Even a year and a half ago, the conventional wisdom was that physical offices within the public sector were critical to productivity and that being in close proximity to the office was a key requirement of the job – especially for those within local council. However, the pandemic has forced the adoption of new ways of working. And one of the latest models organisations are taking on is the hybrid work model – where organisations use different strategies to allow their employees to work both in the office and remotely. While many organisations were forced to employ this model during Australia's lockdowns last year, the challenge now is to determine how to adapt this model to all areas of the organisation in the long term, and more importantly, determine how hybrid working and recruiting will impact the way public sector employees work.
From 100% of time spent in the physical office to 100% of time spent working from home, many public sector organisations and employees are now navigating how to combine the two ways of working together. We know from recent statistics that there are many employees that don’t want to return to working in the office full time – according to PwC, 29% of workers say they would consider quitting if they were forced to abandon remote work completely (TechRepublic, 2021). However, on the flip side, there are many employees who have struggled with the loneliness and communication and collaboration challenges that have come with remote working (Steward, 2022). Enter hybrid working: the best of both worlds.
The difficulty in defining hybrid work is that it will look different to different people, depending on the organisation they work for, the nature of their work and their lifestyle needs. For the most part, “hybrid transitions” revolve around flexibility. Hybrid work aims to create the work experience around and for the individual employee. When done effectively, hybrid work will equip people to choose where and how they will work and allow them to feel confident in collaborating safely and securely no matter where they choose to work. The logistics; working offsite or onsite and how often, will depend on the organisation’s policy it implements and the individual needs of each employee.
When implemented effectively, hybrid working can be a win-win for employees and managers and ultimately help an organisation with staff retention; 74% of Australians want a mix of remote and in-person working moving forward (PwC, 2021). So how do experts suggest organisations implement it, so that everyone is happy? The Australian employment marketplace Seek, have listed three tips to help create a long-term hybrid working model (Muldowney, 2022):
1. Formalise hybrid working
Seek suggests formalising your hybrid work model within your employee contracts. By including your hybrid policies and flexibility procedures in your formal letters of offer and employee contracts it demonstrates to your employees that your organisation is serious about implementing long-term flexible working solutions and that this hybrid working model isn’t just a temporary fix.
2. Invest in supporting technology
A key ingredient for remote working to be effective is having the right technology. For organisations within the public sector, this doesn’t just relate to video conferencing platforms or hardware like working laptops. It also means that the right data security is in place, as well as advanced cloud software so that the sensitive and comprehensive data that many public sector organisations deal with remains secure. Consequently, it’s important to ensure that your organisation has carefully thought through what technology they require to ensure a seamless work experience from any location and invested in them. Having the right communications tools that work for the team, and appropriate policies around how they’re used is also important – especially in regards to privacy, security and data storage.
3. Prioritise work by location
For many employees, structuring their working week - especially within a hybrid model – hinges on determining what work activities they can do from home and what activities are better suited to the office. For example, maybe administrative, singular tasks can be done at home but important meetings with stakeholders, team-building activities, project catch-ups, training or any activity involving a lot of collaboration are better suited to the office. This will differ depending on the different structure and responsibilities of each team within a government agency, but on a day-to-day level, this can be decided within the team. Organisations can also create parameters around schedules on a broader level – perhaps there are fixed days each week or month where people’s presence is required, like when there’s an organisation-wide meeting or training session for example. A great way to map this out is to conduct an employee-wide survey around working from home. Asking your staff about how many days a week they’d like to work from home and if there are any days they’d prefer to be in the office as opposed to working from home, will help to inform your formal hybrid working model.
A particular offshoot of the hybrid working model many organisations are employing is hybrid hiring: the combination of virtual recruiting and in-person recruiting tactics as part of an overall talent acquisition strategy  (DiStasio, 2020). Again, amidst the beginnings of the pandemic and social distancing, organisations had no choice but to recruit virtually – conducting interviews via video conferencing and onboarding remotely. However, as organisations are allowed to start conducting recruitment processes in-person again, organisations are realising that there were some advantages to online recruiting. Especially for those within local council, virtual recruitment meant that councils were no longer bound by specific locations when conducting their recruitment processes. This meant that organisations were able to look beyond their usual candidates, widen their talent pool and improve their chances of finding the true-best candidates for their job vacancies. Once such candidates are found, being able to offer hybrid working models means that these new employees have the flexibility to work closer to home and thus don’t always have to commit to a lengthy commute.
According to Karin Kimbrough the Chief Economist at Linkedin, “ hybrid working will have a profound impact on the talent landscape and will be good for democratising access to opportunity” (International Workplace Group, 2021). And indeed, considering diversity and inclusion is such an integral value across the public sector, policies that allow you to hire talent from underrepresented groups that may not have the means or desire to move to a big city for example, is a huge selling point. On the flip side, organisations in smaller cities or more rural locations can now have access to talent that have a different set of skills than they would normally access(International Workplace Group, 2021). This is a great advantage to not only regional and metropolitan councils, who can tap into a more diverse talent pool, but it presents greater opportunities for council workers who’ve always wanted the experience of working for a regional or metropolitan council without uprooting their life.
Similarly, to overall hybrid working, the hybrid recruiting model your organisation chooses to employ will depend on your organisation’s needs – especially in terms of ongoing demand. What’s important for organisations moving forward is acknowledging that hybrid hiring won’t be a one-size-fits-all strategy. What’s most important is to think about what both your employees and your candidates want going forward and what remote hiring strategies (if any) make the most sense for the role you’re trying to fill.
To find out more about hybrid hiring and how it can work for your public sector organisation, or to gain general advice on your recruitment strategy overall, feel free to contact the Public Sector People team at:
(03) 8535 3111
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 LiveCareer research, reported ‘Go back to the office? Some employees would rather quit’, TechRepublic, January 18 2021
 Steward, J.(2022). The Ultimate List Of Remote Work Statistics. Findstack. Retrieved from: https://findstack.com/remote-work-statistics/#:~:text=Key%20Remote%20Work%20Statistics%20in%202022&text=77%25%20of%20remote%20workers%20say,will%20become%20the%20new%20norm.
 DiStasio, 2020. What Is Hybrid Recruiting? Brazen. Retrieved from: https://www.brazen.com/resources/hybrid-recruiting
 International Workplace Group. (2021). Talent Without Borders: How Hybrid Working Is Set To Transform Hiring. Retrieved from: https://old.iwgplc.com/MediaCentre/Article/how-hybrid-working-set-to-transform-hiring