It was March last year when many companies around the world shifted to remote work as the COVID-19 pandemic began to ravage. After more than a year, the world is now coming out of the health crisis and employees are beginning to return to offices.
However, many companies are still reluctant to allow their workers to come back on site. Thus, a new workplace model has taken shape over the past year, and that is known as the hybrid work setup.
What Exactly is a Hybrid Workplace Model?
This increasingly popular work setup consists of a mix of employees who work in physical offices and those who are working from home or otherwise remotely.
There are different types of hybrid workplace models.
With the first type, employees have the full autonomy and freedom to choose when or if they come into the office at all.
With the second type, it’s the employer who makes that decision. The employer sets what days employees can work from home and the days they should come into the office. Take for example tech giant Google. In May this year, Google reinforced its hybrid setup, where it said employees should spend three days in the office, and “two days wherever they work best.”
The third hybrid workplace type is more of a group approach, where teams or departments get to decide which days they should report physically to the office and days they should work from home.
The Future of Work?
As we mentioned, companies are now looking to a post-pandemic future.
Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford who specializes in remote work, believes that once the pandemic fully subsides, working from home for two days a week will be optimal for balancing quiet and collaborative work — with reduced stress from less commuting.
In 2020, Bloom called the United States a “working-from-home economy,” as 42 percent of US workers have been working from home full-time. This accounts for more than two-thirds of economic activity.
A study by IT firm Accenture is also betting on hybrid work as the future of work, saying a worker can be productive anywhere, given that workers are given the right resources.
In fact, the study found that a whopping 83 percent of employees say the hybrid work model would be the optimal work setup.
This would prompt HR policies to shift toward new emerging workforce segments, as present policies and leadership support have largely catered to in-person workers.
The same study found that those who have been working in a hybrid model during the COVID-19 saga had better mental health and stronger work relationships.
Concerns Regarding Hybrid Work
Even as evidence suggests some pretty decent pros when a company already utilizes such a work setup, there have been some concerns about actually transitioning to hybrid work.
First, companies are concerned about how to monitor their employees who are working from home.
Second, companies have questions about onboarding processes, prompting them to do trial and error for this type of setup.
Companies are also beginning to see if their competitors are fully embracing this work setup, and thus, they feel the rising pressure to make the switch as well.
We also have to understand that the hybrid work model will not work for everyone. It rings especially true for those working in healthcare and retail industries, as well as those working for more localized or smaller businesses.
Pros of the Hybrid Work Model
Despite these concerns, hybrid work has a number of advantages. Take note that a hybrid workplace can capture the best of both worlds between office work and remote work, if executed correctly.
The benefits of hybrid work are not limited to employees. Companies or employers also stand to enjoy the fruits of this work setup.
1. Increased Productivity
In a hybrid workplace, workers have the freedom to utilize their time better. For instance, they can choose to avoid commuting during rush hour.
Workers can also focus fully on tasks without the distraction, noises, or interruptions of the traditional office setup.
Since workers have this level of freedom, they can also choose to work when they feel most productive and take a break when they feel demotivated.
In a recent paper by Microsoft, 82 percent of company leaders across Europe said that in a hybrid setup, they were at least as productive as they were before the pandemic.
Perhaps the biggest win for employees of a hybrid setup is the flexibility. Whether they work in-house or from home, or if they split their time between these two, a hybrid setup supports them.
Now, when a company has more people who are flexible, they’re more likely to balance their workloads, participate fully in work activities, and as we have mentioned earlier, there is increased productivity, and more satisfaction in work.
3. Increased Happiness
Being given the opportunity to work when, when, and how they please lead to a better or higher degree of happiness.
In fact, a 2020 study found that employees who were given the option to work remotely felt happier than their colleagues who remained working in the office.
Of course, there’s a lot of reasons for this — from psychological benefits of taking full control of their time or schedule to simply enjoying a cup of coffee or petting their dogs by their side as they work.
Dressing casually and eating home-cooked meals also lead to increased happiness, and ultimately, increased productivity.
4. Better Culture in the Company
Now, as hybrid work allows employees to switch between different environments according to their objectives, needs, and deadlines, they will feel more purpose-driven when they go to the office on-site.
For example, an employee who does not need to collaborate with teammates can finish their work at home. But when they are called to report to the office, they can come on-site for collaborative projects and they can build better relationships. This will also lead to more engagement in the office because projects that have to be accomplished are anchored on teamwork and collaboration.
In the long run, this setup will improve company culture.
5. Reduced Costs and Efficient Space Management
For the employer or company, they can implement more effective space management because fewer people come to the office on-site per day.
With less crowding, employers are given the liberty to utilize unused spaces to their own benefit.
This can also lead to lower costs for the employer, as there is no need for row after rows of assigned desks.
Once a company determines how many employees will be in the office at any given time, the employers can tweak their occupancy levels to cut down on the cost of overhead expenses such as office supply and rent.
6. Access to More Talent
In a hybrid work, employers can hire workers or employees outside the area where their office is located.
This will allow employers to attract the best talents from different locations who will then work remotely. Consequently, these talents will not have to think of the hassle of commuting just to report to work.
Cons of the Hybrid Work Model (+ How To Address Them)
For all its worth, we have to acknowledge that there are also cons to hybrid work. These drawbacks can cause complications if not properly addressed.
1. Stunted Growth
Those working off-site may miss on promotion or growth opportunities compared to their co-workers reporting on-site.
Fairness issues arise in companies that have employees working in the offices and others working from home.
Those working on-site can also be tapped to work on projects because they’re more accessible. Their presence gives rise to what we describe as “assigning by line of sight”. Consequently, those working remotely tend to get forgotten by their managers or employers.
Managers can address this by assigning tasks and religiously keeping track of what they have assigned to whom. In the end, performance should be the barometer for work.
2. Issues With Team-Building
Remote workers may also find it difficult to communicate with their colleagues on-site. Luckily, there are ways to remedy this situation.
In a hybrid setup, it may be difficult to build and maintain relationships with colleagues. Without sharing the same physical space, employees cannot just stroll to a coworker’s desk for a casual chit-chat. There are also no possibilities to enjoy mealtimes together.
Employers can utilize technology to ensure that their workers are connected. They can provide tools like Zoom, Discord, Basecamp, or Slack to ensure that employees are connected and they can communicate and collaborate with each other no matter where they’re located.
Those employees who are given the privilege to work remotely should also ensure reliable internet and they should be armed with high-quality video and audio equipment for them to communicate with their colleagues.
Also, employers should think of team-building activities that are inclusive for all employees, regardless of where they are geographically. An example of this is a virtual game night, where everyone gets to chill and slow down wherever they are.
3. Lethargic Feeling In the Office
Sure, fewer people in the office means more space. On the downside though, it may lead to a feeling of certain dullness.
It’s all natural that a bustling and busy workplace can be energizing and this may lead to better productivity. On the flipside, fewer people in the office could result in on-site workers feeling unproductive or unmotivated altogether.
How can companies address this? Well, they should create a workplace where people want to actually work and a space that makes them feel welcome and comfortable. Having a pantry or spaces for short breaks can be of help to solve this situation.
Given all these points, one thing is for sure: the future of work is flexible and the hybrid setup is here to stay.