Your presence is essential because others rely on you just as much as you rely on them — and they can also help you when you need it. According to sociology books, the most important way people learn is by observing others. We’re always watching and modelling others’ behaviours, even when unaware. Your teammates need your energy, sense of humour, and unique talents. Contributing to the Critical Software community helps you feel fulfilled because it reminds you of your value and validates how the group can benefit from your exceptional skills. While juggling home and work life can keep us on our toes at times, the office provides a physical location for us to leave at the end of each day. Being able to disconnect from work aids stress reduction.
At the office, the value of water coolers and coffee machines in conversations is tremendous; they are places for co-workers to exchange stories and talk about their experiences face to face. Whether it’s a work-related topic or a personal problem shared, this builds social cohesion and essential connections between co-workers, and helps to create a stronger company culture.
People connect with other people they may not see daily. This chance of encounters over coffee or while passing through a corridor is precious. These opportunities can give people context about the business, new ideas, collaboration opportunities, learnings in ‘how to get things done’ within the organisation, and insight into where work overlaps occur. What may appear as ‘burned time’ is often a valuable addition to people’s work, leading to better decision-making and increased efficiency and effectiveness.
Reading people’s emotions in person is much easier than reading them on a screen, resulting in more personal conversations in which you can gain insight into people’s well-being and offer support where necessary. Many roles necessitate a high level of collaboration and open dialogue. A physical presence in the office and its design layout can encourage and promote quick and spontaneous idea-generation sharing and prevent tense miscommunications. When you are physically seated next to your co-workers (and vice versa!), it is simpler to intervene and provide support in resolving their problems. I also understood that the office provides a physical perception of the Critical brand. Critical Software can communicate your brand identity, values, and ethics through office space, as your employees, customers, and visitors can physically experience your brand. It can also help win business and attract talent because how people feel when they walk into an office affects how an organisation is perceived, which, ultimately, has an impact on its success. Imagine visiting your future company and discovering an empty office (cue a gust of wind and tumbleweed); wouldn't that be strange?
Boost Your Skills and Get Surprised
Working in an office can also help you learn new skills to help you advance in your career. You can, for example, observe how senior leaders put out fires, lead presentations, or solve problems. You can ask your co-workers questions about topics that are unfamiliar to you. Being in an office automatically exposes you to what others are working on and can help you improve your skill set. You can experience a variety of situations in an office setting, which is an essential part of your development. Having managers present in the room to whom you can go for advice and ideas or seek support if you are experiencing problems accelerates your professional development and resolves issues faster. Being at the office, you can always be surprised by a cake that a co-worker has brought in or a pop-up event that the People Team and site managers have organised. These events, where people see each other in person and interact as a group, encourage team spirit, create a social media buzz, and help transform professional relationships into personal ones.
Are You Supporting Our Community?
By coming to the office, we, as a B Corporation, want to support our local communities, and that’s also what we do when we go to restaurants, supermarkets, gyms, and coffee shops close to the office.
Welcome New Blood and Critical Culture
Some new hires successfully completed their onboarding remotely. Was this solely due to
An office environment allows new colleagues to ask questions, learn by osmosis, and feel more confident in their roles. Furthermore, onboarding in an office will make it easier and take less time for new employees to absorb the information needed to make an impact in their role. They’ll be able to shadow other teammates, study existing processes, and better understand the team’s goals. In-person onboarding has numerous advantages for new employees, not just to ease first-day nerves. Based on their experiences, I discovered that starting a new job remotely was difficult. We learn how to navigate workplace culture by observing how others interact. For those transitioning from school to a job or who are new to the working world, remote onboarding can be challenging because they need to see how work is done.
New employees who work remotely will likely find it harder to get the ball rolling. Let’s suppose you can’t observe what others are doing, and others don’t notice when you’re experiencing difficulties. In this case, everything about the job should be taught explicitly. Long-time employees may be unaware of what needs to be taught and the support they require if they have been working remotely for a long time.
There are also advantages in spending time with your co-workers if you are an employee in an organisation. The longer you are apart from them, the more your overall sense of mission drifts. To ensure that Critical Software retains elements of its culture that you value, we must frequently engage with our co-workers to stay aligned with our core values. Your interactions with the newest hires are fundamental, and they’ll learn a lot from their conversations with you and their observations.
Working more effectively benefits the organisation because it increases employee productivity. Individuals also benefit from the ability to collaborate freely. Working with co-workers and friends improves job satisfaction. Good collaborative relationships also reduce work frustration by making it easier for people to get supported and learn new tasks beyond their abilities.
Hybrid Working Model in a Nutshell
Considering all the pros and cons, my two cents show that the hybrid model is the best of both worlds, and it really does work. Hybrid working allows you to be as flexible as you need to be. It’s not a rigid model, or a one-size-fits-all approach – it entirely depends on you!
Curious about life at Critical? Peek at my Linkedin profile and reach out!