Changing company habitual and routine practices towards hybrid working post-COVID-19 from a social practice theory perspective
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Introduction. Private organisations are increasingly concerned with their environmental sustainability. To make steps in sustainability related to organisational behaviour, rigid habits and routines need to be broken with. COVID-19 has had, and still has, a major influence in business operations of RoyalHaskoningDHV (RHDHV) in the Netherlands and broke through these rigid habits and routines. Theory. This research uses social practice theory to assess the extent to which the COVID-19 crisis affects business practices of RHDHV and how this can reduce carbon emissions through less travel and energy use. This theory distinguishes three elements of practices; materials, skills and meaning. By looking into work related practices when working from home and when working from the office, an image of hybrid working post-COVID can be composed. Method. Semi-structured interviews are conducted with employees of RHDHV with diverse functions within the company. The sample is formed through snowball sampling. Results. It became apparent that homeworking is going well and many employees got used to it. However, this is not how people want to keep on working. There is currently no balance between working from home and working at the office. This is something that is greatly desired in a hybrid working form post-COVID. Flexibility in workplace and working hours can create a pleasant balance post-COVID, therefore work should not be bound to certain hours or locations. This way, employees can perform practices during a workday when this is convenient to their schedule, as a result of this employees’ private-work balance becomes more pleasant. Conclusions. To create a wellfunctioning hybrid working form post-COVID the application of social practice theory showed three important factors. First, digital tools need to keep on developing to ensure comfortable online contact with colleagues and good online and hybrid meetings. Second, skills need to be developed by meetingleaders to better lead hybrid and online meetings and attendees need to keep focused within these meetings. Third and last, the traditional idea that a workday is from 9 and 5 and that work is done at the office should be broken with. When a hybrid working model is developed and implemented, travel will surely decrease which reduces carbon emissions. The reduction in energy use because of hybrid working, for example by reducing office space, is more difficult to assess because of the shift of energy use to employees’ homes and can be a lead for future research.