Hybrid working has been hovering in the hallways for decades - offering employee flexibility through an ecosystem of work from home, co-working spaces and the office. But it wasn’t until the quarantine force-fed us the concept and upside of remote-working en masse that the hybrid working solution became ubiquitous and understood by all.
When COVID-19 first emptied offices and transformed homes into workplaces and workout areas, some predicted it would be the death of the office and the gym, the dawn of a new era of flexible timetables and mass exodus from cities.
Others – and certainly the majority of major brands and businesses – saw it as (and hoped it to be) a temporary disruption. Something that would cease as soon as restrictions were lifted and offices reopened.
As, with most things, the reality lies somewhere in the middle. We continue to experience settling pains with a shift in staff sentiment with people demanding more life balance. Aspects of what we do, how we do it and – specifically pertinent here – ‘where’ we do it, remain deeply challenged.
My Way or the Hybrid Way
Proof that remote and hybrid working was gaining popularity prior to the pandemic was reported in a global, 2019 survey by International Workplace Group (IWG), where 70% of professionals reported working away from the office at least one day per week . During the same year in the US, the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirmed that approximately 24% of employed persons did some, or all, of their work remotely.
There were however, huge variations between geographies and industries. Technology, creative professions, consulting, and financial services were among the sectors that embraced remote work arrangements, while industries that required physical presence, such as healthcare, manufacturing, and retail, obviously lagged behind.
The forced adoption of remote work due to extensive quarantines created the seismic shift of the tectonic plates that workplaces were bolted to. And just like that, and the studies piled up, workers proved to be more productive away from work and better balanced being closer to family.
Research from Owl Labs found that employees with a hybrid or remote working option were 22% happier than workers in an office environment – and they also stayed in their jobs longer. Remote workers were also shown to have less stress and were more productive.
Research by Harvard Business School found that remote work during the pandemic led to a slight increase in average work hours, resulting in longer work days for many employees.
Another report, from Ergotron – based on 1,000 full-time workers – cited 56% of the employees surveyed claimed mental health improvements, better work-life balance and more physical activity due to being empowered by hybrid and remote office options.
Those resisting the hybrid trend started to adjust their attitude and pocket books as fixed costs of office space and travel came down and productivity, in general, went up.
As restrictions were lifted and the world reopened – and there was pressure to return, at least in some form, to office-based working. And that’s how “hybrid working”, as we know it today, was truly born.
So which hybrid should reign supreme?
The post-pandemic period has spawned several variants: people first, office first, remote first.
Rotational Hybrid - a predefined schedule where employees rotate between working remotely and working from the office.
Split Schedule - the workweek is divided between remote and office-based work days. A popular mix is 3 days in and 2 days out.
Core Office Days - employees work remotely and only come into the office for specific core days or times when in-person collaboration or meetings are necessary.
Flexible Onsite/Remote - team members have the flexibility to choose when and where they work, depending on their personal preferences and job requirements.
Project-based Hybrid - where location is dictated by the requirements of specific projects. When a project demands closer collaboration, the team is in the office, if not, or when the project is completed they can return to remote work.
Ad hoc Hybrid - the ultimate model of employee flexibility where they each decide on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis, whether they will work from the office or remotely.
In addition to hybrid there are additional ways that our worklife is being reshaped.
For example, a McKinsey report confirms three broad trends that COVID-19 has accelerated and that will continue to reshape work long after the pandemic is in the rear view mirror:
virtual meetings are here to stay
a faster adoption of automation and AI
the mix of occupations will shift.
Other worthy mentionables we witness at Good Soul Hunting, as we match great people with great roles, include:
4-day Work Weeks – are being piloted by brands like EXOS - in response to the burnout epidemic with an intention to improve people’s capacity to operate and perform at their best.
Fractional Roles – part-time roles that bring a higher caliber of candidate to a role without the full weight of their salary, less burnout hours, and a possible nod to increased adoption of automation and ai
Going Beyond the Box – organizations are more prepared to seek nontraditional candidates in order to expand their talent pipelines
Relocation Packages – now that many fled to the hills and more affordable zip codes who pays to bring you back?
Dedication to DEI – proactive DEI initiatives are being driven forward, despite growing pushback from some quarters
Quiet Hiring – brands are leveraging their existing employees' capabilities to acquire new skills without recruiting new full-time staff
Baby, Come Back - some brands are demanding their people come back, to the way things were as they realize cultural deficiencies and the power of being together.
How will you entice employees back?
Employment law aside (including the right for flexible working through maternity) having to work in an office space is now often seen as a sacrifice by a post-pandemic talent pool.
Therefore, you need to make the case for any office-based work. Hybrid is here to stay but it’s up to each brand to decide where they sit on the continuum and which version works best for them and their employees but the stakes have changed to keep your stars on the court.
Good Soul Suggestions
1. Consider covering the commute costs - perhaps paying the lot as part of a package
2. Provide physical health and wellness benefits at or near work, like a gym
3. Host compelling face to face professional development training
4. Introduce access to new technology at the office
5. Cater food as a social service and benefit
6. Encourage a comfortable dress code
7. Offer personalized pick & mix perks
8. Pay more for lack of flexibility.
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