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Hybrid Work: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Are hybrid working environments a good choice across all industries? Work from home, work in the office or hybrid work - discover the pros and cons in this article.
Due to recent events, hybrid work is emerging as a more flexible way of working, promising advantages and facilitating employment retention. But is it the most viable option for everybody? While there is an array of benefits for both employers and employees, particularly in tech-based design and architecture, hybrid work is multifaceted and it is important to deliberate the pros and cons before deciding if it is right for your company.
What is Hybrid Work?
Hybrid is, by definition, a mixture of two elements. What this means for the workspace can also be interpreted in two ways - the first, the possibility to adapt schedules according to the different chronotypes that your employees present, and the second, the increase in flexibility with regards to working from home or attending the office.
This can only be good news for many of us who have been striving for better work-life balance. The status quo has remained unchanged for years. Nine to five in the office has been the way of the world for most of our working lives, and may have continued to be the accepted norm if it hadn’t been for Covid-19. With the absolute necessity to keep our economy in motion during the pandemic, we have been forced to adapt our way of working.
Hybrid working provides a wealth of opportunities for both employers and employees. Many of the advantages posed could also be considered disadvantages for some people, but with the increased flexibility that hybrid work promotes, teams are able to choose which aspects work in their favor and which might need to be considered from a different angle.
- Productivity: Employees choose when and where they work in this model, which means that for the most part they can choose their most productive time to get the job done. Airtasker conducted a study which found that, on average, flexible workers spend 1.4 more days working per month.
- Savings: With fewer people on-site at any one time, companies can make savings as far as office construction and furnishings are concerned, the cost of rent, as well as a reduction in the use of utilities.
- Environmental benefits: With fewer people commuting, hybrid work offers the environment a helping hand by reducing our carbon footprint.
- Work-life balance: Both employers and employees benefit from the possibility to work around their personal commitments. Parents can be present for their children and look after family members, and even simple errands such as banking or dentistry can be handled at a time that is convenient.
- Strengthening working relationships: Trust becomes a key player in hierarchical workplace relationships, as employers are confident that the people they have chosen for the job will get it done. For employees, increased trust means an increased sense of value.
- Health: In terms of mental and physical health, workers have the choice of where and when to work - more breaks, more outside time and less time commuting reduce stress, and work from home limits our exposure to physical illness. Also, if working from the office, the Bosse Room-in Room system with ION-Cloud technology integration can contribute to lower anxiety levels for many people.
Bosse Room-in-Room Systems
- Talent: The scope for employment is widened as the daily commute is reduced. People are more likely to choose a job further afield if they are not required to be in the office, in person, every day. A broader geographical pool of potential employees gives employers more options and can add value to the workforce.
Hybrid work is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are aspects of flexible working on individual schedules that can have a detrimental effect on the company dynamic, so it is important to consider these implications before establishing a system for your organization.
- Productivity: While we mentioned productivity as a benefit of flexible working above, some people may prove to be less productive when left with the choice of when and how to work. Accountability in the workplace is somewhat easier to document in person.
- Trust: according to this article, many managers are having trust issues with flexible work. Unfortunately, this becomes a vicious circle - they feel the need to check up on their employees which decreases their sense of value and perpetuates job stress. Which of course, leads to lower productivity, rather than the inverse.
- Changes to workspaces: With fewer people in the office, companies with elaborate offices may find that a lot of their space and furnishings become redundant.
- Organizational challenges: The reduction in staff present at any one time may mean that companies can save on investments in construction and furnishings, but the organization of the workspace needs to be rethought. If two people share a desk for example, who keeps their items where, how do you ensure the distribution is fair and can they work on the same day?
- Schedule coordination: While the idea of working where and when you like is appealing in many ways, it poses a significant puzzle for project leaders. Where there are many people working on a project, coordination and communication are key, but how do you drive a project forward when the schedules of those working on it are not streamlined?
- Socialization: Humans are social creatures. Informal chats reinforce working relationships and a light-hearted discussion over lunch about how the morning’s meeting went can offer great insight for project managers. Hybrid working reduces this opportunity to build bonds.
Most of the potential disadvantages can be ironed out with excellent leadership skills, smart space organization and software that allows teams to check each other’s schedules and collaborate remotely. But there are more covert pitfalls to hybrid working which require change in order to mitigate them. Possibly the most predominant ugly face of hybrid work is inequality. Flexible work risks exacerbating pre-existing inequalities. When it comes to gender and race, hybrid work needs to be approached carefully so as not to facilitate exclusion.
Work from home looks set to be a standard practice for many companies as we exit the grasp of the pandemic, which has exacerbated long-standing gendered lines in which women do the bulk of the caregiving. The pandemic has brought yet more research into the spotlight that suggests that it is women who bear the brunt of domestic duties and childcare when working from home, even when their partners are in similar professional positions. The result of this on a woman’s professional trajectory can be devastating, and based on the estimated data from caregiver.org, that could affect 66% of our workforces.
‘The Digital Divide,’ as explained in this article from Clockwise´s blog, is another covert form of inequality. In the article, they say that “Lack of Broadband has shut 23 million Americans out of remote job interviews, Zoom classrooms and telemedicine.”
Race is another consideration. According to this article from Worktango, black households have 20% more people and Latinx households have 80% more people living under one roof than white households. Converting the home into an office space that nurtures creativity and productivity might then be more feasible for some than for others, giving way to a racial divide in hybrid working scenarios.
So, is hybrid work right for your organization?
Depending on the nature of your company, hybrid working can offer the flexibility needed to provide a healthier working environment, insofar as adapting to worker’s most productive working times thus reducing stress. If it were as clear-cut as this, hybrid working would undoubtedly be the best option for most of us. But it is important to consider the possible setbacks that these same working conditions can give rise to.
Logistical challenges mean an increase in the workload for organizers, but that does not mean they are challenges that can’t be overcome. As with any structural change, there is a period of adaptation which many are reluctant to embrace, but finally come round to the idea. The key to effective change is communication and organization - talk with your team and come up with the logistical solutions together. This way everybody’s voice is heard and you can avoid conflict further down the line.
Finally, equality needs to be addressed when considering the implementation of hybrid working for your company, as work from home may intensify the gender and race gap already noticeable across working America.
Caramela, Sammi. "Working from home increases productivity." Business News Daily. March 31, 2020 https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/15259-working-from-home-more-productive.html#:~:text=Working%20From%20Home%20Increases%20Productivity&text=According%20to%20one%20study%2C%20remote,weeks%20of%20work%20per%20year
Everett, Cath. "The Future of Work's diversity challenge - prevent hybrid working models from fuelling a gender imbalance ." Diginomica. April 5, 2021 https://diginomica.com/future-works-diversity-challenge-prevent-hybrid-working-models-fuelling-gender-imbalance
Fowell, Tiffany. "Hybrid work: what is hybrid work and why do employees want it?” Envoy. July 7, 2021 https://envoy.com/blog/what-is-a-hybrid-work-model/#:~:text=Hybrid%20work%20gives%20employees%20more,work%20from%20a%20remote%20location
Ibarra, Herminia; Gillard, Julia and Chamorro-Premuzic, Tomas. “Why WFH Isn’t Necessarily Good for Women.” Harvard Business Review. July 16, 2020 https://hbr.org/2020/07/why-wfh-isnt-necessarily-good-for-women
Parker, Sharon K., Knight, Caroline and Keller, Anita. “Remote managers are having trust issues.” Harvard Business Review. July 30, 2020 https://hbr.org/2020/07/remote-managers-are-having-trust-issues
Reisenwitz, Cathay. “WFH will deepen income inequality, unless we do these four things.” Clockwise. September 10, 2021 https://www.getclockwise.com/blog/wfh-will-deepen-income-inequality-unless-we-do-these-four-thingsShinnan, Stephen. “Just how fair is remote work?” Worktango. December 5, 2020 “Hybrid-Remote: understanding nuances and pitfalls.” Gitlab