Why companies should consider hybrid work an asset, not a threat
Many employees consider hybrid work to be the best of both worlds. Hybrid workers spend some of their time working remotely and some of their time in their company’s place of work. They get the autonomy and lower expenditure of time and financial resources by working remotely, and the benefits of getting out of the house or wherever they are working from when they go into the office. They can see colleagues and collaborate when necessary, but don’t have to do the daily commute.
Companies are not always so impressed with the idea of hybrid work. They fear a lack of supervision will lead to lower productivity. They are afraid that without the strong working ‘culture’ that tends to grow when people are working in the same workspaces, their organisational identity might be lost. They worry that teamwork and communication will suffer and potentially breakdown.
But what are the facts around hybrid work? Is it an asset or a threat to a company?
What is the post-pandemic situation with hybrid work?
People are often surprised to learn that around 30% of employees were working remotely on some basis before the pandemic forced everyone to leave their offices and set up at home. We tend now to think of remote work as something that was forced upon us that we were not ready for.
Many companies muddled their way through the start of the pandemic while their people, systems, and technology struggled to keep up. Fast forward a few years and we have adapted to a new way of online working. Meetings, workshops, consultations, training, and development: they all had to go online. It was not a seamless transition, but we have managed to replicate online a great number of interactions that previously would have only been deemed possible in person.
For a while remote work seemed to be the future. Companies saw the cost benefits of not having to keep up premises or pay expenses for people travelling to meetings, and so on. And as we struggled to see a way out of the new pandemic world in which we found ourselves, it seemed like the perfect solution. But then we wrestled control from the virus and went back to open societies. While not everything is the same post Covid, it would be possible to return to pre-pandemic working practices.
Having seemingly embraced the concept of hybrid work during the pandemic, many companies have changed focus. Some are now expecting their workforces to return to the office full time. Post-pandemic, the percentage of employees working from home on some basis has increased to 48%. A recent American survey found that ‘68% of employees would prefer to be fully remote’. This reluctance to return to the office has not gone down well with all employers.
Why do some companies want their employees back in the office full time?
Organizations have various reasons for wanting their employees back in the office full time. They cite things like team building, connection, and collaboration as elements that suffer when employees are not working together in person. Let’s take a look at the rationale for having employees back in the office.
Some companies claim that in-person collaboration is more effective and efficient. Being physically present in the office, they say, will allow employees to work better together, share ideas, and develop stronger relationships. They claim that a structured working environment without the potential distractions of working from home enables greater productivity. Working in person can allow for faster feedback and greater support. If more and better training and development opportunities are available because people are working together, this can also help with future career development.
This also ties into the idea that a company’s culture will be more vibrant and easily preserved when employees are together in person. They believe that a strong sense of community around company values and a better employee experience comes from workers spending time together.
Why do some companies feel threatened by hybrid work?
Many large companies have recently been reported in the press as requiring their employees return to the office. Apple employees have resisted the call, and many Twitter employees resigned when new owner Elon Musk banned remote work and insisted employees be prepared for long hours in the office. Musk was forced to reassess his position.
A recent Forbes article suggests that companies are more interested in maintaining control over their employees than they are concerned about productivity. There is a lack of trust that employees are really doing the work for which they are being paid. Managers fear work and productivity will suffer.
As communication can potentially be more difficult with employees working remotely or on a hybrid basis, some organizations are concerned that this could lead to misunderstandings, missed deadlines and poor teamwork due to reduced collaboration. Employers need their staff to come up with creative ideas and solve problems efficiently and worry that this will suffer.
People fear change and organizations are no different. They worry that changing something could make them less successful.
How can hybrid work be an asset for companies?
Productivity increases with remote work
Despite employers fearing that their employees’ productivity might suffer with hybrid work, the statistics suggest that hybrid work actually makes employees more productive. When asked, ‘40% of workers believe that they’ve been more productive while working at home during the pandemic, as opposed to the office’, and ‘32.2% of managers agree that productivity has increased after the 2020 remote work shift’. Stanford University looked at the results of a study prior to the pandemic, and found that ‘working from home increased productivity among a group of 16,000 workers by 13% over the course of nine months’.
Organizations can access a wider range of talent
If you need your employees to come into the office five days a week, they need to live within a radius of that office that is easily commutable. If, however, they only need to come into the office on an occasional basis or on a reduced number of days per week, people may be prepared to live further away. This gives companies a larger talent pool as they can appeal to people over a greater geographical area. This can also provide a more diverse workforce.
The potential for cost savings with hybrid work
The cost of premises and equipment for employees can be high. It’s not just needing a building large enough to accommodate every employee plus meeting rooms, and so on, it is all the added extras too. You need enough desks, chairs, stationery, printers, computers, monitors, and so on to account for each employee. Then, there is the cost of utilities like electricity to be considered. Maybe you provide free or reduced-cost food and drinks to employees and visitors too.
By reducing the number of employees you have in the office at any one time, you can reduce the size of your premises. You can reduce the number of desk, chairs, computers, and so on. Your utility bills should be lower. Your organization’s carbon footprint should reduce.
An unexpected consequence of hybrid work that can also have implications for a company’s costs is that ‘at least 50% of employers believe remote work reduces absenteeism’. It can also improve retention rates, and it costs a lot more to replace an employee than it does to keep one. The average company seeing a ‘12% reduction in turnover when they allow their employees to do at least some remote work’.
In the US it has been estimated that companies operating a hybrid working model save ‘an average of USD 11,000 per worker per year’.
Hybrid work and business continuity
Companies that were already set up for remote or hybrid work found that they and their employees were able to adapt much more quickly when the pandemic hit and everyone was forced to take their work home. Natural disasters and pandemics, and other events over which companies have no control like strikes in transports, can significantly impact an employee’s ability to get into the office on certain days. If employees can work remotely just as easily, an organization can continue to function in these situations without business operations being disrupted.
Can hybrid work help with productivity and teamwork?
Hybrid working is attractive to employees for many different reasons. A hybrid working arrangement can help workers find a better balance in their personal and professional lives and can save them time and money commuting. Working on a hybrid or remote basis can also create a better employee experience and offer greater autonomy. These all lead to employees who are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And happier employees are likely to be more productive.
A better employee experience
Hybrid work can give employees greater flexibility and work-life balance. It can be easier to manage work and personal responsibilities if you are not obliged to work in an office during set hours. Reduced commuting time and costs can lead to less stress and worry about how to cope with the schedules and commitments that come with young children or elderly relatives.
If employees can fit the school run or help with family during breaks from work, this can reduce distractions and worry, leading to increased productivity. This reduction in stress can in turn lead to increased job satisfaction, making employees more likely to be productive and engaged.
Commuting is not just a drain on time and financial resources. It can lead to stress, fatigue, and poor health too. Whether you are sitting in traffic jams or dodging aggressive drivers on a bicycle, dealing with cancelled trains and packed buses, or just waking up early and getting home late, commuting can be exhausting.
It’s stressful wondering if you are going to be late, or not knowing how you are going to get from A to B because a road or trainline is shut. If you are cycling – and even if you are in a car – you still have pollution to deal with. Inhaling toxic traffic fumes and dirty air on subway systems, as well as the potential for catching colds and picking up other illnesses from germs, is a serious concern for many employees. Reducing commuting time can lead to higher energy levels and better mental health. And again, this can lead to greater productivity.
If you are working remotely you may be able to customize your work environment to make your workday more productive. Not everyone had ideal working conditions when the pandemic began, and many suffered from having to work in cramped spaces or without the necessary technology. However, those who now prefer to work remotely or on a hybrid basis are likely to have a set up that works for them.
Whether they choose to work in a coffee shop surrounded by people and noise, or have their own study away from everything, they are likely to have found a way to work that suits them better than in the office. In an office, the amount of personal input into their working environment is likely to be minimal.
Using the right technology makes collaboration just as effective but as it is on their terms they are likely to improve their focus, creativity, and productivity.
Hybrid working can promote higher levels of engagement, as employees can feel they are more trusted and empowered. If they have the flexibility to choose how and where they work, they are more likely to be motivated, committed, and productive. This can lead to better overall performance.
Increasing productivity with your remote and hybrid teams
Here at Klaxoon we have tools like our online whiteboard and useful Templates to help remote and hybrid workers become more efficient and effective. Why not check out our resources page to see how we can help your business work better?