Hybrid Working in Higher Education

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Traditionally, workplace teams have been based together at a specific location, with colleagues collaborating in-person and around the same schedules. But, times have changed and new ways of working provide new challenges for both employees and employers.

Flexible working that allows staff to split their work between their employer’s location and home is quickly becoming the ‘new normal.’ More than two in five employers (41 per cent) will have adopted hybrid working in two years’ time, a survey by Willis Towers Watson has found, with only 30% of businesses expecting to have their workforce fully back on-site before 2023.

With hybrid working growing in popularity, and with the myriad of hybrid working models that are being adopted throughout businesses and organisations, it made sense that Marshall E-Learning looked to cover the complexities around this relatively modern way of working in our e-learning offering.

Head of Diversity at Marshalls, Ann Allcock, said

“Hybrid working is here to stay and organisations need to be ready to both maximise the opportunities and address the risks and challenges that it presents.  Marshalls new module puts these opportunities and risks at centre stage, explaining from a diversity and inclusion perspective how home working can be a positive solution for many employees, but also how being away from the office can put them at a professional disadvantage, and how hybrid working can magnify bias and exclusion.  The course includes very helpful guidance for managers on ensuring that everyone in the team is included and on objectively monitoring and measuring performance.  This is new territory for employers and employees, and the module is a valuable resource to flag key issues and solutions”

 

Marshalls spoke to award-winning facilitator and a workplace mediator Mark Crabtree who has written the hybrid work module. With experience in the public, private and Higher Education sector, Mark has over 30 years’ experience of leading the design, development, management, implementation and delivery/facilitation of impactful and engaging learning and organisation development strategies and initiatives.

 

Why did you get involved with this particular e-learning module for Marshall E-Learning?

There is plenty of talk about hybrid working and there have been a lot of column inches written about this subject. However, I think we talk about hybrid working without really considering what it is we are trying to achieve or consider why hybrid working is adopted. Employers may not always consider how it will impact employees, customers, service users and other key stakeholders. Hybrid working will have a significant impact on culture, talent acquisition and talent retention. In a sense, this e-learning asks the questions that need to be asked. I hope it will encourage organisations and leaders to reflect, review and reconnect before they reboot.

 

How do you feel Hybrid Working can be beneficial for those working in the HE?

There are a range of benefits to hybrid working; a better work–life balance, greater ability to focus with fewer distractions, more time for family and friends, saved commuting time and costs, IT upskilling and higher levels of motivation. The pandemic has also shown how Universities can pivot their ways of working quickly. Putting teaching modules on line, for some Universities, would have taken a long time, however most did this in a matter of weeks. Even Universities that are fairly traditional in their approach and ways of working changed their operating models quickly.

 

How do you think those working in HE can avoid conflict with stakeholders i.e. students, that may arise due to hybrid working?

With Hybrid Working, the devil is in the detail and there are a variety of hybrid working models.  The first thing is to keep talking to staff and students to get a feeling of what is working for them.  We have all experienced the pandemic in different ways and we need to capture these experiences to learn and decide what we must keep, change, stop and start doing. We should also ensure that there are efficient feedback loops to ensure that we can listen to the voice of staff and students.  We also need to identify and clarify expectations.  To avoid conflict, we need to have honest and open dialogue and be flexible with our approaches.

 

What do you think is essential to ensure that hybrid working functions within HE?

Understand that one model of hybrid working will not suit everyone. We also need to clarify expectations.  We also need to ensure that hybrid working doesn’t isolate some people.  When we are physically in the University we are managing the office environment or the learning environment. Let’s take the office, for example, the manager is managing in one physical location.  With hybrid working, there is the physical office area to consider but also the individual environments which those working remotely have to contend with. The variety of environments may impact how and when work is being done.  There is also the change in leadership and management style to consider.  With hybrid working, it is about managing outputs and ensuring what is required to what standard and when is made clear.  Then it is about trusting people to achieve the outputs required at the right time.  It is about managing and clarifying outputs other than inputs.

The Marshall E-Learning hybrid module enables employers to raise key questions and the content will stimulate leaders and organisations to think about hybrid working models more widely. Equality, inclusion, and diversity remain key considerations in hybrid working. For more information, drop them an email at contactus@marshallacm.co.uk

 


About the author:  Mark Crabtree is an award-winning facilitator and workplace mediator. Experienced in the public, private and Higher Education sectors, Mark has over 30 years experience of leading the design, development, management, implementation and delivery of impactful and engaging learning and organisation development strategies and initiatives.