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Future of work

Hybrid work: what is it and does it work for you?

Working at home. Working at the office. Both of these locations have become familiar workspaces over the last two years as we’ve reckoned with a hybrid working set-up. Those of us who had the luxury to work from home did, while others in different professions were less fortunate. Obviously, this is due to the impact of Covid and the pandemics’ transformational effects on society at large.

It’s been said that the pandemic accelerated trends that were going to happen, or needed to happen. Such as causing companies to digitalize processes, become leaner, be less resource-intensive and find new models of working together despite a physical distance being required.

One trend that has gained traction, more out of necessity than anything else, is the hybrid working model.

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working, simply put is when you as an employee have the ability to work remotely as well as coming into the office. It can take different forms and shapes, but that’s the barebones structure. You come into the office a few days of the week, while on the other days you can work from anywhere with a solid internet connection. It’s a flexible working structure.

Compare this with the traditional model, it’s the one that dates back to the industrial era. Coming into the office five days a week, clocking in at 9 and leaving around 5. Of course, this varies by industry, but that tends to be the average schedule for an office worker these days. You have the standard office setting with buildings, desk clusters, meeting rooms, a cafeteria, and the like. Just think of the movie “Office Space,” even though it’s from the ’90s, office life really hasn’t changed much since then.

Then Covid 19 happened. And we were forced to stay home. To stay apart but still work together and be just as productive despite being outside of the office. In fact, worker’s productivity remained stable or even increased during the pandemic. Yet, most managers, and practically everyone else, want a return to normal. Especially after everything we’ve all gone through. But, even though we crave that return, the reality that we all have to face is that there’s a new normal going forward.

Man sitting in front of his laptop when practicing hybrid work (working from home).
Hybrid work in action

What does a hybrid work model look like?

What a hybrid work model actually looks like depends on where you look. There’s no standard template other than the barebones structure. There are lots of different setups being employed by companies all over. For example, a company could have certain teams, departments or roles come in on varying days. Maybe sales teams come in on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Or everyone has to come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It could also be that employees only have to come in when they have important meetings. There are countless permutations of hybrid work styles.

With the rise of the internet and faster connection speeds spreading its reach farther and farther around the globe, more people have the ability to work remotely. Depending on your function, some people don’t necessarily need to have a physical presence in the office. If you can get your job done from home, a cafe, or another part of the world without your work suffering, then it’s all good. This has contributed to the lifestyle of digital nomads, where people work in one part of the world while living in another.

Keeping that in mind, some companies, even before the pandemic, have allowed remote work options for their employees. This took the form of having work-from-home days that were allowed based on the role, experience, or other factors. It was seen as a perk or a luxury for some workers that usually was extended to trusted employees.

Go with a hybrid work model that works for you

It really depends on each employer, employee and individual situations need to be taken into account as well. As we found out during the pandemic some people thrived under this model while others had trouble adjusting.

What are the pros and cons of hybrid work?

Just like any other working model, and anything else in life, there are pros and cons. Some are more prominent than others. Let’s start with the pros:

The advantages of working remotely

First of all, a key advantage of remote work is the flexibility that it gives to employees. They are able to work during hours that suit their lifestyle and schedule. It allows them to focus on their other responsibilities whether they be kids, household chores, exercise, etc as well as getting their work done in a timely manner.

More flexibility leads to happier workers

This increased flexibility also raises employees’ happiness, as they are able to enjoy more free time for themselves. Spending less time commuting to and from the office lets them place more time on their hobbies, hanging with friends and family, or relaxing and recharging. Employees will be happier and healthier as they’ll have more time to pay attention to those human needs that work doesn’t fulfill. Overall, it tends to lead to less burnout.

Better time management

Continuing in the same vein, presenteeism will be severely reduced with a hybrid setup. Employees won’t show up to the office and go through the motions. They won’t concern themselves with busywork, as if they’re in the office it’s to get stuff done.

Spend less and recruit better talent

Another boon is less overhead costs. Hybrid work models require less office space, so having a huge office might not be ideal. A smaller office could suit your needs better. Employers also have access to a larger talent pool with remote work. Instead of competing for talent locally, now employers can source their talent from the richer and larger global pool. Essentially, you can bring in the best people for the role as opposed to the best talent nearby. A final advantage, but surely not the last is that if god forbid, another global event happens where remote work is required, your company will be prepared for it already.

The disadvantages of working remotely

You can’t mention the pros, without the cons. The main one, that’s noticeable for everyone in the organization, is that it’s a lot harder to maintain a tight-knit company culture when you’re not in the office every day.

Challenges in forming real connections

Zoom meetups and virtual happy hours are poor substitutes for the real thing. As you really can’t replace face-to-face interaction, it’s human nature to need it. Plus, you can miss out on the little social happenings when you don’t have chats over the water cooler, take after-lunch walks, or the typical banter that occurs on a daily basis when you’re in close proximity with your colleagues.

Blurred boundaries between work life and personal life

There’s also the problem that it becomes harder to disconnect from work. If your workplace is your home, your kitchen, etc then the distinction between work and home is blurry. Instead of having the clear boundaries that exist when going to an office, and confining your personal life to outside of the office, they blend together as your workspace is now your home. This can lead to burnout as employees never get to “turn off” from work mode.

Out of sight, out of mind

One of the last cons is that employees can be looked over for deserved promotions, or the true amount of effort and work they put in won’t be properly recognized. This ties into the presenteeism trend, where if managers don’t see you working, they don’t internalize it or acknowledge it.

What tools can help you implement a hybrid work model?

To establish a hybrid work model, you’re going to need some tools that allow for your teams to work effectively together despite the distance. We’ve got a blog that highlights all of the tools at your disposal that could make collaboration outside of the office possible. You can refer to that one for an in-depth list of every tool that could help you work smarter, not harder. But of course, there’s also Oneflow, which could certainly help all of your teams work on the same page, regardless of where they are.

Tools that make hybrid work possible, such as Oneflow

What does the future hold?

Looking into the tea leaves and predicting the future is always hard to do. Especially with a constantly developing topic like hybrid work. It’s genuinely a toss-up as to how things will unfold. There’s nothing set in stone. This really is a massive social experiment that we’re all partaking in, in real-time. Not since the post-war era has the workforce undergone massive shifts that we’re seeing today. Each company is trying to figure out what works best for them, and taking the steps to ensure it’s a long-term viable solution.

So as time goes on and more and more companies come up with their own spin on hybrid work, it’s going to look different depending on the company, sector along with tons of other factors. One thing for sure though, is that the future of work will look different than the past. How different? Only time will tell.

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