As the world went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of us had to experiment with a whole new work arrangement. Remote working and work from home policies took effect.
However, the nature of some organizations’ work just doesn’t allow for a 100% remote work policy! The answer to this was some sort of balance between the two—a compromise that has produced what’s known as the hybrid workplace model.
In this arrangement, employees can perform their tasks from the office, while occasionally doing some of their work from outside the office (mostly their homes). This triggered the redesigning of office spaces based on the number of people at the office and capacity of the space under social distancing policies. We’ve seen readjusted, more flexible work schedules to accommodate both remote workers and those stationed at the office.
According to a recent Salesforce survey, at least 64% of workers like the idea of working from outside the office occasionally. Another 37% want to continue full-time work from home after the pandemic. Much as this concept may sound great in theory, it’s definitely a tricky one to execute effectively. Let’s go through some of the pros and cons of a hybrid workplace:
Pros of a hybrid workplace
Emphasis on productivity, not efficiency
The hybrid model allows for us to redefine our measurement of performance. Traditionally, employers want to have as much of the workforce present at the office, guaranteeing hours worked, maximizing efficiency. Management would look at the completion of projects from an “hours inputted” kind of view.
Now, with some employees working remotely, it becomes important to pinpoint who’s directly responsible for what project, and have a clear understanding of how much they can realistically achieve in a day. The focus for management becomes improving productivity—supporting teammates with the resources they need and scoping projects in a clear workflow.
Thankfully, there areworkforce scheduling tools available which help employers easily manage shift rotations, institute breaks and manage schedules from any device or location to facilitate remote work. These tools aren’t only useful for the managers—by using them, every member of the team stays up-to-date on who’s doing what, and what progress is made everyday.
Reduced cost of operation
With a reduction in the number of employees at the office, employers are finding themselves in need of less office space. Not only can a hybrid model lead to rental cost savings, fewer office supplies are needed.
For example, there’s no longer a “normal” demand for refilling snacks and the water dispenser. Here’s a story of how the telework program by AT&T helped the company save USD30 million in annual real estate costs.
The hybrid model also means that employees are spending less time and money on commuting, which is great news to those unable to find affordable accommodation close to the office.
Employees no longer need to be in the same meeting room to brainstorm or collaborate.
With the adoption of asynchronous communication and video call software, meetings are now location-independent thanks to internal communication systems. For example, our friends at Jostle provide a user-friendly intranet with targeted announcements, social posts, quick updates and sign-off features that promote synergy amongst scattered employees and still give that feeling of everyone being in the same place and working together.
We’ve seen greater work-life integration with the hybrid work model. Working away from the office demands flexibility and trust from management. Some employers have also supplied employees with portable or customized work fittings like standing desks, orthopaedic furniture to break the monotony and routine at home.
More companies are implementing 1:1 meetings on a regular basis to check in with individual employees, on their professional and personal lives. This helps team members discuss critical milestones and update each other on relevant achievements or pain points.
Cons of a hybrid workplace
Diminished client experience
In many businesses, there’s a certain level of specialization for client management. Without the mandatory need for customer-facing employees to station at the office, some urgent cases may be neglected, take for instance lawyers specializing in copyright and patent infringement.
If customers are used to coming in for a physical consultation for specialist services, for example at the bank, this may disrupt the familiar customer experience. While technology can help mitigate this problem, it takes time to transition to new standardized procedures smoothly.
Increased employee isolation
As employees go long periods of time away from each other focusing on their individual tasks, the relationship and camaraderie built through physically being present at the office may be weakened.
Some employees may feel demotivated and lonely when inside jokes, stories, and company outings are no longer available during the work day. Marginalized groups like women and people of color in the workplace find it even harder for their opinions to be heard.
Without the convenience to just swivel your chair and get on-demand face-to-face discussions, it’s hard to bounce ideas off co-workers, and communication has become much more intentional with the need to arrange calls. With minimal input from colleagues in organic interactions, this barrier might lead to poor decision making and a further need to revise work procedures.
Heightened cyber risks
Cyber-attacks and other related pitfalls like data loss are more likely when working and communicating from changing locations. Companies need to secure their digital footprint through constant software updates, robust password management, and multi-factor authentication as they’re more prone to risk of data breach.
Employers have the added duty to get workers retrained on things like connecting to company infrastructure securely, backing up data, and implementing recovery plans. It’s essential to create continuity plans and response procedures in the case of outages—all this inevitably drives up cyber security expenditure.
Employers have to constantly revise their systems to ensure that they’re both democratic and effective. Since the office is typically the center of information and operations, power may be skewed towards those spending more time there. This can deteriorate into a situation where people fall into camps as time spent at the office may become unconscious measurements on loyalty and devotion towards the organization. All this breaks unity as some employees start to feel less favored than others according to their schedule and location.
Difficulty maintaining productive routines
Needless to say, work-life integration comes with its unique set of challenges. Common for parents, meetings may often line up in the middle of attending to kids or other errands and chores.
Managers are faced with a new challenge as they have to be aware and empathize with the individual circumstances of each employee. The quest to find new arrangements that satisfy communication and the personal lives of teammates creates an added layer of work.
Furthermore, working from home has led to the concern of burnout and may not be the most productive. A new set of habits have emerged, like power naps and walks around the block. Some employees may be overwhelmed by the need to toggle between two different sets of work routines, at home and in the office.
The hybrid workplace model might be an inevitable arrangement for many organizations in the future. Now that you have a clearer picture of some of the pros and cons, think about what will work best for your organization’s unique circumstances and people.
At Deputy, 95% of staff are working from home every single day, and the leadership team has met briefly for important team meetings in a socially distant manner. This means we’re currently using a limited hybrid workplace model that’ll likely transform into a more balanced one in 2021 when it’s safer to return to our multiple. Our experience with remote working has been very positive so far—though we've had to adapt how we work as a team, heavily relying on conference call software and other best practices!
Deputy is the ultimate workforce manager, offering businesses the best technology in a web based solution. Simplifying your scheduling, timesheets, tasking, and employee communication. With brilliant apps and one click payroll integration, we make your life easier. Let us get you back to loving your business again.
Chloe's why is people; she gets her kicks from intensifying the purpose and exploring the potential of those around her. She works as Head of People & Culture at Deputy, a robust scheduling software that can be used to manage your workforce in a wide variety of different industries. Chloe sees her work as an extension of her lifestyle and is constantly working on revolutionizing the people and culture space.
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