Blended Work: What, Why & How?

A blended work model is emerging as the latest trend for organisations around the world. As the dust settles, some are itching to get back to “normality” in the office, while others are content at home, managing their own schedules and with fewer distractions. What is agreed in both camps, it appears, is the increase in work flexibility and the abolition of the daily commute – both of which contribute to a highly valued work life balance.

The Work-From-Home Global Mass Experiment is Driving the Speed of Change

We can’t assume that Remote Working will recede and disappear as the effects of COVID lessen and it would be dangerous and short-sighted of business leaders to act upon that belief. It’s estimated that we will never fully return to work-as-we-knew-it. There are still a lot of unknowns, and we’re seeing both positive and negative reports of 100% remote working – issues around visibility and productivity, diverse thinking and overworking are among the most prevalent.


As quoted by Financial Times, “The pandemic has triggered an experiment in mass remote working that is putting strain on resources, human and technological.” We’ve seen traditional businesses completely transform and re-imagine where and how people operate and work from. From our own independent research on Evolution of Work, carried out in late 2019, we found that the Financial Services industry, (namely insurance companies) felt they were unable to move away from traditional ways of working, with 60% recognizing the trend but estimated they were 3 to 5 years away from enabling working from anywhere. Today, they have no choice but to quickly adapt to this new normal.

Neil Greenberg, a professor of mental health at Kings College London says “Coronavirus has brought forward two years of technological change in two weeks,” and this brings with it a host of negative and positive change as leaders understand what is and isn’t working, while also “trying to adapt to a psychologically sound way of working.”

What is a Blended Work Model?

Work is no longer about “place” or being in a certain location for a certain amount of time.

The Blended Work concept is whereby employees split their time between home and office. The typical location for successful Blended Working is a small office or central hub where a small percentage of people can use the facilities each day.

This shift is driving businesses to develop new working environments, to bridge the physical and sometimes mental divide that can happen as a long-term result of remote working. The hybrid workforce is essentially the happy medium, making interactions among colleagues more seamless, cohesive and collaborative.

We’re seeing both positive and negative reports of 100% remote working and Dr. Greenberg jokes that people are now wondering if they’re “working from home, or sleeping from office.”

The Challenge: Tech, People & Data 

Change is painful, it’s difficult and naturally most people try to avoid it as much as possible. However, there is no avoiding the fall out of a global pandemic. Understandably, there are new challenges and obstacles to overcome.


With people and therefore operations going digital – fragmented systems, manual workarounds and dizzying excel files will no longer make the cut in managing large, distributed workforces. Enterprises specifically need a way to digital manage work, people and teams – no matter where they are based. It is crucial for Departmental Managers and Team Leaders to have visibility of work, deadlines and people’s availability in order to be able to efficiently manage work activity and back to middle office operations across the company.

The evolution to cloud infrastructure is earmarked as the key change that has the power to effect the processes and culture when it comes to  digitization, so in many cases “this could further widen the gulf between ‘digital champions’ and those in a state of inertia”, says Consultancy UK.


The pragmatic question that business leaders should be asking themselves right now: What do businesses need to allow for people to work in a blended manner, that is people-centric and fosters a mutually beneficial relationship between the organisation and individual?

Culture & Community can be a difficult job to build, regardless of the size of company. Constructing a new hybrid or remote culture for your employees, where they feel they belong and are listened to is posing a challenge for businesses today.

Managers at all levels will need to upskill to understand their people better and to be able to manage a distributed team. Additionally, they need to be able to trust their staff. But let’s not forget, trust is a 2-way street and doesn’t appear overnight. Trust across people at all levels in the company will need to be developed over time. The next few months are crucial for businesses and leadership to lead honestly and openly.

An important step to building trust in a blended work model is to focus on your people and their needs, put them at the heart of the operations and provide them with autonomy.

You can have all the technology and systems that you’d like, but if you don’t understand people — customers, employees — then it’s very difficult to deliver the capabilities that you’re really after,” says Kristine Dery, Scientist and Programme Manager at MIT Sloane. 


Switching to digital operations is complex, with lots of moving parts and things to consider. Data and analytics shine a light on what would be a black box of uncertainty and confusion.

Simply, it’s down to the approach of the organisation. Those that leverage data to make better decisions and lead the way to the vision and holistic goals are the organisations that are successful. This allows for more “balanced investments in data and digital platforms, helping businesses move forward with changes” without conflict between departments, says Consultancy UK. 

Additionally, there are questions around the security, governance and control of customer data. Without adequate technology in place that allows for the secure storage and sharing of data to employees, businesses will find themselves in an uphill battle.

The Opportunity: Triple Bottom Line 

Stephen Ralph, Product Manager at Zarion says “The shift to a blended workforce is a golden opportunity for leaders to re-engineer how work will actually get done. Shrink needlessly high costs, boost employee collaboration and productivity, ensure staff health and safety, and ultimately drive simpler experiences and agility. Creating a positive environment and healthy culture for your teams will lead to dramatic benefits for employers, employees, and the bottom line.”

Considering the Triple Bottom Line of corporate responsibility, we can correlate societal, economic and environmental benefits for both businesses and individuals with the shift to hybrid working.

“Organisations can show off their environmental and ethical credentials by accentuating the lower impact of their operations in terms of pollution, less need for physical office space, and more family time for employees,” says Martin McCracken, senior lecturer in organisational behaviour at Ulster University. 

Making the case for the Blended Work Model

Economical: Businesses can lessen their overhead costs of running an office and rethink facility and infrastructure costs.With location no longer an issue, businesses could diversify their workforce and the skills within the organisation with access to global talent.

Social: The younger workforce who crave flexibility can work from their chosen location and in some cases, during their chosen work hours. People will have time to spend with their families and will experience a greater level of work-life balance. This balance provides people with a better relationship with work and naturally drives motivation and productivity.

Environmental:  Less commuting means traffic on the roads, resulting in less long-term environmental damage. Less power usage and less waste generated by large Enterprises also contribute to a thriving environment.

What do Enterprises need to thrive in this new world?

“Control over own time and a focus on outcomes is the key solution, along with good communication and ongoing dialogue. Peer-to-peer work is key, as well as a means of connecting across a shared communication space and getting beyond email-based workflows,” says McCracken.

Consider a work management platform: intelligent dashboards based around work and people, updated in real-time can enable Department Managers and Team Leaders to manage a distributed workforce no matter where they might be working from.

An Intelligent Work Management platform is not the only answer to the challenges at hand, but it absolutely helps a distributed workforce to work better, faster and more collaboratively. From balancing workloads across teams, to bringing together new, global working groups and providing intelligent data about work and teams that is accessible in seconds.

This is not the time to stall or shuffle backwards because of fear of the unknown, or the belief that managing a distributed workforce is impossible. We now know, as the pandemic has proven – nothing is impossible!

It’s a missed opportunity for businesses and particularly Financial Service enterprises to not recognise this as a time for real, tangible digital transformation and cultural change that will stand to the business for decades to come and will continue to drive the Enterprise forward technologically.

Operational transformation is no longer a “nice to have” – it’s what the business needs to survive and thrive in this new world.

Zarion are uniquely placed to solve problems related to managing a distributed workforce. We have helped leading Financial Service Organisations around the world to to digitally transform their operations, helping to drive sustainable change in how work is carried out. Our platform helps teams do more work, with less time and costs.


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