Hybrid working became an important workplace trend during the pandemic. According to some reports, 38% of workers were working from home for at least one day a week. In the post-pandemic period, there is strong support from workers to continue working from home. The key benefits were employees were more productive, saved time and money by not having to commute and had more time to spend with family and friends.
Although hybrid working helps employees to organise a much-coveted work-life balance, the hybrid model poses a number of challenges for business leaders, team managers, HR teams and IT professionals.
Subsequently, the question of whether the benefits of hybrid working outweigh the problems is hotly debated. Moreover, there is no correct answer that satisfies every business.
The debate around hybrid working, however, is one that most business leaders will need to address at some point. Whether you decide if the latest trend is the best solution for your company will largely be determined by several key areas.
Advantages of Hybrid Working
Although mainstream media and ‘companies with a financial interest’ promote the advantages of hybrid working, companies will feel the benefit if they have the right tools and strategy in place to ensure the hybrid model works in their favour.
These leading benefits reported by various sources indicate that hybrid models give workers more:
Freedom and Flexibility
Many hybrid workplaces allow their staff to choose exactly what days they want to spend in the office and which days they want to work from home. This allows workers to plan their work patterns around their lifestyles. Enhanced flexibility is all well and good for individual employees. However, organising a flexible working schedule can be a logistical nightmare for team managers and project managers.
Hybrid working is impossible with team management software – and there is no shortage of cloud-based management software to choose from. This becomes even more critical for collaborative teams that ideally need to be working alongside each other in the office.
A well-organised team has benefits for both employees and employers. Employees can access cloud-based schedules without having to organise them themselves. Moreover, they not only see their schedule, assignments and deadlines, but they can also see this data for the rest of the team.
Efficiency and Cost Reduction
An advantage directly tied to the business is the optimisation of working spaces. Workspaces without remote options require a vast amount of office space, with each employee requiring a desk as a minimum.
Space management becomes more efficient in hybrid workspaces as companies can begin hotdesking with fewer desks than employees. Firms are gaining value from this efficiency by reducing the office space they rent or creating a greater variety of workspaces. This could include quiet spaces, collaborative spaces, or meeting spaces.
Disadvantages of Hybrid Working
Hybrid working throws up an array of disadvantages as well as advantages. These are the reasons why business leaders want to avoid hybrid working – and why 72% of US managers prefer their staff to be in the office.
Collaboration and Communication
Communication and collaboration present the biggest hurdle for businesses adopting the hybrid model. Employees are hindered by noisy homes, poor WiFi connection, and lack of access to IT professionals.The inability to mingle with colleagues in the office revealed that many workers felt isolated and lonely. Whilst the hybrid model overcomes that detail, collaborating with other team members has to be coordinated to ensure team members are in the office on the same days – and have effective lines of communication open to them on the days they are working remotely.
During the lockdowns, most firms made do with virtual conference suites such as Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Teams. However, these technologies proved to be burdensome. Whilst these technologies provide tools for colleagues to communicate, the strategy has to be right.
One of the main problems was too many meetings. In fairness, too many unnecessary meetings have been a major gripe among office workers for decades. Zoom fatigue just brought the issue to the service.
Studies have shown that 80% of leaders have observed emotional exhaustion amongst hybrid workers. This can creep in for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it was found that workers did not want to appear as though they were slacking off whilst they are not under supervision. To compensate, they ploughed more personal time into work. The result was, remote workers put in longer hours.
On the other side of the coin, some staff members prefer remote working because loud offices are overwhelming and distracting. Managing a distributed workforce should incorporate the personal preferences of your team members.
Should My Business Shift to Remote Working?
Taking these factors into consideration, there is no one right answer about whether your business will be better off working traditionally or in a hybrid environment. However, the patterns that have revealed themselves can help business leaders implement solutions that will help hybrid working to be more effective. For example, businesses with cloud-based technologies and the appropriate IT expertise to leverage remote working are better equipped to make the advantages of hybrid working produce positive outcomes. Micro Pro, a leading IT support service in London recommends implementing a virtual desktop.
Similarly, if your employees are used to unconventional workplaces, they will not find the freedom of remote working as jarring. People with young families are also happier with the opportunity to divide their time between the home and the office.
However, the consensus among younger team members is that they prefer to work in the office – mainly because they enjoy socialising opportunities. Understanding what kind of team you have is a crucial first step to making this decision.
The needs and preferences of future staff members will also be significant to the running of the hybrid model. The question should be raised in an interview when you are vetting candidates.
For the time being, the majority of companies have decided to stick with traditional models. In the UK, less than a quarter have adopted the hybrid model – although the trend did grow considerably earlier this year.