As the world recovers from the pandemic and society return to normalcy, expect workplaces never to be the same again. More companies are considering a shift away from the 9-to-5 job toward more flexible work arrangements. It pays to know what pursuing a hybrid work system entails and its benefits to companies everywhere.
Why is hybrid work better? Hybrid work provides flexibility that leads to:
- increased employee productivity,
- enhanced employee satisfaction,
- improved employee mental health,
- better personnel safety,
- greater access to opportunities for learning and development,
- more dynamic work relationships and
- potentially lower operational costs for businesses.
Hybrid work allows employees to work from anywhere, and employers attract and recruit talent anywhere.
While hybrid work potentially brings many improvements to your workplace, proper planning is essential to reap the greatest benefits. It also comes with nuances and guidelines that any professional needs to know. By understanding the specifics of each benefit, common pitfalls, and best practices, your company can ensure a hassle-free implementation of this flexible work scheme.
The Flexibility of Hybrid Work
For most of human history, many types of work were difficult to bring home. Work either required specialized equipment or frequent communication with co-workers, deeming any form of remote work impossible. Fortunately, modern technology has enabled real-time communication and portable productivity. These resources allow employees to decouple many of their responsibilities from the office, increasing work-from-home arrangements.
Despite the increasing availability of working from home, many still prefer to work in specialized workspaces, such as offices. Some employees crave face-to-face interaction, while others might prefer to keep their personal and professional spaces separate. Sometimes, people might not be comfortable with the virtual tools used in remote workspaces.
How can companies create inclusive work environments for these two groups?
The answer is hybrid work, which refers to a flexible work set up where employees can choose where to work. For example, individuals who enjoy working in an office setting can continue doing so. Alternatively, those who prefer working from home can employ this arrangement instead. Hybrid work schemes also allow employees to work in venues like libraries or coffee shops.
Based on the 2019 State of Remote Work report by Buffer, 40% of employees benefit the most from the flexible schedules provided by hybrid work. Other notable benefits include the ability to work anywhere and spend more time with loved ones.
The same survey shows most people use a hybrid work setup to work at home. Other common locations include coworking spaces, coffee shops, and libraries. Coffee shops are the most common backup option when preferred locations are not available.
Aside from flexibility, hybrid work can also offer the following benefits:
Both employees and businesses stand to benefit from a hybrid work setup. By delving into each benefit, we can better grasp how hybrid work can improve specific aspects of work culture.
Employee productivity is always a desirable metric for businesses to optimize. However, it can be difficult to quantify and use for comparing work styles. Therefore, analysts may use self-reported measures of productivity where employees and managers self-report their ability to do meaningful work. Otherwise, they may use related metrics such as lines of code developed or the number of emails sent.
For both measures, hybrid work seems to be effective at improving employee productivity. For instance, several surveys by Microsoft show that most people self-assessed their productivity as having risen because of hybrid work. In addition, people feel they do more work due to choosing their workplace and modifying their working environments. This trend is present in both Microsoft internal employee surveys and the public Work Trend Index, further establishing the self-empowering effects of hybrid work.
The second productivity measure also seems like hybrid work employees perform better in their professional careers. A similar set of Microsoft surveys shows that people spend more time focused on work, despite the potentially distracting environments outside the office.
Concerning mental health and well-being, hybrid work gives employees the ability to balance their work with other commitments. Many people report that the typical 9-to-5 job consumes too much time or is out of sync with their body clocks. Meanwhile, hybrid work allows individuals to be productive when it is most convenient for them. This enhances their efficiency while freeing up time for leisure and relaxation.
If employees can work more efficiently, they also have more time to take care of their physical and mental well-being. They can devote more time to workouts, like visiting gyms during off-peak hours. Individuals can also schedule appointments with doctors and therapists more easily. Finally, hybrid work employees can devote more time to friends, family members, and other loved ones.
Hybrid work also makes the pursuit of a career more inclusive. With traditional work arrangements, many people face obstacles that prevent them from pursuing full-time jobs. New parents, students pursuing graduate degrees, and people with disabilities, for example, found it challenging to work in an office. Thus, hybrid work allows more people from these groups to get jobs without sacrificing their other commitments.
By combining the benefits of remote and traditional setups, hybrid work allows workers greater variation in daily work experience. Many people have realized that working from home for weeks limits social interaction and compromises their work-life balance. Meanwhile, people who must go to the office can suffer from traffic jams and the increased risk of catching COVID-19. Hybrid work allows people to alternate between these two schemes. This arrangement positions them to take better advantage of each option.
Hybrid work is even more relevant as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. We have written a detailed article, “How has Covid-19 Coworking Trends and Flexible Office Market… What is Next?”, which discusses how COVID-19 affects workplace trends.
Office spaces become less crowded and more amenable to social distancing measures by allowing people to work remotely. As a result, employees are less likely to get sick. Likewise, they can continue work should authorities require them to quarantine at home. Even if a future pandemic shakes the world, companies that adopt hybrid work will be able to maintain normal operations.
Access to Opportunities
Perhaps a lesser-known advantage of hybrid work is it allows employees better access to events and other opportunities. Businesses used to treat face-to-face interactions as nonnegotiable. Hence, professional events like conferences required participants to assemble in physical locations. The location, increased transportation costs, and time consumed meant that many employees could not take advantage of these events.
As the pandemic struck, most businesses felt forced to implement virtual workspaces. Many business owners find that the transfer exceeded expectations. The lack of face-to-face interaction was not as detrimental to camaraderie and productivity as previously thought. Events, including international and prestigious engagements, implemented virtual portals or even became fully digital.
Employees with hybrid work opportunities can better take advantage of these virtual events, even those occurring at different time zones. Businesses can continue to provide face-to-face meetups for critical activities. Employees can simply adjust their hybrid work schedules to participate.
Learning and development opportunities help employees stay updated with industry news, learn best practices, and stay abreast of recent developments. Enabling greater participation can help any workforce become more resilient and effective.
Lower Business Costs
It may appear that the benefits of the hybrid work only focus on employees. However, businesses also stand to gain critical advantages from enabling this arrangement.
In a hybrid work setup, business owners can expect a significant portion of employees to work from home. With fewer people in the office, businesses can reallocate office space. As a result, they need to procure and maintain office tools and equipment also decreases.
Moreover, the smaller office space and inventory reduce support systems such as janitorial, maintenance, and security departments. Finally, offices can expect to see their utility bills reduced as fewer people consume water and electricity.
The need to provide laptops and purchase software for remote workers partially offset these costs. However, many vendors offer specialized business plans. In addition, depending on your needs, free and open-sourced alternatives that offer similar performance are also available.
Even employees themselves can benefit financially. According to Tim Avers, “one thing employers should logically do to mitigate inflation is retaining remote work options.”
Potential Drawbacks and Best Practices for Hybrid Work
So far, this article discusses the various benefits of hybrid work. However, it is also essential to realize the struggles that may come from implementing this setup. Recognizing these drawbacks can help businesses avoid pitfalls and ensure a hassle-free implementation of hybrid work.
One significant disadvantage of hybrid work is that it makes work-life boundaries harder to define. A typical office job has employees doing work solely at the company location. Organizations frown upon bringing work home, considering it a sign of inefficiency. As employees are incentivized to finish their work before clocking in, they can better destress in their homes.
This safeguard is less apparent in remote work environments, including hybrid work setups where people work from home. The household becomes associated with productivity alongside leisure. This makes it easier to work even after official work hours. Some managers also exploit the work-from-home setup by expecting employees to remain reachable even during nighttime or weekends.
Preventing burnout involves assisting employees in setting up work boundaries. Managers should also respect these boundaries to facilitate work-life balance. Finally, businesses must allow employees to switch from remote to traditional office work and vice versa.
We have written a detailed article on burnout, “The Consequences of Work Burnout & Ways to Deal With It,” should you want to learn more about this issue.
Camaraderie and trust are essential factors for high-performing teams. However, building the necessary social connections can be harder for employees who mostly meet in virtual spaces. In addition, non-verbal communication is less apparent in most video conferencing tools.
Ultimately, face-to-face interaction helps develop trust and camaraderie better than any virtual interaction. But, according to Simon Sinek, “perceptions play a large role in how we’re seen by others and how far we can go.” Thus, hybrid work helps ease this issue by allowing employees to go back to the office when necessary.
To further increase team integrity, businesses must establish ground rules for conduct and create safe spaces. The key here is for employees within teams to form connections organically. Having a social environment helps facilitate this process.
It can be challenging for teams to coordinate activities if some members work remotely while others report to the office. While asynchronous work is possible, some meetings and collaborative activities require the entire team’s presence and undivided attention.
The added complexity can make it hard for some teams to perform at their best. Additionally, some managers find it harder to trust employees to do their best when working remotely with minimal supervision.
Teams must be transparent in sharing information about their work status so that managers can plan appropriately. Establishing expected times for team activities can also help improve coordination.
Cultural implications must also be considered. According to Jack Kim, Head of Cloud Sales Division at Microsoft, it is crucial to address “lingering perceptions and biases so that we can transition into hybrid models in a progressive manner.”
Presenteeism occurs when employees continue to work despite being unable to function at their best. One example is when a worker reports to the office even if they are sick. To some, this might sound like dedication. However, it is counterproductive and can lead to more issues.
Employees who are unable to reach their usual professional standards should be given time to recuperate. Ample rest will allow them to return to their previous productivity levels.
Unfortunately, the remote work component of a hybrid setup makes it very easy for employees to report to their jobs even regardless of their condition. People tend to force themselves if the workplace culture adopts a “hustle-at-all-costs” mindset. Organizations can alleviate this by establishing clear conditions for work. Likewise, leaders should encourage people to take breaks and leaves as appropriate.
ncreased Reliance on Technology
Virtual workplace tools enable hybrid work. Becoming digitally adept can be challenging, especially for older employees who are not digital natives. Hence, older workforces can feel left out by the hybrid work movement. Some tools may also have a steep learning curve.
Companies must provide high-quality guides and learning materials on the digital workspace. Doing so ensures an equitable transition for everyone. Information technology departments should also play the crucial role of providing support and fixing bugs to avoid frustrations.
Embracing Hybrid Work
Kayva, Distribution Partner Manager at Cisco Meraki, states that “hybrid work is here to stay.” Indeed, the Buffer report earlier shows that 91% of business owners believe that hybrid work will become a permanent feature they will support. More people now realize that virtual workspaces can be just as effective as physically reporting to the office.
Thyda Hausheer, APAC Engagement Manager at Google, asks about “what will it take to sustain hybrid work models?” When appropriately implemented, hybrid work has the advantages of both virtual and physical workspaces. Companies that embrace this trend will have happier and more effective employees while minimizing costs. Taking the plunge into hybrid work is vital for businesses to stay ahead of the evolving workplace.
You can learn more about remote work through our detailed article, “Pros and Cons of Remote Work You Need to Consider.”
Related Hybrid Working Questions
What are some requirements for employees to qualify for hybrid work?
A: The exact qualifications will vary for each business. However, virtual work requirements are relatively easy to satisfy as long as the employee has a modern computer and smartphone. Teams can use free and open-source software solutions for hybrid work, although paid solutions are viable for specific use cases.
Which companies are embracing hybrid work?
A: As industries grow and evolve, more and more companies adopt hybrid work practices. Even large multinational corporations offer hybrid work options for their employees. In addition, many industries that don’t require highly specialized equipment can opt for virtual workspaces.