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They Key To Happy Employees? Hybrid Working

Once upon a time, in what feels like a lifetime ago, most workers spent their days commuting to and from an office or workplace outside the home.

Then the pandemic struck. More than two years on, many Kiwis now do their jobs in a combination of work from home (WFH) and work from office (WFO).

Covid has ushered in the era of hybrid working.

The benefits of hybrid working seem obvious – fewer long and expensive commutes, more time with family, and a chance to work across hours that suit the individual (with the boss’s OK).

But some recent overseas studies have highlighted the detrimental effects of hybrid working – including employees feeling isolated from their colleagues and a potential drop in productivity.

However, new findings from the AUT Wellbeing@Work study paint a much brighter picture when it comes to blending WFH and WFO.

The iterative study, led by AUT Business School Professor Jarrod Haar (Ngāti Maniapoto, Ngāti Mahuta), has been tracking the New Zealand workforce since February 2020.

Data from November 2021 show that:

Over one third (39%) of Kiwi workers are in the office full-time.

Just under 15% are full-time WFH (five days a week)

The rest (48%) are hybrid working, with most working 50-50 office/home.

This represents a huge growth in WFH, with most of the workforce no longer in the office full-time.

The research shows that hybrid working is no different than other forms of work (e.g., solely office or solely WFH), with no difference in employees’ work-life balance, levels of job stress, job performance, or levels of engagement at work.

The study also shows that hybrid workers are the happiest employees. They are also the most innovative.

In contrast, full-time office-based workers score the lowest in terms of innovation (solely remote workers land in the middle).

The study also sounds a note of caution for those only working remotely, finding that solely WFH is linked with the highest levels of work demands, loneliness, and turnover intentions (thinking about getting a new job).

Professor Haar says the evidence shows the hybrid workforce is the new normal – and that is to be welcomed.

“Hybrid workers clearly benefit from higher levels of trust from their managers and respond well to the independence and flexibility of hybrid working,” says Professor Haar, winner of the just-announced AUT University Medal, the top award for academics.

“However, employees working solely from home might suffer from a lack of clear-cut boundaries, as well as isolation and loneliness.”

The solution?

“Find a way to work from home and in the office,” says Professor Haar. “Your boss and your whānau will thank you for it.”

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