Hybrid work has come a long way since the start of the pandemic. According to survey data by Gallup, 60 percent of employees worked exclusively on-site in 2019. By 2022, that number dropped to 23 percent. Meanwhile, companies with hybrid workplace policies jumped from 32 percent to 53 percent over the past two years. In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into the future of the hybrid workplace.
This highlights a significant change in the modern workplace as employers and employees alike scramble to adjust to new policies and remote work plans. To be honest, the past two years have been messy as all parties work together to reach fair compromises on where and when to work.
What is the future of the hybrid workplace? 2023 will bring greater organization and equity that balances remote work with in-office collaboration. Companies will stop pretending that hybrid work is temporary and instead will focus on long-term, effective policies. Here’s what you can expect from the hybrid workplace and how your company can adapt and thrive.
Your employees and candidates expect flexible working conditions
Hybrid work is more than a compromise between the traditional office environment and pandemic policies. It continues to be the future of work as employees look for added flexibility in their employment.
According to the 2021 State of Remote Work by OWL Labs, 81 percent of people who worked from home during the pandemic said they would prefer a hybrid work style. Many workers appreciate having an office where they can meet in person, even if they only want to commute there a few times per week.
However, employers need to understand how serious employees are about working hybrid jobs. About half (48 percent) of employees say they would look for another job if their current one wouldn’t let them work remotely. Also, 58 percent of employees said they would expect a pay raise if they were expected to return to the office full-time.
It’s not just current workers expecting remote work options. Also, future candidates will evaluate your company based on the hybrid policies you offer. Compensation remains the biggest factor for employees when reviewing a job offer. The study mentioned before found that 87 percent of workers say their workplace location is important to them. Of that, 60 percent said it was very important. Your recruiters may have a harder time hiring for your firm if your hybrid policies are inflexible.
Your hybrid policy needs to be equitable and enforceable
Many companies develop hybrid workplace plans as issues come up. However, it is in your best interest to have a comprehensive, written work policy that your employees can follow. It’s okay if your hybrid model looks different from other companies as long as it is fair and respected by your staff.
Consider who might abuse your hybrid work policy and why. Employees who think these plans are unenforceable might ignore your calls to return to the office. The most privileged team members who aren’t afraid of discipline or think they’re above the rules are most likely to ignore your guidelines. This will be frustrating for the other employees.
Also consider that some workers report hybrid policies actually make collaboration harder. That happens when important team members aren’t in the office when they are. One way to effectively develop a flexible work model is to launch a trial period. This usually takes three to six months. Take this opportunity to collect honest feedback from employees and managers.
Use this feedback to develop processes and policies that allow your company to thrive and function while being both in and out of the office.
Decide how your company can be flexible
As you develop your remote work policies, consider where you can offer flexibility to team your members. How can you create a collaborative team environment that still enables employees to choose how they work? Lynda Gratton, professor of management practice at London Business School, says there are two ways for companies to be flexible within the modern workplace: time and place.
- When a company is flexible on place, employees can work from anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether the employee is clocking in from the office or a beach in Bali as long as they keep up with their work.
- When a company is flexible on time, employees can clock in whenever as long as they meet their required number of hours. A parent can clock in after they drop their kids off at school. An early bird can clock in at 5 am and wrap up their work day by 1 pm.
Gratton encourages companies to focus on drivers of productivity (I.E. energy, focus, coordination, and cooperation) when building their work models. A night owl won’t do their best work if they need to start right at 7 am. An employee who is stressed by their commute won’t be able to immediately focus after they arrive.
Your working hybrid model should allow employees to work around what is best for their productivity, as long as it doesn’t disrupt team dynamics.
Consider how hybrid work affects your office
A large part of hybrid work management has to do the people. However, there are also physical considerations to keep in mind. Companies that want to fully embrace remote work in 2022 may want to consider downsizing their office spaces or moving to more agile environments in order to save money.
The team at Work in Sync broke down the estimated costs that companies pay to keep offices open. A company with 100 employees will pay an average of $50,400 per month to provide desk space, electricity, water, and supplies for these workers. This drops to around $14,790 per month with a hybrid plan.
The amount of office space you need will depend on your hybrid working plan. If certain teams work in-office on specific days, your employees might be able to hot desk. This means you won’t need 100 desks with 100 computers and 100 phones for 100 employees, if only 25 are in the office at any given time.
You may decide that you do need larger spaces for collaboration and meetings. These spaces could replace the individual cubicles of the pre-pandemic office. Your needs will all depend on your hybrid policies.
Make sure your employees have the right resources
While your company might be able to save money on office space, remote work comes with its own costs. Now that your company has made hybrid working permanent, make sure your workers have space to thrive.
The same Work in Sync data reported that 28 percent of workers set up a home office in their master bedrooms during the remote work pandemic period. Another 42 percent either sat in their dining room chairs or on their couches to work.
These locations aren’t ideal for focusing on work or for sitting in an ergonomic fashion. As part of your benefits package, consider offering a technology and furniture stipend for your employees to set up a home office. This shows that your company is building a hybrid workplace future and is committed to helping employees thrive remotely.
You can also ask your managers to check in with existing employees to make sure they have everything they need to thrive at home. This includes high-speed Internet, modern computers, and a desk setup. If you want to reshape work within your organization, you need to embrace remote work—not endure it.
Approach hybrid work as the future, not as a fad
Many companies switched to hybrid work models as a response to lifted quarantine restrictions during the pandemic.
With this shift becoming permanent, it’s time to move away from temporary plans and invest in permanent policies.
Make 2023 the year you create concrete and effective hybrid workplace guidelines for managers and employees. This way, you will enable everyone to thrive and set the company up for success on the long-term.