Budapest Business Journal 3008

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Special Report

Budapest Business Journal | April 22 – May 5, 2022

Hybrid Working Shakes up the Market, Seen to Stay for Some Time After the impact of coronavirus introduced large-scale working from home, some people are returning to office work partially. With hybrid work molding the Hungarian market, professionals believe this arrangement is here to stay, with all its opportunities and challenges. The Budapest Business Journal deepdives into the current market sentiment. CHRISTIAN KESZTHELYI

When COVID-19 lockdowns kicked in two years ago, businesses had to adapt to new working conditions.

The changed environment “showed who could work unsupervised, who could be trusted and where the gaps were in management approach, team relationships and empowerment,” agrees Katalin Panayotopoulos-Antal, managing partner at HR consultancy Arsis Global Hungary.



Margit Farkas This unsolicited social experiment brought a rich learning opportunity to the business world. “COVID-19 revolutionized office work [...]. Home office has become an integral part of the life of a business,” Balázs Réfi, founder and CEO of Bluebird International, an IT recruiter, says. The received wisdom pre-pandemic had been that working away from the office environment would be unproductive. The post-COVID experience indicates otherwise. “Productivity was little impacted. Conversely,

88% of

Katalin Panayotopoulos-Antal “Nobody expected the pandemic to escalate as quickly as it did in Hungary, where employers had been thinking about possible solutions when the sudden lockdown hit,” Tamás Püski, managing director of IT recruiter IseeQ, tells the BBJ. Hungarian companies passed the acid test of the new working arrangements in the first lockdown, by and large. “Nevertheless, no one thought that the implications would be so long-term, and lockdowns would follow each other on and off, making it very challenging for organizations to decide on future working models or plan at least months ahead,” Margit Farkas, EY Hungary partner in Workforce Advisory, says. With the advent of COVID, workplaces changed significantly. The emergence of hybrid working arrangements, where employees mix working from home and a central office, calls for a completely different mindset, work organization and collaboration, and more flexibility.

Hybrid working, and the ability to work from home, are becoming a new standard in the eyes of many employees. “Now, after two years of working from home, we have built a new normal,” Püski of IseeQ says. Previously, employees would typically have their desks in offices where they would spend almost 100% of their working time. However, EY Hungary research in November 2021 showed that close to 60% of responding companies had developed and launched their hybrid strategy. “Most organizations said they are asking their employees to be in the offices two or three days a week, which translates

employees and 84% of employers in our 2020 survey said they either saw no effect in their productivity or efficiency improved since home office started,” Lili Simon-Göröcs, HR director of online job board, tells the BBJ. The lengthy pandemic also brought ambiguity to the workplace and loosened relationships between employees and employers. This sentiment needed addressing.

Dorottya Pákozdi

Market Advantage

“Only a few companies started early to design their future hybrid models. These first movers, I believe, had a market advantage, as they reduced the level of ambiguity and uncertainty for people about the future,” EY’s Farkas says.

“It is worthwhile creating a corporate home office policy to lay down a clear employer policy and deal with employees’ various needs uniformly. A home office policy can provide clear, unambiguous, and predictable work-from-home practices that can help increase employee satisfaction and avoid disputes with uncertain outcomes,” Pákozdi adds.

Balázs Réfi

While Hungarian companies are more willing to implement hybrid working of their time,” Farkas confirms. models than before, a well-working With the spread of hybrid working approach must be implemented to serve arrangements, where employees are only people’s needs and business goals, expected to show up in the office two following a well-defined strategy and to three times a week, shared desks are shifting management styles. becoming more common, fueling office “Given the impact on individuals, space reduction. Despite no significant employee needs and well-being are work efficiency impact, challenges in higher on the agenda than ever,” EY says. managing employees have arisen. And it should be. Long-term loyalty to employers has dramatically dropped in the past few years, a trait present even before covid. “According to our experience, those who work from home are much more likely to change their jobs quite often. Thus, to avoid large fluctuations, it is worthwhile focusing on team building in the hybrid model as much as possible,” Pákozdi suggests. Püski of IseeQ adds, “More and more job seekers are expecting flexibility [...] Tamás Püski and companies react to this demand, even though building a remote culture is not that easy.” “Flexibility makes coordination difficult; Simon-Göröcs of notes, remote workers can feel neglected. “Because of the labor shortage, workforce Technology requirements must change. attraction and retention has become crucial.” And hybrid work raises questions of She adds that jobseekers favor companies trust, accountability and measuring that offer hybrid conditions in recruitment. productivity,” Panayotopoulos-Antal of Arsis Hungary says. Dorottya Pákozdi, senior HR consultant and team leader at Vision Recruitment Hungary, seconds this view. “In our experience, those present in the online space are relegated to the background and are less able to enforce their will,” Pákozdi says. In general, while they respect the flexibility of hybrid work arrangements, managers have concerns about sustaining Lili Simon-Göröcs team performance, productivity, connectivity, and company culture when they supervise work from home. Companies must be alert and proactive every day in this environment, Collaboration which delivers ample opportunities and Creativity among the challenges, especially as In this context, offices are shaping the hybrid working arrangement is into a place for meetings, exchanging seemingly here to stay. ideas, and establishing interpersonal “Hybrid workers will continue to relationships. Projects that require be employed in most Hungarian creativity and innovative thinking offices in 2022. Hybrid work will can work much more efficiently in the continue to be the way of the future,” physical office space. Réfi of Bluebird concludes.