The hybrid training gap

Socio-Technical Centre

Dr Matthew Davis, Dr Hannah Collis, Dr Helen Hughes, Professor Chiahuei Wu, Dr Emma Gritt, Dr Linhao Fang, Afshan Iqbal, and Professor Simon Rees.

Illustration of hybrid meeting with people in an office and some on screen

The majority of office workers are as keen on hybrid working as they were 12 months ago, and it is unlikely that this will now shift. According to our cross-industry snapshot survey, hybrid working is 54% of UK office workers’ ideal working pattern, however, almost half of office workers say they are in a job that doesn’t fit their ideal way of working.

Collaborating with a range of organisations and stakeholders, the Adapting Offices for the Future of Work research team published a research-led guide in June 2022, providing advice for organisations looking to create hybrid workplaces. We have now launched a second report, providing a focused, data-driven evaluation of the impact of different work patterns and workplaces on employee behaviour and social networks.

In this blog series, we focus on different aspects of our research featured in the report, including: managing hybrid office workers, addressing the hybrid training gap, and looking at whether employee choice and control pays off when it comes to hybrid working. You can read the full report for further information.

Our surveys show that there has been a huge shift towards hybrid and home working since the Covid-19 pandemic. However, organisations still do not seem to be training and equipping employees with the knowledge and skills to undertake new ways of working.

Out of our sample of 451 office workers in August 2022, only 8.5% had received any training on how to conduct or be part of a hybrid meeting. Respondents who had experienced some form of training reported that it included using new software and its features, and meeting etiquette.

This leaves a worrying training gap. Hybrid working requires employees to work effectively both remotely and with others in person. Hybrid workers must also engage in hybrid meetings, schedule and coordinate with others across different work patterns, manage uncertainties, and work in less predictable ways.

This is a distinct way of working with additional challenges beyond full-time office or home working. Although people managed to navigate lockdown driven home working and a phased return to the office, this does not guarantee they are working as effectively as they could or getting the most from the new opportunities.

What training do employees want?

74.4% of the office workers we surveyed said they would like to receive training for hybrid working. They said it should include topics such as:

  • Establishing social etiquette – such as knowing when to speak-up in meetings
  • Being inclusive – how to facilitate discussion and ensure everyone feels included
  • Running effective meetings – ensuring that the meeting is the best use of everyone’s time
  • Troubleshooting technical issues – having a guide to refer to rather than having to ask other people during the meeting
  • How to set up in-room equipment – how to use the technology in dedicated meeting rooms.

From our research, we also found that hybrid working also requires employees to be able to:

  • Use technology and equipment to collaborate
  • Plan time and tasks between locations
  • Coordinate with others
  • Manage time effectively
  • Develop professional networks
  • Seek and provide advice and feedback.

What should employers do?

Invest in training! This is crucial to help provide the skills needed for employees to thrive and to make the most of hybrid working.

Employees consistently tell us that they want to be trained to run effective hybrid meetings. Creating a positive hybrid meeting experience is a classic socio-technical problem and training is only one part of this – the physical space, technologies and behaviours of participants all contribute to whether the meeting is a success. (See section 'A whole system approach to designing hybrid workplaces’ (page 23) in our June 2022 report.)

Employers should also invest in key hybrid meeting technologies and facilities. Some organisations were already equipped with hybrid meeting facilities pre-pandemic, but many others created hybrid meeting spaces through ad-hoc repurposing of rooms with limited facilities and equipment.

Organisations need to design fit-for-purpose hybrid meeting spaces, which means considering all meeting participants’ experience and what technology will enable this. It’s crucial to ensure participants will know how to make best use of these facilities.

These technologies and facilities include:

  • A monitor large enough for all in-office participants to view remote attendees and materials clearly.
  • Docking stations to enable easy set-up and connection.
  • Video conferencing cameras and microphones to optimise the experience for remote attendees. These may be fixed in place or portable to allow greater flexibility in terms of room configuration e.g. Meeting Owls and other 360-degree smart cameras. Cameras should also have voice detection, so the person speaking is in full view.
  • Whiteboard camera so visual brainstorming and notes can be viewed by all attendees.
  • Speakers to ensure everyone in the room can hear remote attendees.
  • Moveable furniture to optimise the space depending on the purpose and size of the meeting. For example, a hybrid meeting with a few office attendees collaborating on a project will require a different layout than a team meeting with 10-15 attendees where the main purpose may be information sharing.
  • Integrated booking systems which ensure the best room is selected for the purpose and size of the meeting.

From our research it is clear to see that hybrid working is a distinct way of working, and investment in training is crucial to provide the skills needed for employees to thrive in the new workplace.

Read the report for further information.

This project (Adapting offices to support COVID-19 secure workplaces and emerging work patterns – ES/W001764/1) is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of the UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) rapid response to COVID-19. Report authors: Davis, M.C., Collis, H., Hughes, H.P.N., Wu, C., Gritt, E., Fang, L., Iqbal, A. & Rees, S.J.

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