In May 2020, Fujitsu Japan surveyed the approximately 80,000 employees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 55% said they now prefer working at home and in the office.
This was a surprise since it wasn’t long ago when nearly three-quarters of these employees favored working only in the office.
However, this change of perspective isn’t an isolated instance.
A global study conducted by Cisco Technologies, Inc. showed that an average of 61.14% of office workers prefer the hybrid working environment over working in the office or working remotely full-time.
In this article, I’ll be sharing with you what precisely hybrid work is, why it’s now being viewed as the future of work, and should you even make the transition.
What Does Hybrid Work Mean?
Hybrid work—also called telecommuting—is a business model where you split the time you work inside and outside the office’s four walls.
How often you report to the office depends on the company you’re working for. Most companies, like Apple, tell their employees how many days (and even what days) they should work in the office. Others, like Twitter and LinkedIn, give their employees the freedom to choose how many days a week they’ll work remotely and in the office.
Why is Hybrid Work So Popular?
For this, we must go back to the days before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Back then, most companies across industries worldwide required their employees to work in their offices.
That all changed when the pandemic hit.
Suddenly, companies had to close their offices, and everyone had to stay home. The abrupt changes forced many companies to allow employees to work from home.
At first, many were thrilled by the change.
Finally! They don’t have to worry about long commutes to and from the office and can spend more time with their families.
Not to mention that they don’t even have to fix themselves up (except when they need to attend a virtual meeting).
But after several months, the dark side of remote working finally came to light.
The Rise in Mental Health Disorders
The isolation people felt because of the COVID-19 pandemic saw increased anxiety, depression, burnout, and other mental health conditions among adults.
Image Source: Statista
This wasn’t only happening in the US. The World Health Organization recently reported a 25% increase in people suffering from mental health disorders across the globe.
Image Source: Middle East Current Psychiatry
Even people used to working from home (like me) weren’t immune.
Prevalence of cyberattacks
Cybersecurity was another primary concern.
Hackers knew that not all companies could provide their employees with laptops to use while working remotely. They took advantage of the pandemic to exploit vulnerabilities in the personal laptops and computers these employees were using.
As a result, the number of reported cyberattacks increased by at least 133% in just a month.
If that wasn’t bad enough, consider that a company loses $137,000, on average, when their data is breached.
Remote Work Isn’t for Everyone
Perhaps the most significant realization was disproving the belief that people will be more productive when working outside their office.
A friend who worked as a Country Manager for a multinational wellness company shared her experience working from home.
“Before the pandemic, the front door of my house physically divided work from my personal life,” she explained.
“Once I step out of the door, I shift to corporate mode. When I enter it, I shift back to being just me. When I started working from home, that divide wasn’t there anymore. I kept turning my corporate me on and off many times a day, like a kid playing with a light switch. It was crazy!”
“So it’s much better for you to work in the office all the time?” I asked.
“Most of the time, yes,” she said. “Sometimes, I’d meet in a restaurant or work in a coffee shop just to change the environment. But I still need to return to the office because that’s where I can only get most of my work done.”
Which is another reason why remote working isn’t for everyone. It won’t work in specific industries and businesses, as shown in the graph below.
The Downside of the Hybrid Workplace
Even though there are several advantages to implementing the hybrid work model, it does have its set of limitations and disadvantages.
The Hybrid Work Model Isn’t for All Industries
No matter how appealing hybrid work is, the sad reality is that there are just some industries that aren’t designed for it.
That’s because, for the hybrid work model to work, your employees need to be able to do their jobs whether they’re working in the office or a fully remote setting.
Team Collaboration Remain a Challenge
This is especially true if you allow your team to choose their hybrid work schedule.
But as we all know, internet connections aren’t created equal. There will still be cases when screens of your team members hang, or they break up while they’re doing a presentation or providing their insights.
Let’s not forget that many people working from home don’t have a dedicated home office where they can work. So, in addition to dealing with the challenges brought about by our respective internet connections, we also would need to deal with ambient noises like vehicles passing by, kids playing in the background, and even the occasional interruptions caused by other people within the home.
Possible Friction Among Employees
In some cases, companies would transform specific departments into remote teams, while others would have to return to work full-time in traditional offices.
From the outside, this arrangement makes sense. After all, if the employees in these departments can get their job done well even if they’re working from home, why not let them?
Unfortunately, that’s not the way how your employees may view it.
Employees forced to report to the office may view those working from home taking their sweet time doing the tasks assigned to them. Some may even consider their colleagues working remotely more privileged and favored by the company.
On the other hand, remote workers may find themselves working longer hours than those working in the office.
At the same time, they don’t have the opportunity to bond and socialize with other employees within the company. So, when they are required to report to the office, these remote employees experience feeling entirely left out and isolated.
The division brought about by the animosity between in-office workers, and remote team members can severely damage employee morale and your hybrid work culture long-term.
There’s Still the Potential for Burnout
Going through changes, particularly sudden changes, can be highly stressful.
We experienced this over two years ago at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it caught the world off-guard.
Businesses had to make sudden changes to their operations, including getting employees to work from home—many of them working from home for the first time in their lives.
That sudden shift was stressful. Some were eventually able to adjust to it and thrived. Others, like my friend, didn’t.
Now that things are returning to normal, those who have adjusted well to working from home have to face the grim reality of reporting back to the office.
Even though they only need to report to the office a few days in a work week, the abrupt change in working environments and arrangements can still be overwhelming and stressful, causing even those that would welcome a hybrid work model to be prone to experiencing the symptoms of burnout.
Things to Consider Before Shifting to Hybrid Work
1. Determine if You Need to Make a Change
Before you even begin taking steps to transition your business to adopt the hybrid work model, you need to first ensure that this will be the best solution for your business.
If your employees are working remotely, compare their overall work performance with how they performed before the pandemic. If the level of their work performance didn’t change between these two periods or if their performance improved while working from home, you may want to consider keeping their current working arrangements.
When conducting the survey, it’s essential to make sure that you word the introduction in a way that assures the confidentiality of your employees’ answers and that these would not, in any way, be taken against them.
Doing this will ensure that the responses you’ll get are honest, not what they assume you’d want to get.
2. Choose Which Hybrid Work Model Will You Implement
After determining that implementing a hybrid work arrangement will benefit your business, you’ll need to decide what type of hybrid working arrangement you will implement in your business.
Here are the most common hybrid work schedules companies are currently implementing:
Remote-First Hybrid Work
This hybrid work model is very similar to remote working in that your employees would work most of the time outside the office. They’ll only be required to report to the office when you have an important team meeting or if they choose to work in the office.
Of the different hybrid work models, this is used by businesses who adopted remote working during the pandemic and have seen positive changes.
Office-First Hybrid Work
This is the polar opposite of the remote-first hybrid work model. In this case, the employees are required to report to work while giving some the option to work remotely.
This, in my opinion, is the least effective hybrid work environment because it opens the door to many of the disadvantages I mentioned earlier.
For starters, even though employees are given the option to work remotely, they run the risk of getting alienated from other team members or colleagues. So, even if they have that option, they will not take it.
Second, this shift is extremely abrupt. Remember that even though your employees may have reported to the office every day before the pandemic, they spent at least a year working from home.
Some business owners say that returning their employees to work in the office is like riding a bike. Once you learn how to do it, you can always get back on and do it again.
That may be true. But if you haven’t ridden a bike for some time and try to get on one, you’ll find yourself wobbling, even falling the first time you get on again.
Occasional Office Hybrid Work Model
As you may have guessed, this hybrid work model equally splits time between working from home and at the office.
How the days are split greatly depends on the company. Some would require the employees to come to work a few times a week. Others will require their employees to interchange working in the office and at home every week.
When the employees are required to report to work also differs from business to business. For some, the employees’ schedules are mandated by their superiors. Others will give more flexibility to their employees by allowing them to choose when they want to report to the office.
3. Have the Proper Hybrid Work Policies in Place
Once you’ve decided which hybrid work model you want to implement for your business, you must ensure that you adjust and establish your work policies.
Here are some questions to help you out:
- What role would your physical office space play in your new working arrangement? Is it going to now be a venue purely for collaboration, or will it still be the primary hybrid work space?
- Would you be making any adjustments to their salaries? (This is especially important if you had to cut back your employees’ salary during the height of the pandemic while they were working from home)
- What measures will you put in place to ensure that the transition will be smooth for all your employees?
- How will you ensure that your remote employees won’t feel like their alienated or passed up for promotions simply because they chose to work remotely?
- What steps will you take to ensure that you provide your clients with the same quality of customer service once you implement the change?
Hiring a business consultant can help you with this.
In addition to helping you determine whether or not transitioning to a hybrid work model will be the best move for your business, a business consultant specializing in process improvement can help you identify, update, and even streamline the current policies you have in place, so it aligns with your new hybrid work setup.
A business consultant can also bring to light potential questions and concerns your office workers will have once you announce the changes. That way, you’ll be in a better position to prepare for the next step, which is…
4. Get Everyone Onboard
As with any change implemented within an organization, the only way for it to be successful is if everyone supports it 100%.
Remember that not everyone will accept the change with open arms. In fact, expect you to encounter resistance once you announce the change.
When that happens, keep your cool and focus on the benefits they’ll experience from the change you’ll be implementing.
Also, allow your employees to ask questions.
I know this can be scary, especially if you encounter questions you won’t be able to answer immediately.
Nevertheless, let them ask.
Often, the main reason why people are resistant to change is that they’re things that they either don’t understand or understand incorrectly.
Allowing your employees to air out their questions and concerns will increase their chances of buying into the change you want to implement.
And if you encounter a question you don’t know the answer to, be honest and tell them you don’t know.
But don’t leave it there.
Make an effort to find the answer and get back to that employee with the answer.
Bottom line: Your employees will be more accepting of the change if they can see that your top priorities are their welfare and job satisfaction.
5. Be Open to Feedback
No matter how much preparation you’ve made for adopting hybrid work into your business, there’s always room for improvement.
So make it a point in the first few months of the transition to ask for feedback from your employees and managers.
That way, you can make the necessary adjustments if needed.
Hybrid Work = Striking a Balance
Hybrid work offers businesses and their employees the best of both worlds.
For business owners, it allows you to cut back on your expenses, ensuring that your clients are happy with your products and services and hit your revenue goals.
For employees, it means working in an environment where they’re most productive while still striking a balance between work and their personal lives.
Make sure that you take the time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of implementing the hybrid work model in your business.
Above all, prioritize your employees’ input before making the transition.
They’re more than people. They’re the lifeblood of your business!
Without their support, skills, and experience, your business will suffer.
Are you considering adopting hybrid work into your business? Why or why not?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.