Hybrid Work is Here to Stay – Management Consultants Can Help Clients Get it Right
Wed Nov 3 2021
These are interesting times for management consultants. Across all industry sectors, senior leaders are trying to figure out what the post-Covid workplace should look like, how to structure it in a way that responds to the needs of clients and employees alike, and how to ensure it can weather whatever challenges the pandemic has in store for us in the months ahead. Small- to medium-size management consulting firms are especially poised to help clients who may not have felt the need to seek outside help previously. What organisation doesn’t need a little guidance right now?
Amid all of the uncertainty, hybrid work is likely to become the norm – whether organisational leaders want it to or not. While offering a mix of remote and onsite work has its challenges, it also helps organisations retain significant quality-of-life benefits that employees have grown accustomed to while working from home throughout the past 18 months. These employees now have greater power to ask for the flexibility they need – or to find it with an employer who will provide it. But what should hybrid work look like? As a recent McKinsey report said regarding executives’ feelings about the future of hybrid work, “Organisations are clear that post-pandemic working will be hybrid. After that, the details get hazy.”
Management consultants have an important role here in helping clients navigate this new territory. As Kristi Woolsey, an Associate Director at Boston Consulting Group, said in a report in the Financial Times, “A lot of people assume that because we know how to work together [in the office], we know how to work apart, then we can do hybrid. But hybrid is a third way. It’s incredibly difficult to do. This is the problem everyone will have to solve post-Covid. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be different.”
Indeed, according to a survey of 1,000 professionals by the specialist recruiter Robert Walters Ireland, 55 per cent of respondents said the combination of working both in the office and at home has resulted in more intense working days. The research, as reported in the Independent, found that the hybrid working model has resulted in the Irish workforce feeling overworked (54 per cent) and exhausted (39 per cent).
“Hybrid work requires new tools, technology and forms of communication that organisations must get right in order to meet customer needs and attract and retain employees – and the formula isn’t the same for everyone,” Jonathan Forster, SME Distribution Director for Travelers Europe. “Management consultants can expand their practices by offering hybrid work guidance tailored to client needs, and small- to medium-size firms, in particular, should see a lot of demand for their services in the coming months. At the same time, they need to be aware of the risks they face in advising clients to adapt to hybrid work, and mitigating this by having the right insurance cover in place.”
Making the most of hybrid work
Even though organisations have been operating with remote workforces for over a year, the shift to hybrid work will require a reassessment – particularly since the early-pandemic shift to working from home happened so quickly and, on the whole, wasn’t expected to last as long as it has. Certain aspects of workplace management that have taken a back seat while organisations adapted to keep business on track will now need a refresh. Employees will need varying levels of support from their managers. Development opportunities may require new approaches. The office environment itself will need structure around the booking of desks and how facilities will be monitored and maintained. The technology and systems in use throughout the pandemic may need to be adjusted or enhanced to facilitate communication and collaboration. A new guide from the Management Consultancies Association about hybrid work suggests practices to consider for managing employee well-being and development, upholding health and safety, and evaluating and using technology in this new environment.
Management consultancies are in a promising position to lend their perspective to organisations eager to adjust to these changes and mitigate risks. In the process, they would be wise to look at themselves too. Helping clients navigate the transition to permanent hybrid work is likely to involve guidance around technology, employee communication about the return to the office, and other areas of business operations that pose risks to an organisation if problems arise down the line.
“As management consultancies advise clients about the best practices of making the transition to permanent hybrid work, they must also take steps to protect themselves,” Forster said. “If a client experiences problems as a result of the actions they have taken to adapt to hybrid work, they may hold the consultant accountable. Management consulting firms that are expanding their practices and adapting to new ways of working themselves should conduct a thorough risk assessment of their business to ensure they are poised to compete in what will be a dynamic year for the industry.”
Travelers offers Professional Indemnity Combined cover designed for small management consultancies with turnovers up to €2m. Comprising of Professional Indemnity, Liability, Property and Cyber Fundamentals cover, it can also flex to include further options, including Legal Expenses, depending on each client’s needs. In addition, each policy includes helpline services offering legal advice (including HR advice), tax advice, health and medical services plus more – providing added value and support to smaller sized businesses.