The Future of "Hybrid" Work

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A decade ago, a fully remote staff was a far-fetched concept. Not anymore. There are now more than five-million people working remotely in the United States alone, and regular work from home has more than doubled since 2005. From cost savings to improved productivity, there are a variety of reasons to move from office-based to home-based employment; however, some job duties simply cannot be fulfilled remotely, and for many companies the middle ground remains the best solution. That middle ground is the hybrid work model.

“It’s time for leaders to get real about hybrid,” warned McKinsey & Company in July 2021. Employers may be “ready to get back to significant in-person presence” amid the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, but their workers aren’t — and “the disconnect” may be “deeper than most employers believe.” 

Indeed, while more than 75% of C-suite executives recently told McKinsey they expected their “core” employees to be back in the office at least three days a week, more than half of the 5,000 employees surveyed said they wanted to work from home at least three days a week. 

As of April 2021, 83% of workers preferred a hybrid work model, and 63% of high-growth companies had already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model. Indeed, there’s no denying hybrid work is “here for the foreseeable future, and organizations that do not embrace it could experience significant retention, engagement, and talent acquisition challenges.”

The Pros and Cons of a Hybrid Work Model

Historically, companies that allow employees to work from home experience 25% less turnover, along with 40% fewer quality defects in the work of their employees. This is because, with increased freedom and flexibility, remote employees:

  • Don’t spend time or energy commuting to and from work
  • Aren’t distracted by their coworkers
  • Take breaks when they need to
  • Schedule work when they can be most focused and productive
  • Take fewer sick days
  • Take less vacation time, and often work when traveling
  • Feel empowered by the implicit trust of their managers and company leadership. 

The Right Hybrid Work Model for You

While your hybrid work model should be based on your employees, and your policies are likely to evolve as you test what does and doesn’t work for your organization, there are four basic models:

The At-Will Hybrid Work Model

Especially useful for employees who prefer to work at home but want to come into the office for meetings or particular projects, the at-will hybrid work model allows employees to choose the work arrangement that works best for them on any given day. A number of companies have developed a work-at-the-office request process to ensure that social distancing requirements are met.

The Split-Week Hybrid Work Model

Particularly valuable for managers seeking a regular cadence to face-to-face group meetings, the split-week hybrid work model divides the week between in-office and at-home work. Most companies employing this model split up the week based on department or job duties.

The Shift Work Hybrid Work Model

A more complicated model to successfully implement, the shift work hybrid work model employees workers in shifts, alternating between working from home and working morning or evening shifts on site. Unfortunately, shift work often requires employees to set up additional childcare solutions, which could increase your benefits costs.

The Week-by-Week Hybrid Work Model

Perfect for organizations with large teams that need to meet up in person, the week-by-week hybrid model schedules teams to work in the office or at home on a weekly basis.

Of course, if you’re not fully remote, you have to ensure that there’s equity, inclusion and constant communication between and among remote and in-office workers and management.

Changing your work model is never easy, and if created and implemented without proper care and consideration you could face a variety of challenges. With that said, the future of work no longer entails people commuting into city centers “to work by themselves in rows, to be monitored in an old-fashioned presenteeism style of management that was invented more than 100 years ago.” Instead, says Nicola Gillen, a London-based workplace strategy and design specialist and author of Future Office, “they will come to the office more purposefully for specific reasons,” like collaborative work, meetings and brainstorming sessions. 

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