Hybrid working and your first job: how to manage the split

Hybrid working is here to stay. How will it affect your career beyond graduation?

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The term ‘hybrid’ has become newsworthy. It used to be a largely confined to gardeners (cross-pollinating hybrid plants); then there was Vladimir Putin (using hybrid warfare), and automobile manufacturers (increasing sales of hybrid cars). Now there is hybrid working – used by recruiters to define the future of work.

Hybrid working means employees can work from a variety of different locations – usually split between the office (or equivalent) and home.

It’s worth spending some time looking at how the experts predict hybrid work will transform the working world.

Recent world events have accelerated the trend to homeworking. According to the government’s Office of National Statistics, before Covid-19 only around 5% of employees worked mainly from home.

Now, according to a survey for the Chartered Management Institute, 84% of managers say that their firms have adopted hybrid working and two thirds say that this has been prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But is it the same for graduate and entry-level roles, which tend to require a bit more supervision and training? Employers seem more wary about making the move to hybrid working in this case. Only 24% of the employers surveyed by the Institute of Student Employers (typically the largest employers) are recruiting students on the basis that they’d be working mostly from home – and 54% are not. But then again it is worth asking how ‘mostly’ is defined. One or two days a week wouldn’t constitute mostly and yet still be hybrid working.

Graduates themselves want to split their working time between the workplace and home. The 2021 Cibyl Graduate Research UK survey of 67,688 students and graduates revealed that almost half want to spend a few days working from home (whereas only 6% wanted to work from home every day). This finding is confirmed by a poll commissioned by National Graduate Week that found that almost 70% of students and recent graduates put spending time working from home as their top preferred employee benefit.

It looks as if graduates in many professions will adopt a hybrid working model at some point in their career and will need to make it work for them.

What are the positives and negatives of hybrid working for new graduates?

Potential pros of a hybrid workplace

  • It can promote well-being by providing employees with more autonomy over their work, enabling them to work in the way that suits them best.
  • It can reduce time spent commuting and commuting costs. It may also mean that you can live somewhere cheaper. (It can also reduce office space costs for employers.)
  • It can widen the pool of opportunities for job seekers, making roles more accessible for candidates with a wider range of circumstances and those who live further afield.

Potential cons of a hybrid workplace

  • A hybrid work arrangement isn’t for everyone – or every sector of work. Some people need the structure of a workplace environment particularly while they’re ‘learning the ropes’ of the job.
  • Not seeing colleagues in the office every day may make it harder to form work friendships. Being able to develop a social life with colleagues is particularly important if you have relocated to a new area and don't know anyone.
  • You might miss out on informal networking opportunities and on-the-job learning opportunities (by observing employees), unless you actively seek them out or your manager/HR actively facilitates them.

If 'hybrid' working is the new standard, how do you work well from home?

Master the hybrid workweek and get good at working remotely:

Find a suitable space to work. Separate your work life at home from your home life at home. If you have to work in a bedroom or living area, pack away your work things at the end of the day to mentally switch off from work.

Get dressed for work even if you’re working at a desk in your bedroom. It will create the right discipline.

Have the right resources. If you are expected to work from your own laptop and so on, check that it has the functionality required. Remember, too, that your wifi will need to be up to the job.

Plan effectively. There can be less structure to a working-day-at-home. You may need to experiment to discover which time management and productivity techniques suit you best – targetjobs editors like a prioritised to do list and the Pomodoro technique .

Don’t mix work and personal tasks. For example, avoid flitting from filling in a work form to a car tax form. As mentioned above, draw a boundary between work and home life.

Accept that you may have to work harder to earn trust and to trust in return. When you are not in the office it is harder for your colleagues to see that you are delivering what you have been asked to and, conversely, for you to see that others are doing the work they have promised you. So, expect to give and receive regular work updates.

Do make sure you’re visible to your boss! Ensure you are seen to be online when you should be. Contribute to online discussions. Answer questions from your boss promptly, even if just to confirm that you have received their note, will look into the matter and get back to them later.

Ask for help and advice. Reach out to your colleagues for advice and opinions on your work. just as you would lean across your desk in the office. Don’t be afraid to ask to shadow a colleague or your boss on a task.

Seek out networking and learning opportunities. You could arrange or join in a virtual coffee/water cooler break with your fellow workers to imitate the informal learning and socialising you would get from around the mythical office water cooler. But you could also search for a mentor to help you develop. If your employer doesn’t run a formal scheme, in time you could approach a more senior colleague directly.

How will a remote work boom affect salaries?

There has been speculation that employers may lower starting salaries as a response to hybrid working, reasoning that employees will not have to pay out as much for commuting or be able to live in a cheaper area than they would if they were in the workplace five days a week. Although the law firm Stephenson Harwood made headlines by announcing that their staff will need to take a 20% pay cut if they want to work from home permanently, there is no widespread evidence of other employers following suit.

In fact, many employers use the hybrid work model as a way of saying ‘We do this because we really like you and want you to work in the way that suits you so that you can have a great and productive day’.

How can students find out more about an employer’s attitude to hybrid working?

It may be on their ‘About us’ or early careers webpages or it may be on individual job advertisements. If not, it is perfectly OK to contact the recruiter to find out before you apply for the role and/or ask during an interview.

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