Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The Loneliness of the Hybrid Worker

Anne says: There’s not a single day that I don’t see an article on hybrid working in my emails. Some relating to the benefits for workers, others the lack of productivity, others the overall cost savings to the organisation, and of course, many on the challenges and many, many lists of tips. Tips on how to do it better, what to avoid, what software to use. On and on and on. But this one caught my eye – the loneliness of the hybrid worker. Lonely? What do they mean by this?

This week’s article is an overview of a research study funded by the University of Western Australia in May and June 2021. In particular, the approach by the researchers, their questions and focus, was different and provides us with a perspective that hasn’t been covered in this manner before.

They asked the participants:

”…two sets of questions about colleague support, manager support, job satisfaction, and loneliness. One set of questions asked participants to reflect on their experiences while working from home, and the other asked them to consider their experiences while in the office. Previous research has exclusively investigated differences between individuals rather than focusing on differences within individuals’ experiences.”

The findings provide some valuable insights for designing and planning hybrid working models. A key finding was that workers need support and help from colleagues to avoid feeling isolated. And this applies to in-office and working remotely. It was found to be more important than support from managers!

They also found that colleague support was a strong predictor of job satisfaction. Based on their findings, the researchers recommend some tactics (not a tip list!):

  • Allow individuals the autonomy to decide when, where, and how they go about their work.

  • Refrain from closely monitoring workers.

  • Set up peer buddy systems for at-risk categories of workers.

  • Promote socialising in the office.

Regarding the last 2 points – perhaps these could also be applied to all workers, not just those deemed “at-risk”, and why only socialise when people are in the office?

The study is ongoing, part of a longitudinal project, so it will be interesting to see how things change or morph into new ways of working. What is clear from this research project is that conscious or intentional design is required to provide the kind of collegial support that reduces loneliness and encourages job satisfaction.


[Pandemic] Remote work 2 years later: what we’ve learned

Jakkii says: This article takes a look at some of the research reports around regarding the experience of remote – and hybrid – work since the onset of the pandemic and where we’re at today. What have we learned, so far?

One such report is Microsoft’s Work Trend Index 2022 report, subtitled “Great expectations: making hybrid work work. Underpinning the report is a significant study of 31,000 participants in 31 countries combined with their enormous pool of data from products such as Teams and LinkedIn (for this report, they describe this as “trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365 and labor trends on LinkedIn”). Put together, their analysis found five key trends:

  • Employees have a new “worth it” equation.

  • Managers feel wedged between leadership and employee expectations.

  • Leaders need to make the office worth the commute.

  • Flexible work doesn’t have to mean “always on.”

  • Rebuilding social capital looks different in a hybrid world.

One of the insights from the Microsoft report that stood out to the author of the article I’ve shared this week stood out to me as well:

“50% of mid-level managers said their companies are making plans to return to in-person work five days a week in the year ahead, but 52% of employees are considering going hybrid or remote.”

That is a significant disconnect, not least because it’s highly unlikely the 48% of employees not considering going hybrid or remote are all working for the 50% of managers in companies that aren’t making plans for full time return to the office this year. In a tight market for talent, that stat should give all leaders pause.

The article goes on to discuss that it isn’t “one workplace for all”: while the office or indeed work may be a collective notion, we all experience work individually, and thus differently. And we don’t all want to come back to the office, particularly when the experience of the office isn’t necessarily always positive:

…for some individuals, that experience is not as welcoming as it is for others. This is reflected in women, people of color, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and those with disabilities being less inclined to want to return to the office than others.

Organisations striving to be inclusive and equitable need to consider the impact of one-size-fits-all approaches on their employees and remember that they are individuals with differing lives, differing needs, and differing priorities. Flexibility and autonomy should, wherever possible, underpin approaches to ways of working, with teams and individuals empowered to work when, where and how they need to in order to get work done.

The choice as to the “when, where and how” of work is a key underpinning principle of activity-based work, which pre-pandemic was all the rage in Australia, at least in name. It remains intriguing to me that this language has largely disappeared from popular discourse, replaced with a seemingly eternal debate between fully in-person, hybrid, and fully remote and which is “best”. Yet, it is of course itself not a one-size-fits-all problem, and the best approach for your business will depend on your context, your work, and your people. This was true in 2019 just as it’s true in 2022, it’s just perhaps in sharper focus now, particularly for companies who hadn’t previously entertained the notion of remote work options for their people.

What have you and your organisation learned about remote work since the onset of the pandemic? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


This great tweet

Jakkii says: Alt text is, thankfully, finally, being used more and more. I loved this both for the humour of the alt text example, and for – as the tweet expresses – how it demonstrates the purpose of alt text: “to convey the why of an image.” It’s that why that you’re trying to get at – what is this image doing, why has it been included? If you were describing it to a friend over the phone, what would you say about the image? This is also why, when we use imagery just for decoration or to add some visual interest to the page, alt text is typically left blank. There’s no why to explain.

You can learn more about good alt text at the link below, which also has links to some other great resources.


Friday Five

Five things you might find interesting this week:

Sydney Business Insights – The Future, This Week Podcast

From our colleagues at the University of Sydney Business School, this week, podcast hosts Dr Sandra Peter and Professor Kai Riemer discuss that the world is running out of sand, and their view that the most-exploited resource after water should be recognised as a strategic material and regulated like a mineral commodity.


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