The pandemic has changed daily life, including our work structure. Working full time at the office was the norm pre-pandemic, but quarantine and travel restrictions forced companies to implement remote work policies.
As the restrictions eased, many companies adopted a new operational structure that would combine the “traditional” pre-pandemic office setup with remote work. This hybrid structure offers employees flexibility and the benefits of both arrangements. Some people have strong opinions about one or the other, and some may wonder if the hybrid work structure is productive. Studies have proven that hybrid working increases productivity because:
- The hybrid work structure is more efficient.
- Most employees in a hybrid structure attribute their productivity to their flexible schedules.
- Employees report benefits like improved work-life balance, less time spent commuting, increased savings, and the ability to work from anywhere.
If you’re still skeptical about the effectiveness of hybrid working, read on to learn more about this topic.
Increased Productivity Through Hybrid Work
Research conducted by Stanford University showed how hybrid work led to more productive employees. The study respondents were the employees of CTrip, a travel agency based in China.
A neuroscience expert on executive coaching and leadership, David Rock, said, “Autonomy is a key driver of human behavior. Research shows that even a little can go a long way.” For example, he cites a study conducted on CTrip, a travel agency based in China, by Stanford University.
CTrip has 16,000 employees, and the experiment ran for nine months. There were two randomly selected groups: one group worked in the office five days a week, and one group worked within a hybrid remote structure, with four days at home and one day at the office. The in-office group maintained its productivity levels as predicted. However, the hybrid group puzzled the researchers, as their productivity rose by 13% and employee attrition decreased by 50%.
Given these findings, CTrip gave its employees the option to choose their schedule between working full time at the office or a hybrid setup. Fifty percent of the employees that took part in the study switched their current schedules, whether from office work to a hybrid schedule or vice versa. After giving their workers autonomy, CTrip recorded that the average productivity across all their employees increased to 22% — 12 points higher than the original study’s finding.
The study shows that Cassandra Rochelle Barltrop of Linked VA asserted, “Tellingly, organizations that enable a resilient workforce to be more productive and healthier anywhere are also reaping financial benefits.”
Research shows that 63% of high-revenue-growth companies have allowed their employees to choose whether they will work at the office or remotely. On the other hand, 69% of negative-to-no-growth companies maintained an all-or-nothing work arrangement. Companies made their workers adopt either an on-site or remote model and did not offer a hybrid option.
Overall, giving employees the freedom to choose their schedules can increase employee productivity and translate into company growth.
A good indicator that the hybrid structure works is positive feedback from employees. For example, Louise Boardman-Rule of Ten2Two wrote, “It combines the needs of businesses to have employees in their offices and allows employees the flexibility to work from home and gain all of the benefits from that.”
In her article, Boardman-Rule cited a survey conducted by Zoom (the online conferencing platform). According to the study, 65% of the respondents viewed the hybrid work structure as their ideal work arrangement. In addition, half of those surveyed favored in-office work, while the remaining half wanted to work exclusively at home.
In another article, Boardman-Rule cited a study from Apollo Technical. According to the study, 58% of employees became more productive during remote work, with 33% of employers agreeing that productivity increased because of remote working.
Among those who worked from home for a few months, 77% reported that they experienced a productivity spike. Within this percentage of respondents, 30% did more work with less time, and 24% did more work during the same working hours.
In the same study, remote workers were 47% more productive, reducing their unproductive time by 10 minutes per day.
Müge Rençberoğlu Yalçın, Vodafone’s Property Senior Manager, explains, “With employees feeling supported in their work-life balance, they tend to be motivated to a greater extent and care more about working towards company goals and ambitions. Motivated employees lead to better business outcomes. Happier employees equal happier customers.”
Speaking of happier employees, Yalçın cited a survey conducted by SurveyMonkey after the coronavirus outbreak. According to the study, 33% of employees felt happier, 51% felt the same as before, and 11% wished for a different job. In addition, a third of the respondents reported feeling fulfilled.
There were also reports of employers experiencing difficulty getting their employees to resume working at the office after previously implementing remote work. In a study by Bloom, Mizen, and Taneja, about 70% of 2,500 UK workers preferred having two or more paid workdays at home per week.
Four Hybrid Working Employee Productivity Benefits
So, why does the hybrid work structure produce productive employees? Boardman-Rule outlined the employee benefits of maximizing both in-office and remote working.
1. Easy to No Commute
The average commute is 30 minutes each way or five hours a week in the UK. A hybrid setup enables employees to spend more time on healthier habits, such as exercise, instead of sitting in traffic. Less commuting leads to healthy, productive employees and a healthier and cleaner environment. Fewer cars on the roads mean reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
2. Good Work-Life Integration
Achieving work-life balance is difficult, but increased flexibility from the hybrid work structure has allowed employees to integrate their work and productivity with their personal lives. Employees satisfied in both their work and personal life provide businesses with a capable and motivated workforce. In addition, satisfied employees translate to higher employee retention in the long run. Learn more about achieving work-life balance with efficient hybrid working in our article, “Help Your Business Achieve a Successful Hybrid Working Balance.”
3. Financial Benefits
Without the expense of commuting, employees can direct more of their income toward their savings accounts. Employees are also saving money from moving away from high-rent areas, as they no longer need to live near the office.
4. Work from Anywhere
Working from home empowers employees to work wherever they are around the globe, regardless of where the company’s headquarters are. In addition, companies can now hire online, and technology has developed to accommodate collaboration and synchronization via the internet.
Five Hybrid Working Productivity Advantages for Employers
Hybrid working opens doors for employees and employers alike.
1. Salary Adjustments in Exchange for Flexibility
According to research by the scheduling platform Shiftboard, 49% of their 2,000 respondents are open to having their salary cut reasonably to have a more flexible schedule. Even the best candidates might favor flexibility over higher pay, and companies with rigid working conditions may miss out on the best and brightest pool.
A study conducted by Barrero, Bloom, and Davis on why working from home will stick collected more than 20,000 responses. Their research showed that more than 60% of workers feel that working from home equates to a salary raise. Half of the 60% surveyed value working two to three days a week at home, the same as a 10% salary increase. This further supports the fact that some employees see working from home as an alternative to salary raise because of the flexibility they gain from hybrid working.
2. Lower Company Expenses
Global Workplace Analytics estimates that a company in the US can save $11,000 per year per remote employee. If only a fraction of employees needs to report in-office, that frees a company’s budget for rent, cleaning, upkeep, maintenance, and transportation. This also leads to lower utility costs, like electricity and water.
Companies can redirect their budget to their employees by improving operations, increasing salaries, or offering bonuses. Initiatives such as these can boost productivity and increase morale.
3. Environmentally Conscious
Fewer in-office employees lead to fewer expenses and a smaller carbon footprint. The company produces a substantially smaller carbon footprint by reducing commutes and reducing company facility use. Yalçın shared their experience at Vodafone Turkey, wherein their efforts to implement hybrid working equated to planting 300 trees per year.
4. Location-Free Hiring
Geographical location is no longer a factor in hiring. Companies now have access to a bigger pool of candidates who do not reside near the office. The hiring process is easier, as job applicants can be interviewed online, and the company does not need to account for relocation costs.
5. Retain More Employees
Employees granted flexibility are more empowered because they have better control of their schedules. As a result, they feel motivated to keep working with their companies, resulting in higher employee retention. In addition, as mentioned in the Stanford University study, employee attrition decreased by 50% for the hybrid group.
High rates of employee satisfaction lead to valuable long-term employees. These employees will most likely produce the company’s future managers, and they’ll be the ones to guide newly hired employees into the company’s culture and operations.
Big Companies Adopting Hybrid Working
Big companies that have shifted into hybrid working are already reaping the rewards.
New York Times bestselling author and Workplace Intelligence LLC’s Managing Partner Dan Schawbel said, “Companies that adopt a hybrid workplace model sooner will be able to position themselves as a ‘company of choice’ and a ‘best place to work,’ leaving their competition in the dust.”
Schawbel listed the companies that have implemented the hybrid structure. This list includes big and reputable companies like Siemen, Reddit, Google, and Microsoft. One hundred and forty thousand employees under Siemen have the option to work remotely for about half the week. In a survey conducted by Google, 62% of their employees wanted to go back to the office, but not full-time, which led to the tech company adopting hybrid working.
Lee Naik, CEO of TransUnion Africa, also compiled a list of big-name brands favoring a hybrid setup. E-commerce platform Shopify announced its plans to continue remote work for its 5,000 workers, even after they resume office work. Facebook is beginning to move its employees out of the office over the coming decade. Twitter, Dropbox, and Atlassian seem to agree on giving their employees the option of a work-from-home arrangement indefinitely.
Naik also mentioned Salesforce’s move to provide a flexible schedule option to their employees, which would allow them to work in the office for only one to three days a week on tasks and projects needing face-to-face collaboration.
You can read more about best practices for a hybrid setup in our article, “Why Is Hybrid Work Better? (Hybrid Best Practices).”
Three Areas for Improvement in Hybrid Work
Despite the many benefits of hybrid work for both employees and their employers, it may fall short in some aspects. Therefore, the organization must be on the lookout for these issues and immediately resolve them to maximize the hybrid work setup.
As much as productivity and employee retention are boosted, a lower promotion rate is observed for employees on a hybrid work schedule than those in-office. The CTrip study by Stanford University showed this phenomenon, and the researchers attributed this to distance or proximity bias. Employers develop an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality, which leads to them favoring employees they see face-to-face more often than others.
Caroline Fairchild, LinkedIn’s Editor At Large, thinks that proximity bias can lead to inequality in the workplace. Companies may suffer if they overlook their best employees, who might leave. Executives and managers need to be aware of this bias to measure their workers’ contributions objectively.
As the saying goes, “No one size fits all.” Employers must understand that differences in ages and generation among employees might affect how they implement hybrid working effectively.
An Accenture survey showed that Gen Zers are more open to a face-to-face setup than their older counterparts, the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. This might be because they are new to the workforce and value collaboration and mentorship as they learn the ropes.
Managers might find it productive to place younger employees in the office.
Deteriorating Mental Health
Many experiments and actual company realignment to a hybrid work model increase employee productivity. However, this might be at the expense of overlooking workers’ mental health conditions. A study by the HR company Adecco Group found that 54% of young leaders are experiencing burnout. A compromised physical and psychological health for the past 12 months was also reported by 3 in 10 employees.
These mental health issues led to 67% of respondents feeling unconfident about their managers caring and upholding their workers’ mental well-being. If left unchecked, this might lead to workers resigning from their job posts to look for another company that can cater better to their health and needs.
How can managers mitigate distance bias as they promote employees?
Proximity bias happens when managers view face-to-face interactions and office attendance as the most significant factors when an employee is up for promotion. This inequality might be further exacerbated because more men choose to work in an office than women. Gender is not the only issue, but more people of color and other underrepresented groups are also more likely to choose to stay at home for work.
Slack recommends putting minimum in-office work hours that everyone can abide by to address the problem. They have also implemented “core team hours,” wherein employees are expected to collaborate fully with their teams within the specified period.
Managers and essential personnel can also undergo courses to help them.
Hybrid working seems to be the best work model right now, but what about companies leaning towards fully in-office or fully remote work?
There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. What might work for some companies might not work for others. It’s crucial to look at the context and pressing challenges before adopting a particular work arrangement.
Your organization’s needs and goals are a vital part of the equation. If you’d like to try hybrid working for your company, it’s vital to assess whether your operations fit this model. The hybrid structure might only make sense for specific departments. Sending out an employee survey is the first step to gauging how the employees feel about hybrid work.
If a reasonable number of the workers are willing to adopt hybrid working, your company can start rolling out the new work structure with a short-term trial. Revise your company policy and rules to accommodate your employees’ most efficient and productive setup. There are many ways to go about the hybrid work model. Read more about it in our article, “Five Types of Hybrid Work Models (And How to Implement).”