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Hybrid workers return to the office for connections and promotions

Some people still want the flexibility of hybrid work, but the office remains an important place for building connections, a new report has found.

Workers are concerned more time spent out of the office could affect the development of relationships with colleagues and slow their career progression, a survey of more than 5000 full-time workers (including 552 Australians) by tech platform HubSpot found.

More than 40 per cent of hybrid workers go into the office to connect with colleagues, while 33 per cent of hybrid workers find relationship building and establishing connections is the biggest challenge of working from home.

Remote workers, especially those aged from 18 to 24 years, report that the lack of time spent with their boss has affected the progress of their career.

Kat Warboys, a marketing director at HubSpot, said while it’s clear today’s workforce is accustomed to living and working from wherever they want, there is a trade-off between communication and connection with colleagues.

Relationships with colleagues are important for employee retention; despite 40 per cent of workers reporting they are likely to leave their job in 2023, more than one-third said relationships with colleagues were a motivating factor to stay.

“Connection is critical to high-performing teams. When employees feel connected to each other and their culture, it boosts alignment, enables problem solving, and strengthens productivity,” she said.

“It doesn’t matter where you work from – feeling connected to your company and colleagues is an important aspect of the employee experience.

“Achieving this means being intentional about how, when and where people come together to create a culture where everyone can do their best work.”

The survey results come as Nicole Duncan, chief executive of CR Commercial Property Group, labelled the current generation of workers as “selfish” for not returning to the office full time.

She claimed hotels and businesses in the Sydney CBD were suffering because of the post-pandemic shift to hybrid work.

“We want a vibrant city for visitors to come to, and it needs to look busy,” Ms Duncan told 2GB.

Quality over quantity

The quantity of time spent working with colleagues isn’t as important as the quality of the connection, Ms Warboys said.

This echoes comments by Aaron McEwan, vice-president of research and advisory at management consultant company Gartner, who told TND in March that bosses should focus on bringing employees into the office for high-value interactions such as training workshops or collaborative activities rather than the mundane day-to-day tasks that could be done from home.

More than half of Australian full-time workers want their company to invest in more team-building events to foster a strong culture, HubSpot’s report shows.

“We like to say that culture doesn’t need four walls to thrive. No one should need to come into an office to experience or enjoy culture,” Ms Warboys said.

“The office isn’t dead, it’s different – and the companies who’ll find success will be those that recognise that connection is the thread that binds together co-workers, their purpose and their productivity.”

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