The COVID-19 pandemic has been wreaking havoc on our lives since early 2020 and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive end in sight. Fortunately, things are definitely starting to improve thanks to the rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is nearing its end. Several countries are still reporting a high number of new cases daily and there’s no guarantee that things are going to quietly return to normal.
In fact, many people are starting to realise that what we’re experiencing now may be the new normal – at least in terms of work.
Remote working has become a huge topic over the past two years due to the presence of COVID-19. Working in an office has become extremely difficult due to social distancing and fears over spreading the virus. As such, many companies have responded by developing at-home work arrangements to continue operations without the need for a physical location. As a result of this, many companies have abandoned their offices in favour of a more agile remote workflow – including hybrid working. Some companies have experienced promising gains as a result of this, but others have shut down for good due to being unable to adapt to a completely digital workflow.
In addition, a relatively new development is starting to take place; hybrid working. Instead of just being confined to the home or office, hybrid working is about mixing both at-home work processes with in-office ones. This flexible working arrangement is becoming the new trend that companies all over the world are adopting, but does it come with enough benefits to make it worth investing in?
What exactly is hybrid working?
A textbook definition of hybrid working would be something along the lines of “a flexible working arrangement where an employee can choose to spend their time working in the office or remotely”. For example, someone may choose to work two days a week in the office, but then choose to work at home for the remaining days. They can mix this up as much as they want, and they can have certain weeks where they don’t work in the office at all.
Hybrid working isn’t necessarily a new development. For some people, this was already an option that was available to them before the pandemic. It’s only now that we’re really starting to see companies adopt the idea of hybrid working and invest more resources into it. If anything, the COVID-19 pandemic served to accelerate the adoption of hybrid working, making it an incredibly popular option to ensure that businesses could remain operational.
Do all companies offer hybrid working opportunities?
Most companies that can benefit from remote working have largely adopted it as a standard in their company. In fact, many of these companies have gotten rid of their offices to save on business expenses, leading to more capital being spent on improving the company and recruiting remote staff. However, this is on the extreme end of the spectrum. It’s mainly the companies that were already heavily invested in remote workflows that could quickly and efficiently shed their physical offices. Other companies still rely on in-person workplaces and it’s unlikely that they’ll be giving them up anytime soon.
Here are some great examples of how large companies are reacting to the global shift to hybrid and remote workflows.
Netflix takes a very traditional approach to hybrid working. CEO Reed Hastings has said that “remote work is a pure negative”. With that said, he has acknowledged the importance of remote work during a situation such as a global pandemic. While he expects that most of his staff will return to their offices, he understands the need for hybrid workflows. He expects that many companies will start to adopt a flexible workflow where employees work mostly in the office with one day being spent at home.
Before the pandemic, the majority of Fujitsu’s staff worked long hours in the office. This is perhaps a side effect of the company’s Japanese roots where the work culture typically involves long work days and plenty of face-to-face engagement. However, as the implications of COVID-19 were starting to form in February 2020, the company was already bracing for a major transformation. By the middle of March 2020, only 15% of Fujitsu’s employees saw the office as the ideal work location. The same survey showed that 30% felt that the best place was their home, but the majority at 55% preferred a hybrid model that mixed both the home and office.
We’ve seen a traditionalist office-first approach and a hybrid-focused approach, so what about a company that has a bias towards remote working? Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Cesky says that “employees are in charge, not companies”. This resonates with the company’s agile and decentralised business model that has fully embraced the idea of remote working. Although the Airbnb rental model suffered as a result of COVID-19, their workflow flourished as they made a complete switch to a remote-focused arrangement. This was largely driven by employee need, encouraging the company to accommodate a fully remote workflow to attract the best talent they could.
As you can see, not all companies are supportive of a hybrid workflow, let alone a remote one. Some companies are focused on traditional working principles and are adamant about sticking to offices to encourage face-to-face engagement. Other companies are fully supportive of a hybrid workflow and are willing to do what’s needed in order to sustain company growth. But there are also some companies that have fully adopted the idea of remote working and show no signs of returning.
What are the benefits of hybrid working?
So what exactly are the benefits of hybrid working and why are so many companies adopting it as a standard? We’ve compiled a few benefits backed up by statistics gathered from a survey that was taken by 1,000 employees across different industries within the UK.
One of the biggest reasons why companies are moving to a hybrid working arrangement is because it has the potential to improve productivity. As more employees are given the flexibility to work as they want in an environment that is comfortable to them, they’re more inclined to work faster and be more productive over the course of an average workday. However, productivity increases can depend on the style of hybrid working that the company chooses.
With a full hybrid work arrangement that allows employees to work in the office and at home as they please, around 69% of respondents felt they were being productive. With a split-week model, that number drops to 56% but still maintains the advantage. But as employees start to lose control of when they work at home or in the office, we start to see a decrease in perceived productivity. With a shift work model where employees work in alternating shifts, only 47% felt that they were being productive at home. With a week-by-week model where teams spend one week in the office and one week at home, only 47% felt that they were being productive.
These numbers show that the more control you give to your employees, the more likely they’ll be productive.
Increased job satisfaction
The survey found that around 53% of employees feel that they’re more satisfied with their jobs as a result of hybrid work options. This number isn’t a staggering figure that eclipses the idea of working in the office, but the numbers once again point to a preference for flexible working hours.
The survey found that with flexible hybrid arrangements where employees are free to choose, around 65% of respondents felt satisfied with their job since the pandemic began. But as with the productivity statistics, this number starts to drop as they lose control over when and where they work. It shows that hybrid working arrangements are extremely popular, but only if employees are given more control.
Improved mental health and wellbeing
Lastly, hybrid working has the potential to improve the mental health and wellbeing of employees. With the pandemic weighing on the minds of employees, it’s no surprise that morale at work has been at an all-time low. During the early stages of the pandemic, reports of psychological distress increased from 20.8% in 2019 to 29.5% in April 2020. More recent reports show that the population’s mental health and wellbeing had further decreased during the winter period between 2020 and 2021. So how does hybrid working help to improve this?
As with the previous two benefits, results can vary depending on the style of hybrid working. With the at-will model, 54% of employees felt that they were doing well in terms of overall wellbeing and mental health. In comparison, 60% of employees that followed the split-week model said they were doing well with their mental health and wellbeing. This bucks the trend of the previous two benefits where more personal control meant more benefit. But as expected, the shift work model and week-by-week model saw more employees report that they were not doing well. This shows that flexibility is good for hybrid working, but too much can often cause unwanted stress.
Hybrid working certainly has benefits and these have been backed up by statistics. There are plenty of other benefits that may apply to employees on a case-by-case benefit, but these are much more difficult to quantify which is why we have decided not to include them. For instance, some employees may find that having more control over their day gives them more flexibility to carry out personal responsibilities, making it easier for them to manage their work and life balance. Others might also find that a hybrid work arrangement helps them save on commuting expenses.
Is hybrid working here to stay?
Statistics have shown that 53% of workers across the globe want a hybrid working model where they spend half of their time in the office and the other half at home. But as research has shown, a full 50-50 split isn’t the most effective way to take advantage of the benefits of remote working. A flexible approach is needed, both in terms of allowing employees to approach hybrid working as they see fit, but also flexibility in how a company approaches the adoption of hybrid workflows. Not all companies will see eye to eye when building new processes that can facilitate hybrid working, but there’s no doubt that giving your staff more control over where they work can lead to huge benefits.
How you approach hybrid working will have a huge impact on its success for your business. With so many companies adopting different kinds of hybrid workflows, it’s clear that there isn’t a single solution that works for every business and it’s essential that you look at your company’s analytics and speak with your staff to build a productive hybrid work environment.
Hybrid working is constantly growing and adapting to the needs of employees. Every company has its own solutions and not every business will follow the same model of hybrid working. It’s incredibly important to consult your staff when it comes to building hybrid work processes so that you can accommodate their needs and ensure that your business remains stable and productive. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution and you’ll have to pay attention to how your business is performing if you want to make the most of this trend.