Since the pandemic began in early 2020, hybrid work has become the norm for knowledge workers.
As of November 2021, 58% of knowledge workers are taking part in the hybrid work model, with nearly 70% saying it’s their preferred way of working moving forward.
As we gradually enter the post-pandemic period, remote working and the hybrid work model aren’t going anywhere.
Many roles that were not seen as friendly for remote workers turned out to be anything but.
It’s caused a fundamental shift in the work environment, and the full impact still won’t fully be felt for years to come.
The future of work has come sooner than people were expecting!
In this article, we will look at the following:
- What Is Hybrid Working?
- The Benefits Of The Hybrid Work Model
- Challenges Of Hybrid Working
- Tips For Adopting A Hybrid Work Model
Let’s dive in.
What is hybrid working?
Before moving forward, let’s make sure that we’re all on the same page in regards to what a hybrid work environment is.
A hybrid working model is when employees have the flexibility to work from either the office space or a remote workspace (typically the kitchen table or home office). This can be anything from swinging by the office every few weeks, to splitting the week 3 days and 2 days in the office.
A study from Pew Research found that 59% of workers whose jobs can be done from home are working remotely all or part of the time and most (61%) out of choice rather than necessity.
Benefits of hybrid working
The benefits of the hybrid work model have been felt in many areas in the working world. Let’s take a look at some of them:
For employees, a flexible working environment has led to an average savings of about $4000 per year due to remote working. This includes reducing costs of transportation, clothes, food, and tax breaks.
For employers, a reduction of office space real estate can lead to significant savings. For example, McKesson, an organization with around 76,000 employees worldwide, is expecting to save anywhere from $60 - $80 million a year by reducing their office space real estate.
Better work life balance
One aspect that the pandemic has seen a rise in is an increase in the work-life balance found in company culture.
From the Future Forum Pulse from Slack, the following was found in surveys between December of 2020 and November of 2021:
- 15% increase for work-life balance
- 25% increase in feeling better about work stress and anxiety
- 12% increase in overall work satisfaction
- 17% increase in productivity and producing some of their best work.
There have been challenges that have arisen (such as burnout) due to the change in the work environment, but there are ways to deal with them, which I’ll cover later in this article.
Attract and retain employees
One of the best ways to attract top talent is going to be offering flexible working at your organization.
Here’s something that gained some traction on Twitter:
More finding from the Future Forum Pulse:
- Nearly 70% of employees say they prefer the hybrid work model.
- 78% of workers want flexibility in WHERE they work.
- 95% want flexibility in WHEN they work.
While most of the focus has been on the remote aspect, in actuality, when people work has been seen as something that is more valued by employees.
Opening up your organization to remote working and flexibility in a hybrid workplace will help you give you a competitive advantage against other organizations.
Challenges of hybrid working
Of course, there have been many challenges in regards that have arisen over the last couple of years in regards to hybrid work.
After all, this was mostly a completely new model of working for most individuals and organizations.
Common challenges that have emerged:
One study found 72% of employees reported feeling emotionally drained due to the hybrid model. The reason for this is the constant need to readapt to the different working environments vs when working fully remote or 100% in-office.
Many remote employees find productivity a challenge. The Pew Research study found that 60% workers feel more productive in the office and therefore choose to go in.
But really this is the beautiful opportunity of hybrid. Everyone works differently and can choose to work where they feel most productive.
This will vary between individuals and teams, which is why Amazon CEO, Andy Jassey, has decided to leave it up to his teams to choose their own work practices.
The difference in perception on the hybrid work model
When PWC conducted a remote work survey in January 2021, the following feedback was discovered:
- Over half of employees (55%) would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede.
- 68% of executives say a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture.
Another difference found in the remote work survey was how employers and employees view the purpose of the office.
For employers, they viewed the purpose for the office as follows (most important listed first):
- Increasing employee productivity
- A space to meet with clients
- A space for collaboration
- Enablement of company culture
For employees, they viewed the purpose of the office as follows (most important listed first):
- Access to equipment or documents securely
- Meeting with clients and their team
- Training and career development
While there is some overlap, like collaboration, there is still a wide perception gap in how employees and employers view the purpose of onsite office work.
This leads to the next point:
Wider talent pool, but more competition
When organizations are more flexible with hybrid work, they’ve opened themselves up to a wider talent pool.
However, that is the same case for nearly every other organization.
In regards to perks, flexible work has become the #1 desired benefit since lockdown began.
Should your organization not be as flexible as others, don’t be surprised if employees are looking for new pastures that offer a more flexible work experience.
As great as tools like Zoom, Slack, or Microsoft Teams are, there’s still nothing that compares to the collaborative teamwork that occurs when everyone is onsite.
With hybrid teams, it can be frustrating to have a vast majority of the team present to collaborate with one another, while having a few popping in via video calls.
"Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they're doing, you say 'Wow,' and soon you're cooking up all sorts of ideas."
It can be tricky to replicate those spontaneous discussions if not everyone is present.
Impact on the young workforce
This may seem like a strange point to cover. Don’t the young in the workplace want that flexibility of hybrid work?
Yes, but there are also some drawbacks to them entering the workforce during this timeframe.
82% of Gen Z workers said they feel “less connected” working remotely, while roughly half reported having communication issues at work and trouble getting the resources necessary to thrive.
Tips for adopting a hybrid work model
With that, what are some things that your organization can do to make the most out of adopting a hybrid work model?
Nothing will do more for your organization than embracing the hybrid work model.
Flexible working has become the most desired work perk amongst employees.
Do recall earlier from the future forum survey that:
- 78% of workers want flexibility in WHERE they work.
- 95% want flexibility in WHEN they work.
The second point, despite having more value, tends not to receive as much discussion.
One thing that I’ve seen organizations do is make use of core hours in regards to the work schedule.
There is a set time that employees must be present and available (whether online or onsite). Some ranges I’ve found are usually a 3-4 hour range (for example, 11 am - 2 pm).
After that, employees are free to work when they want, as long as they get their work done.
This core hours approach helps embrace the hybrid work model and will do wonders for employee engagement.
A document-everything approach provides much-needed clarity that will help make hybrid working as smooth as possible.
With the rise of homeworking, one of the challenges that arose was burnout. People had a hard time signing off.
It’s much easier to simply leave the office and shut off compared to when you have your work at home as well.
One clever solution someone told me was setting up a Slack channel that more or less served as a coat rack. When people were done for the day, they would say goodbye in the channel.
It was the digital equivalent of seeing someone grab their coat off the coat rack at the end of the day—signaling it was time to start winding up for the day.
Another approach to recommend for those working remotely is to suggest that they make use of “fake commuting” to help turn off from work.
After finishing up for the day, they may do something like walking to the train station that they would normally take to work to help replicate that commute to help shut off from work for the day. Even something as simple as a trip around the block is a good start on that front.
Adapting the office environment
People come into the office to collaborate and socialize with their teammates. So it makes sense to adapt your office space with this in mind, as well as the fact that some employees may be telecommuting while others are in-office.
Another consideration of embracing the hybrid work model and minimizing office space, you’re likely going to have some sort of system like hot desking or an even more advanced office space management software system.
Instead of assigned seating, employees who decide to do some in-office work during the working week will make use of what is available.
With this approach, there are some concerns that you should be aware of. For example, I’ve known a number of organizations who struggled with hot-desking as there were cases where too many people were onsite and finding somewhere to work became a frustrating affair.
If you have been finding your organization has been struggling with this, check out our article on best hot desk booking software for managing hybrid work arrangements.
Hybrid working is a unique opportunity
The hybrid work model is here to stay.
Employees got a taste of it, and those trying to get everyone back to the office shouldn’t be surprised if employees are updating their LinkedIn profiles and looking for new opportunities.
There are still plenty of challenges, and best practices are still going to take some time to emerge. But, if you care about retention at your organization, all signs and evidence point to adopting a hybrid work model.
For more on adapting to hybrid working and the future of work, I recommend checking out Bev Attfield’s excellent article: 6 hard-learned lessons from hybrid working.
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