Hybrid Workplaces: The Future of Work
A mere 2 years ago, remote work was a fringe idea that few people could consider a part of their life. Yet starting in spring 2020, 95% of office workers transitioned to working from home at least part of the time. After an extended trial period that has not entirely concluded, 97% of workers have found that they prefer working remotely.
Why has remote work been so popular? The 3 most commonly cited reasons are, in order: no more commute, better work-life balance, and increased time spent with family. In extreme cases, commuting to and from work took up hours of an employee’s time. When said commute was eliminated, that worker was able to devote their energy to more projects in their personal and professional lives. The flexibility of working from home also encouraged workers to rethink the condition of their life outside the office, empowering them to make positive changes. This is especially true in the realm of family life, as work from home transitions occurred alongside remote schooling for millions of Americans at once.
Now that the benefits of working from home are well known, workers are reluctant to lose them again. Only 3% of professionals want to go back to working full-time in the office. By contrast, 61% prefer a fully remote working environment. The desire for remote work is so profound that 24% of Americans plan to switch jobs in the near future to chase the opportunity. A full third of workers would be willing to take a 10-20% pay decrease if it meant they could keep working from home.
Yet for all that workers are preparing to resist returning to the office, they may be wasting their mental energy. Companies as large and well-known as Facebook are planning to have half their staff fill remote positions. Other companies intend to go further in the future with remote work. Businesses are proving willing to embrace a permanent degree of remote work because remote work benefits their bottom line as well. 81% of employees would be more loyal to an employer with flexible work. Loyal workers who feel empowered by their manager are more productive, and the numbers prove it. For every employee allowed to work from home 2 or 3 days a week, businesses save $11,000. Some of these savings arise from spending less on office overhead and upkeep, but still more come from reduced employee absence, lower turnover rates, and higher productivity levels.
As Carol Cochran of Flexjobs explains, “trusting in and empowering your employees to work in a responsible and professional way, while allowing them the freedom and flexibility to handle all the big and little things that life throws at us, creates a high level of morale, pride, and loyalty.” Morale, pride and loyalty are good things inherently. Even better is when they also have a positive impact on company earnings.
Despite all the hype surrounding remote work, only 37% of US jobs can actually be performed entirely from home. Luckily, the choice between remote and office work is no longer considered a binary decision. Hybrid work models allow employees to only go into the office when necessary. In pursuit of the best from both worlds, employers of all shapes and sizes are considering how to turn their workplace into a hybrid heaven.
No two hybrid workplaces need to look identical. No business operates in a manner identical to another, after all. Some businesses want to keep as much remote time in their workplace as possible, providing traditional workspace only when needed. Others feel the exact opposite, only wanting to allow remote work on occasion. Certain businesses may decide that only their executives and top-level staff need to work in a traditional office while other businesses might expect every employee to sometimes. Even who decides the schedule is up for debate; employees’ time in the office could be up to their manager or the worker themselves. The exact ratio of remote to in-person time matters less than ensuring both managers’ and employees’ interests are represented in the final design. Open dialogue can ensure this to be the case.
Even once a ratio is decided, there are many more challenges presented by a hybrid workspace. Spatial planning becomes crucial when employees are expected to use the same space at different times. Everyone deserves to feel like they have a spot for them in the workplace. Managers must be careful to make sure hybrid models work for all their employees, including those who might be remote all the time. No one group should dominate in meetings or projects. Collaborative efforts need to be designed with the intent of ensuring everyone has a role in the final outcome. 2020 saw a 37% drop in collaboration time among remote employees. Some ways companies can encourage this within their offices include creating open meeting areas with mixed use intent. New spaces should be embedded with tech that allows remote communication and video calling to happen easily.
While transitioning to a hybrid workplace will present difficulties, the transition is one many Americans are looking forward to. 52% of Americans desire a mix of working from home and in the office. From June 2019 to June 2021, searches for “hybrid work” increased nearly 400%. Building an effective hybrid workplace is a necessary investment in the future of work everywhere. Not just in the United States, but around the globe.