A Two-Tier Hybrid-Working Culture Is Coming

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There are those that can or choose to work from home and those that do not have the option. Two cultures are emerging. Should we be fighting it or embracing it?


In HybridWorkSmart’s recent poll, 83% of businesses agreed that there was a risk of the two-tier culture emerging. This has wide-ranging implications for businesses and particularly for contact centres.

“The question is whether we try and fight the emerging two-tier culture or whether we embrace it and find ways to work with it, whilst ensuring we look after the customer and employee experience,” says Graham Hoskins, co-founder of Kinetic and HybridWorkSmart.

The evidence of the emergent tiers is all around us:

  • Premier Foods (Mr Kipling) has given office workers (20% of the workforce) full hybrid-working flexibility. But it won’t work for factory workers.
  • Google has stated that employees that opt to work from home may get a pay cut.
  • Asda – shop workers don’t get the hybrid option.
  • An unnamed UK cabinet minister stated that it was unfair for those returning to the office NOT to be paid more. Although the Business Secretary has since ‘rejected the idea’.
  • Ocado has announced that employees who worked from home during the pandemic will be able to do their jobs remotely, including a month from abroad.

It looks like it’s almost impossible to avoid a ‘them and us’ culture, but how will it affect the contact centre industry?

Two-Tier Culture in Contact Centres – Fight It or Embrace It?

HybridWorkSmart has identified at least 8 different hybrid operating model options for contact centres. All include a mix of office-based, hub/spoke and home-based, with the latter being near or far (from the office).

It is difficult to argue against the feedback from our clients: working from home is more flexible and commuting costs are lower. Working from the office is better for teambuilding, collaboration and for development.

Once again it is difficult to see anything other two-tier (or even multi-tier) cultures emerging. But fight it or embrace it? Alexandra Marsden, Director of Customer Operations at the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) joined the HybridWorkSmart Flying Frog podcast recently and was very clear that the shift in cultures should be embraced and that businesses would need to adapt.

At Monzo Bank (where Alex had worked previously before and during the pandemic) they were, “clear on which part of the organization you’re joining and expectations of performance, benefits, employee engagement and way of working.”

Alex then went on to talk about the challenge of giving every employee the complete choice of their personal hybrid-working model.

“I worry that if some companies are going to go ‘pick and choose’, how would you drive that employee proposition through, how would you articulate the benefits of each option?”

Alex was therefore very clear on her approach to two-tier culture at MIB:

“My thinking is to create the separation, have either fully flexible or fixed and make them work for themselves.”

So what do companies need to consider in when dealing with an emerging two-tier cultures?

  • Be clear on which model or models you are operating. Saying ‘we will change as we go’ is not a secure position for employees, and ultimately organizations will suffer. Build in the flexibility upfront.
  • Define cohorts and set clear expectations for employees when joining the company, including performance, benefits, employee engagement and “ways of working’.
  • Be careful about surveys asking employees what they want… turkeys voting for Christmas comes to mind.

“No matter which direction an organization is taking with its hybrid working model, it is clear that there is no perfect answer, no ‘one size fits all’. Hybrid working is a strategic and fundamental shift in working which is here to stay,” says Natalie Calvert, co-founder of HybridWorkSmart and Founder of CX High Performance.

Taking Action

To guide C-suite executives and customer contact centre leadership through these very real threats, some of the biggest names in the customer experience contact centre industry have come together, with over 30 years each of experience across every sector for remote and hybrid working.

Graham Hoskins and Stephen Peattie of Kinetic, who have unrivalled extensive successful experience in contact centre transformational change and operational excellence, and Natalie Calvert of CX High Performance, who is renowned for her expertise in customer and employee experience, have come together to form HybridWorkSmart to specifically address these issues.

A thumbnail photo of Natalie Calvert

Natalie Calvert

The contact centre sector is at the epicentre of hybrid working, impacting over 1 million staff across the UK alone, who, based on an extrapolation of the ONS June 2021 statistics, work an estimated 85% of the time either fully or partially hybrid.

This is an urgent issue for the sector to address. HybridWorkSmart will take a leadership role to guide organizations successfully through the hybrid maze, so that hybrid working becomes one of the smartest decisions organizations make.

Thanks to Natalie Calvert for sharing this press release with us.

Author: Natalie Calvert
Reviewed by: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 13th Sep 2021 - Last modified: 16th May 2024
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