Hybrid to ‘Tribrid’ flexible working, what does it mean?

Date: Tue Mar 23 Author: Chelliah Nakeeran

There’s been a lot of talk and speculation lately about what our new normal in terms of working will look like, as we begin to come out of lockdown and employees and employers alike consider what their wants and needs look like in a post-lockdown world.

But what is a tribrid working model and how does it work?

The term tribrid refers to there being 3 options within the working model, working from home, working from flexible workspace near home, and lastly working from the head office as would have been much more the norm in pre-Covid times.

The 3 option working model has come about due to a number of factors, not least the fact that many workers welcome the flexibility and much reduced commuting times during the last 12 months.

For employers, it’s not all been bad as they have seen that work and productivity can actually increase or at the very least, stay at the same level where employees work from home.

Big names like Unilever, BP, Marks and Spencer and Apple have all come out in favour of a potential tribrid working structure in future months.
M&S is seeking to convert the upper levels of its Marble Arch store on Oxford Street as part of a wider redevelopment of the site and then lease it to City tenants.

Even British Airways is currently considering the sale of its headquarters near Heathrow as employees have readily adopted to remote working and the ways of working have proven to be effective over the period of the pandemic.

BA commented in a recent statement, “The global pandemic has shown us that many of our colleagues enjoy working remotely and want to continue, and this has accelerated our approach to offering more agile and flexible ways of working,”

“Our aim is to find a hybrid working model that suits our business, blending the best of office and remote working for our people.

“We’ve also re-structured our business to emerge from the crisis and are considering whether we still have the need for such a large headquarters building.”

Although there are many voices in favour of a future of tribrid working, there are still notes of concern that we need to balance the benefits and efficiency of remote working with that of being present in an office with colleagues in-person.

Speaking to People magazine, Apple CEO Tim Cook recently stated that while he thinks Apple will become more accepting of remote work, he also believes getting people together in the physical sense is important, at least for some of the things his company does.

Cook stated, “My gut says that, for us, it’s still very important to physically be in touch with one another because collaboration isn’t always a planned activity.”

So for tribrid working to be successful, businesses may need to consider the percentages given to each option, for example, a given number of days per week that employees are expected in the office, then the rest at their own discretion, where they can choose to either work at home or in a local business centre.

Chelliah Nakeeran, CEO and founder of workspace booking platform Bludesks.com commented, “It’s becoming obvious that the future will see a huge difference in what is considered the ‘norm’ for how we all work. We see the tribrid working model as one that offers both employers and employees the best possible solution, where the needs and wants of both parties can be fully satisfied. Of course, there are many fine details for this arrangement to work, but the trend is growing rapid momentum as we come out of lockdown and as so many major brands reveal their future plans.”

The positive effects of hybrid or tribrid working also extend towards the environment, as with less traffic and congestion on the roads, there are less airborne pollutants, which is a concern for both the public and for businesses as we look to reduce the effects of greenhouse gasses and global warming.

So naturally, environmental groups and lobbyists are also keen to see a continuation of remote working in the future as we come out of lockdown.

Global Workplace Analytics recently estimated that remote workers could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 54 million tons every year – and that’s just if people worked out of the office for only half of the working week.

So it would appear to be obvious that reducing the sometimes long commutes into head offices that are often situated in dense city areas, will only have positive benefits for the environment as a valuable bi-product of remote working.

BluDesks have been aware of the need to therefore provide flexible workspaces nearer to the home locations of workers as a key part of the strategy to enable greater remote working options to workers, without the need for extensive travel.

Chelliah, further comments, “We know from our research and from the many voices coming from industry that the tribrid working model relies on having these workspace options nearer to where workers live, so that they have realistic choices of working outside of home, without long journeys necessary.

BluDesks has been adding ‘local option’ workspace options across the globe, to provide a readily accessible network of workspaces that can be used on a flexible Pay-as-you-go basis, giving that essential third option over head office or home office.”

It would appear that the third leg of working in professional workspaces nearer to home is a good option for many as we are probably all aware that home working has its serious flaws on occasion.

Not least the potential for distraction from pets or kids, workmen in neighbours’ properties and the ever-present delivery drivers knocking on front doors up and down the country.

Another aspect is connectivity, where the home broadband, although ok for general browsing or listening to music, lets down when it comes to supporting Teams meetings and other bandwidth heavy applications.

These limitations have been the driving force for many to seek a change and the search for local business centres.

Martin, an IT recruitment manager states, “Although it’s (working from home) been great for the flexibility and managing childcare, I’ve struggled at times as my home doesn’t have the space and there’s my partner trying to work too. I’m definitely looking for other options if this is looking like a more long-term thing.”

Are there any downsides to the tribrid working model? Some have raised concerns that giving too much scope for flexible working may lead to a loss of control at corporate level, and a danger of loss of productivity.

Bosses have also considered what they see as the potential additional expense of booking workspaces for employees as an additional expense, when they have already signed long-term property leases on city centre head offices.

As with all new working paradigms, there are many aspects that will not suit everybody and some compromise is more than likely to make the tribrid working model work.

But looking at the strategic choices of so many major brands, it looks like the drive for a longer-term flexible working model, hybrid or tribrid, is likely to gather further momentum over the coming months.

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