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How will hybrid work impact productivity and effectiveness

To draw the future roadmap of work, McKinsey analysed the potential of remote work across 2000 tasks used in 800 occupations. The research findings suggest that about 20 to 25 percent of workforces in advanced economies could work from home three to five days per week, without losing productivity. Compared to pre-pandemic times, this represents four to five times more remote work and could lead to a significant shift in the geography of work. The change will not only impact the need for office space, but also business travel, as it is estimated that 20 of percent business travel, the most profitable segment for airlines, may not return.

Creating a hybrid work culture

Some activities, however, might lose effectiveness when done remotely. These include negotiations, critical business decisions or onboarding new employees. Before the pandemic, most organisations saw the office as a place to get work done, but with the shift to hybrid working, the office is likely to become a cultural, rather than a work place. As the majority of knowledge workers will be able to carry out their work tasks from home, the purpose of the office will become more about facilitating connections, enabling learning and fostering innovative collaboration. Research has long shown that regular in person contact increases commitment and improves teamwork, supporting the theory of hybrid working in the long term.

Neuroscience studies show that human cognition depends not only how the brain processes signals, but also on the environment in which those signals are received. However, many remote encounters are primarily task-focused and emotion-free. Being physically present around other people helps us interpret the body language and personalities of the people around us, making it easier to form and nurture relationships. According to a recent Microsoft employee survey people miss short meetings as they can’t just walk over to someone’s desk and ask them a simple question, and as a result, employees are spending more time in meetings.

Time doesn’t equal effectiveness

Available data suggests that companies that were already collaborating effectively and working productively before the pandemic have remained productive. However, those that struggled to collaborate productively before the pandemic, work from home only made it worse. Researchers at Harvard Business School and New York University consistently found that poor collaboration and inefficient work practices have reduced productive time by 2 to 3 percent for most organisations. The number of meetings during the pandemic have increased by 13 percent on average, but sadly the investment of additional time didn’t bring much return.

Covid-19 has hit energy levels the hardest and many organisations have struggled to engage their employees during the pandemic, which directly impacted productivity. Leaders have particular influence on culture, and in a hybrid workplace they will play an even more important in shaping employee perception and engagement. Most of our work is invisible to others as it’s buried in our computers and our heads. As a result, it’s difficult to know what others are working on or whether they are unable to take on more tasks without being overloaded. Task boards can be a helpful tool to increase visibility, enable open communication and improve productivity. It’s equally helpful to schedule predictable times for switching off from work, as this can lead to greater work life balance without compromising client services.

A hybrid workforce model requires the development of critical leadership roles and responsibilities, new organisational structures and virtual communication strategies. At Acumen, we pride ourselves in offering development that gives managers practical tools to help solve real-life challenges. We offer an extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes, ranging from communication skills through to executive leadership development. In most cases, we design the interventions specifically for each client, but we also offer a wide range of off-the-shelf programmes for those who prefer this approach. For more information about our programmes please contact Simon at


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