Hybrid work, hybrid office, hybrid anything… In the past year, you have probably heard these terms more often than not and if you still don’t know what they are all about, you are certainly behind!
The concept of hybrid work is quite simple – some employees will work remotely, while others remain in the office. Those who work remotely can still go into the office if it’s needed, and the people who are in the office can enjoy the benefits of working from home if they want to.
The level of flexibility depends on the individual company, its resources, goals, etc. Some offices give complete freedom to their employees about whether they want to work from home or not. Others have a mandatory requirement for the employees to go into the office at least twice or once per week. Truth is that the different businesses can always shift this method to whatever suits them best.
Many times, a flexible office means a working policy that does not put so much pressure on when and where certain tasks are completed.
As with any other working policy, flexible offices have their disadvantages and benefits. They also manage to divide the business environment into different camps – the people who strongly believe that this is the only way forward and those who are sceptical and believe that the cons outnumber the pros.
We will take a look at all those viewpoints so that you can decide, as a business, company or startup, whether a flexible working policy is the right one for your team.
Changes and future of the Hybrid Office reality
The WHF model is not a new thing – the technology that we need has been around for a very long time. However, some companies are still quite hesitant to accept this method of working and most of the reasoning revolves around the levels of productivity.
It’s important to mention, though, is that the people who use this as an excuse, have not done their research properly – many studies show that people who have the freedom to work from home are often even more productive than their colleagues in the office.
A senior lecturer at Harvard Business School called John Macomber even said that COVID-19 has accelerated the levels of acceptance of the WFH concept by 20 whole years! He mentions that businesses can’t really deny this option to their employees anymore, making them miss time with their family, sit in traffic and many other time-wasting activities. When you add the fact that most work is done online anyways, including the communication between colleagues and managing staff, the question of “When should we return to the office?” now turns to “Why should they?”.
The hybrid office is no longer the future of work – it’s the present, and those who are still not considering the options and opportunities it offers, will not survive for long. Of course, by doing so, we will become even more dependent on technology to keep all operations running smoothly, but the difference isn’t that great.
If you’ve already made up your mind, check out our Ultimate Guide to Hybrid Office in 2021 and change the way you work today!
Benefits and Challenges of a Hybrid Office
When it comes to the challenges a company might face when it implements a hybrid office policy, we must keep in mind the two main viewpoints – the employer and the employees. Both sides have certain worries about the whole concept, some of which might be the same, others – completely different.
Let’s take a look at both.
- Feeling excluded. A lot of workers might have inclusion problems if they work from home most of the time, in simpler terms – they will be out of the loop. Whatever events are happening, meetings, social interactions – WFH employees will miss all of that. Feeling left out might lead to a lack of motivation and fulfilment in communicating with their colleagues.
- No face-to-face social interaction. Similar to the first point but in a more casual way. A lot of workers look forward to the office banter, exchanging ideas, productive and casual communication – from brainstorming ideas to random conversations outside the bathrooms. In these isolated times, a lot of people would gladly exchange the luxury of working from home for the chance of being around people again.
- No chance of getting into a routine. Lastly, a lot of people live their lives in a certain routine. It helps with productivity, time management and a sense of control. Having to go back and forth from office work to WFH can be both exhausting and demotivating for many employees. Just as they get used to working from home, they have to go to the office again.
- Non-existent working conditions at home. Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to work from home. Sometimes it might be because of kids, lack of space for a home office area, or because they don’t have the equipment needed to perform their jobs.
- Lack of cybersecurity. Companies have very sensitive data, especially the ones working directly with clients. A proper high-quality system is more difficult to implement if part of the employees are using their own equipment while others work on the office computers. It takes time and a lot of effort to create and maintain such a system, making it a legit concern for business owners.
- Lack of proper communication. Similar to employees, managers prefer to have the option to communicate directly and instantly with their staff when it’s needed. Face to face communication tells a lot about a person and WFH takes all of this away.
- Problems with managing their teams. Managers and team leaders will be faced with the task to successfully manage a hybrid team. The people working from home and those in the office have to receive the same amount of attention and assistance, as well as control over the work that they do.
Even though the above-mentioned concerns might seem like a deal-breaker, they are not all unfixable. And generally, for both employees and employers, the benefits of hybrid offices outweigh the disadvantages significantly.
Let’s take a look!
- Saving a substantial amount of money. And that is on both sides! Companies save a lot when they don’t have to maintain a certain amount of supplies in the office, on electricity bills, and many other expenses. Workers save money when they don’t have to travel to the office every day and eat at home.
- An increase in productivity. Despite the worries of many companies, studies show that productivity increases when people have the opportunity to work from home even if it’s just one day per week. Their breaks are a lot shorter, as well, and they are rarely late to work.
- A decrease in stress levels. When people work from home they have more time to engage in other activities, like courses, freelance projects, create a workout routine, spend time with their loved ones and pay attention to their hobbies. All of this #selfcare leads to less stressed and way happier employees.
- Lower employee turnover. These promising conditions and overall flexible work arrangements make companies more attractive to future employees and the current ones are less likely to leave.
- Not limited in location when recruiting. No longer hiring managers have to limit themselves in looking for professionals only in the area. They can now expand their searches to the whole globe.
What to keep in mind
With the main challenges and benefits in mind, we would like to pay attention to some other key factors when it comes to hybrid work. One of them is that not all positions are suitable for remote employees. In this study by McKinsey & Co., we can see that people occupying the finance, professional services, information technology and insurance, show almost no productivity loss when transferring to a fully remote or a hybrid way of working.
However, when it comes to problem-solving, training sessions, mentoring a new employee or a team, face-to-face workshops and making important decisions for the company – the office environment cannot be replaced. If a business decides to employ a hybrid working method, the managers need to distinguish between the positions that require a live, personal touch, and those that don’t. Very often, changes need to be made even after implementation – the best way of knowing if something works or not is to try it.
Still, since remote work can include the investment of very specific and sometimes expensive technology, it’s a decision no one can make lightly. And most of all, it’s a process that needs to include everybody in the company, not just the higher-ups.
If you decide that hybrid work is the way to go, make sure to monitor the behaviour of your employees. Organising regular video meetings and activities that can be done both online and in the office can be extremely beneficial. Most of all, they will help the employees to retain their sense of purpose in the company, the perspective that their work truly matters in the greater business strategy.
Then you have the overall logistics of a hybrid working method – many companies physically change the way that their office looks, downsizing office space to meet their new needs. Will there be enough space for important meetings and conferences? Should all the remote employees have access to an office environment even if they can work from home without any productivity loss? Who should decide that – the managers, the employees, the CEO, HR?
There are too many factors and questions to be answered and most of them are completely individual for the different companies. A business has to take a look at all the perspectives, including the experiences of similar firms so that it can decide for itself.
The professional landscape of the office has certainly changed for the past year and the truth is that it will never return to what it once was. Still, flexibility and keeping your employees best interests at heart is the best way to go forward and if that means embracing the hybrid work method, then we encourage you to do so!