Whether we liked it or not, the pandemic forced us to consider a new approach to office work. Remote work from home became a necessity, and many realized the perks that came along with it. Flexibility of schedule, a no-hassle commute from bedroom to living room, and increased family time were a few. But as restrictions relaxed, many businesses wanted employees back in the office, at least part of the time. Thus, the hybrid work model was invented… part-time remote, part-time office. It’s now becoming increasingly evident that the challenge of hybrid work may not be worth it. In fact, for some companies, it may be the worst idea of all.
The hybrid work model experiment is in full force in today’s business world. While over 90% of workers want to be remote, a minority have full-time remote work situation. The larger portion of employees spend at least a couple of days in an office. But does this situation really meet the need of workers in a post-pandemic world? Likewise, is this a sustainable arrangement for businesses long-term? According to an increasing number of people, the challenge of hybrid work simply isn’t worth it. And as a result, there seems to be a trend moving away from these models toward full-time remote or full-time office.
“Complicating things is that, while the main reason hybrid workers cite for wanting to go into the office is to see colleagues, they also don’t want to be told when to go in.” – Nicholas Bloom, Economics Professor, Stanford University
Misperceptions of the Hybrid Work Model
When it comes to the hybrid work model, both employers and employees expected to get something out of the deal. For workers, the long, extended period of social isolation during the pandemic left them longing for social contact. That meant a need to return to concerts, travel, and other outings. But it also included reconnecting with work colleagues in person. This was particularly true for teams who benefited from in-person collaboration. But a challenge of hybrid work is that rarely is everyone in the office at any given time. Certainly, hybrid schedules are more social than remote work. But they are far from meeting the expectations of those wishing to talk with coworkers around the water cooler.
Employers face similar disappointments from the hybrid work model. Some of the advantages with remote work for businesses involved cutting back on expenses. Office leases or spaces could be downsized with fewer employees at work at any given time. Likewise, employees began sharing the burden of Internet connectivity and hardware costs. These savings allowed companies to invest money elsewhere, placing them in a better position. But the challenge of hybrid work is that these savings aren’t as profound if present at all. Instead, companies are finding that they are having to serve two masters and having little to show for it. For businesses in this position, it’s unlikely the hybrid work will be a lasting model.
“Every company is going to have to decide what workplace model works for them. But what’s clear is that the relationship between employees and employers has fundamentally changed.” – Arianna Huffington, Co-founder of The Huffington Post, Founder and CEO of Thrive Global
A Failing Experiment to Attract Talent
Naturally, the pandemic was the catalyst for the hybrid work model. But it wasn’t the only one. Technology certainly played a role as videoconferencing tools helped support this new employee-employer dynamic. Similarly, so did the Great Resignation. As people emerged from lockdown, the vast majority demanded remote work or some resemblance of it. Companies that complied were more likely attract talent that they needed. Those that didn’t found themselves having to compensate in higher salaries or other perks. Thus, many decided to try a hybrid between in-office and remote work to address these issues. Unfortunately, this has had limited benefits when it comes to human resource strategies.
Compared to full remote work, a challenge of hybrid work is its failure to grant workers residential freedom. If someone must come into the office a few days each week, then they can hardly live anywhere they want. That means that the actual talent pool for a company with a hybrid work model remains geographically local. In contrast, remote work models can recruit talent from anywhere in the world. Thus, remote work situations provide a much better strategy when it comes to addressing limiting talent supply. Plus, remote work also invites much greater diversity, which boosts innovation and creativity. Another challenge of hybrid work is therefore its difficulty competing with fulltime remote jobs in attracting talent.
“The future will see financial allowances that enable workers to choose and invest in their own ecosystem of workspaces. And as we move beyond hybrid work, employees will be seeking out near-to-home satellite offices, bookable workspaces in office lobbies, advanced technology in libraries and cafes, and premium coworking spaces that offer hotel-style service.” – Brad Krauskopf, CEO of Hub Australia
A Commitment to a Work Model That Works
When it comes to the hybrid work model, it is evident that you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Companies that need offices for collaboration, in-person client interactions, and other activities need to commit to full-time office models. Those that don’t should invest fully in remote work systems. But neither can truly benefit from a hybrid work model that hedges their bets. On the employee side, workers want flexibility, work-life balance, and autonomy. Both in-office and remote work situations can meet these needs with a bit of creativity. On the employer side, companies demand productivity, efficiency, and cost-savings. Similarly, in-office and remote models can achieve this. But hybrid solutions attempt to realize all of these benefits without suffering any setbacks. In the process, however, they fail to accomplish either set of goals, placing everyone in a worse situation. The bottom line…hybrid work models don’t work for the vast majority of companies. And for those committed to excellence, it’s time to recognize this increasingly obvious fact.