Hybrid Working Is Our New Reality

By Sharmini Ann Jacob, Executive Director, People and Change Advisory, KPMG in Malaysia

Many organizations are preparing, or have already started, to return to the office as Malaysia transitions into an endemic state, which necessitates the need for a safer and more efficient workplace. Whether to return to the office full-time or to continue working from home has been an ongoing discussion ever since the country started preparing for endemicity. Interestingly, returning to work full-time in an office setting is observed to be a struggle for many since we have adapted to the convenience of remote working. 

KPMG’s survey of 530 companies from 46 jurisdictions covering the current trends of remote working found that about 89 percent of organizations have introduced a remote working policy or are considering one.

Employee safety, flexibility, workplace relationship, and efficiency are key considerations for a safe return to the office. A hybrid working arrangement would be a feasible option as it prioritizes flexibility and efficiency, whilst still giving employees work-life balance and ensure connectivity is not neglected. 

Shaping Employee Experience (EX) through flexibility

Since the pandemic, flexibility has become the main factor of consideration for employees when considering job offers. While flexibility in the past might have meant different work hours or locations, organizations have since had to redefine the way it is built into their employee experience. KPMG’s survey recorded that 43 percent of organizations viewed flexibility as essential for employer branding, talent attraction, and retention. 

Hybrid working at its core is a balancing act that embraces flexibility in work-life. If implemented successfully, hybrid working can empower business leaders to meet their business objectives with increased productivity and efficiency, as well as ensure employees are able to experience fulfillment from work through autonomy and well-being (both physical and psychological). 

Building the digital connection culture 

As employees may feel disconnected from their colleagues and the organizational culture when working remotely, business leaders should consider the question of how they can meaningfully communicate, collaborate and connect in a hybrid working environment. 

The hybrid model requires proactive communication, as well as regular updates and feedback to make employees feel that they are still part of the organization. Whilst the adoption of technology is key, business leaders should also acknowledge their people as important assets to the organization. 

This digital connection requires a shift in mindset where both employees and employers will naturally look to integrate existing or emerging technology into their work to further strengthen connection and collaboration. A strong organizational culture should also be cultivated to align the hybrid working environment to the technology available, and the organization must be agile in future changes be it with technology or the culture. 

Safeguarding employees’ wellbeing

Although Malaysia is transitioning towards the endemic phase, it does not mean that the virus has been eradicated. Being alert remains crucial, and it would be critical to ensure employees’ well-being without neglecting their health. 

Striking the right balance in a hybrid working model is not simple. There is no one-size-fits-all approach as the right strategy depends on strategic business objectives, environment, and culture. Ultimately, a good hybrid working model can provide employees with a comfortable working environment whether onsite or offsite – fulfilling and delivering on employees’ evolving expectations whilst increasing productivity and efficiency within the organization. 

If done right, the hybrid working model can cement a new style of leadership and culture fueled by compassion, empathy, and trust!

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