Work-from-home may once have been considered temporary, but it has now become part of a “new norm” for many companies. We’ve seen remote and hybrid work leading to renewed passion, happiness, and satisfaction amongst employees. But will the hybrid workplace model prove its staying power, or fade away into the annals of history? To figure that out, let’s consider what a hybrid workplace is, its models, and why this new form of work is crucial for today’s business.
What is a hybrid workplace model?
The hybrid model refers to work teams that function in mixed environments – both remote and in-office. For many companies, it’s an agreement between employer and employee that implements both office work and a remote work schedule. Sometimes, employers allow their workers to decide when to work remotely and come to the office. However, most often, there is a schedule.
The hybrid workplace model provides employees with the flexibility to work where they are most productive: in the office, remotely (mostly from home), or both. Aside from the key criteria – combining office and remote workers – the essential pillars of a hybrid workplace are flexibility and support.
General interest in the hybrid workplace concept
There is a lot of discussion about hybrid workplaces. Some business owners believe that model is here to stay and represents a paradigm shift for tomorrow’s working practices. An analysis by Forbes has pointed out the unique challenges that businesses will have to overcome as the adoption of hybrid work becomes more common. But no one (not even big businesses, consultants, or technology companies) knows how to do so successfully. The Work Trend Index survey further reinforces the idea that a hybrid workplace is an inevitability for employees and employers.
Source: Work Trend Index: 2021 Annual Report
It would be a fallacy to say that the hybrid workplace model was born because of the COVID-19 pandemic – employees have been asking for flexibility in work ever since internet speeds reached a level where constant teleconferencing and collaborative tools were viable. Since the pandemic, however, Accenture reports that 63% of fast-growing companies use hybrid workplaces, and about 83% of employees prefer a hybrid model.
Global Workplace Analytics supports those numbers, stating that 80% of surveyed employees want to work from home for at least a portion of their workweek. As GWA puts it: “The genie is out of the bottle, and he’s unlikely to come back.”
So, how can the hybrid workplace affect a person’s work-life balance?
Prodoscore Internal Data surveyed employees to find out how they were affected by hybrid workplace models. For many, they said that the introduction of the model has led to a better work-life balance by introducing a new level of freedom and control of their time. Prodoscore also pointed out that a hybrid workplace is beneficial to parents, allowing them to be home to take care of their children’s needs and schedules.
However, there is a dark side. For some people, this new job model may be unpleasant, rather than flexible. According to BBC research, employees who often work from home may experience a negative impact on their careers because of a lack of interaction with colleagues and managers. Those who want to climb the corporate ladder may feel compelled to spend more time in the office to be visible to their managers and bosses. Meanwhile, others may experience difficulty in moving smoothly between home and office work environments, or just lack a spare room for work.
As for savings and earnings, some studies have looked into those benefits of a hybrid workplace as well. According to studies conducted by both Harvard and Stanford Universities, hybrid workplace model flexibility increases profits. These areas include not only employee productivity but also business profitability. A recent report by Global Workplace Analytics and Design Public Group (DPG) claimed that “employers could save over $500 billion a year” – or almost $11k for each employee who works at home half of the time.
These savings come from:
- Increased productivity
- Reduced real estate costs
- Reduced absenteeism
- Increased business continuity
- Reduced turnover.
Difference between partial remote and the hybrid workplace
Remote-supporting (or partially remote) companies allow their employees to work remotely. Still, there is a risk that corporate culture may develop in such a way that these employees won’t always be a priority if they want to share opinions during brainstorming. Often, fully or mostly remote employees are less visible and are often first on the chopping block when downturns occur.
However, in a hybrid workplace environment, this consequence is somewhat mitigated, with both the employer and employee striving to create the best experience for both remote employees and office workers. This means ensuring that all team members feel valued and are provided with the same access to resources regardless of whether they’re on the couch or at the desk.
Today’s modern hybrid workplace has three significant differences from the partial remote work of the past:
- Unplanned office and remote days (optional)
- A balance between the office and remote is a standard, not the exception
- A smooth change between the office and remote employees in real-time.
Hybrid workplace pros and cons
A recent Salesforce survey claims that about 64% of employees like to work outside the office from time to time. Another 37% want to continue full employment at home after the pandemic. Although this concept may sound great in theory, it’s undoubtedly challenging to implement effectively. Let’s look at some pros and cons of a hybrid workplace.
Hybrid workplace model pros
Focus on productivity, not efficiency. Workforce planning tools help employers efficiently manage shift schedules, take breaks, and juggle contingencies from any device or location. Not only does this help managers but can serve as a boon to employees who can use this information to immerse themselves in a team and coordinate more effectively.
Operating costs reduction. As the number of employees in the office decreases, the need for office space falls as well. For example, AT&T’s telecommuting program has saved the company $30 million in annual real estate and office equipment costs.
Redefining cooperation. Employees don’t have to stay in the same meeting room for brainstorming or collaboration. Thanks to asynchronous communication and video calling software, meetings are now location-independent thanks to new technological innovations.
Prioritization of employees. More companies are holding regular 1:1 meetings to get to know individual employees and their professional and personal lives. This helps team members discuss important milestones and inform each other of relevant achievements or painful moments – bonding teams closer together and raising productivity as a whole.
Hybrid workplace model cons
Decreased customer experience. Many companies provide a certain level of expertise when it comes to customer management. As a result, those clients may feel slighted if they’re told that functions that were once carried out in an amiable in-person atmosphere have now shifted to a video screen or website. While technology can help ease this problem, moving smoothly to new standardized procedures will take time.
Increased employee isolation. As employees spend large amounts of time away from their colleagues, their relationships and the camaraderie created through having a physical presence in the office may weaken. Some employees may feel demotivated and lonely when internal jokes, stories, and company outings are no longer available during the workday.
Growing security risks. Cyberattacks and other related pitfalls, such as data loss, are more likely to occur when working and communicating from changing locations. Employers have an additional responsibility to give employees secure connections to company infrastructure, data backup, and implement recovery plans.
Management difficulties. One new challenge managers face is the need to know and empathize with the individual circumstances of each employee. The expectation of finding new arrangements that satisfy the communication and personal life of every employee can create an additional level of work for already overburdened leaders.
5 hybrid workplace models from 5 large companies
In a Gartner survey, 82% of executives said they plan to allow employees to work from home, at least part-time. But they still have some concerns about maintaining their corporate culture. Thus, they prioritize three days a week in the office, while employees want three days at home.
From large to small, companies are defining their own ideas of a hybrid workplace. Managers conduct surveys to know what is preferable to their employees, and then synthesize that with what is best for the company. And because they can customize the hybrid workplace model to the company’s needs, it becomes a prominent example of a win-win scenario.
The Citigroup model: a 50×50 mix
Most of the U.S. bank Citigroup switched to a three-day hybrid workplace in early spring 2020, with an expected 50% split between remote and hybrid and in-office. The hybrid model isn’t available to everyone though: data center and bank branch employees must return to the traditional office, and some employees may continue to work remotely every day of the week.
As a bonus, the CEO has introduced a company-wide rule of banning video chats on Fridays.
Bottom line: Consumers are used to in-house treatment for some services, such as bank branches – but not every department is customer-facing. If you have both front-and-inside facing components, you may want to look into this model.
The Microsoft model: remote-ish hybrid office
Many Microsoft employees work from home for at least 50% of the time, but employees may get permission from a manager to increase time spent remotely. The company also claims to have turned their previous thinking upside down, focusing first on people outside offices or conference rooms, rather than the other way around.
Bottom line: If your overall approach is aimed at maximizing flexibility for top talent, you should consider a hybrid workplace model like Microsoft.
The Target model: downsizing and leveraging different locations
Target recently announced that it will move from its vast property in downtown Minneapolis, its home base for nearly four decades. Some employees will remain remote, but the company will also analyze other employees in various offices in the region.
Bottom line: Consider this model suitable for large companies that benefit from regional office centers, where moving to different locations can be problematic.
The Lockheed Martin model: 40% hybrid workplace with better training
Lockheed executives agreed: with only 3% of their workforce working remotely before the pandemic, their biggest problem was that executives didn’t know how to manage this new environment. Up to 45% of the company will move to a hybrid workplace, but managers had to undergo 20 hours of training to learn the nuances of managing remotely.
Bottom line: Think about the Lockheed model if disagreement and inconsistency between leadership and subordinates are the issues. Thus, you can balance people willing to switch to remote and people that prefer the office.
The Amazon model: customized by a team and with individual flexibility
The Amazon hybrid workplace is now following a baseline plan for three days a week in the office. However, individual teams will decide what works best for them. Their advantage in working in the office is because of the invitation of “inventions”, which, in their opinion, are more common in person. In addition, employees can work remotely for up to four weeks a year from the home of their choice.
Bottom line: An Amazon-like model is suitable in organizations with strong leadership and teams that trust their leaders to demand what they think will work best.
HRForecast hybrid solution
The HRForecast team strongly supports the hybrid workplace model. The company began its work remotely back in 2014 because its founders work and live in different cities — Christian of Munich and Florian of Bremen.
For the founders, it doesn’t matter where workers want to work (in the office or at home); the main thing is comfortable working and focusing on results. It’s a splendid solution for those who keep their eyes on their OKRs.
Various synchronous and asynchronous communication tools help the team cooperate in the hybrid workplace. For example, the development team quickly responds to adjustments with the help of Jira or Trello, and general communication for all departments takes place in Microsoft Teams and Outlook.
Food for thought
Although the hybrid workplace isn’t new, its popularity has grown significantly among companies and employees. Major players in the technology industry have already adapted fully remote or hybrid models. So, remote work is really the future!
Most studies seem to conclude that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. However, is it suitable for your company? Only you and your team can answer this question, but this opportunity is promising.