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The Hybrid Workplace: from zero remote to full flexibility

How much time are we going to spend in the office and which challenges will this bring?

Following the first article on how organizations are currently making use of the hybrid working model, we have seen that there is no one size fits all and one size fits none. However, this does not mean that there are no guidelines for which kind of model may fit best with your unique organization. In this article we will structure this discussion by distinguishing four types of the hybrid working model on the spectrum ‘zero remote, zero flexibility’ to ‘full flexibility in time and place’, and we identify their main challenges.

Authors: Marjolein Wevers, Marloes Vermeulen

Four types of the hybrid working model

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Predictable and ‘safe’

On the far left side, close to zero remote and flexibility, we identify a predictable and ‘safe’ hybrid working situation, implying working 5 days from the office again and no changes in way of working after the pandemic. This indicates there will be (almost) no adaptation period or culture change necessary for employers and employees* in comparison with the pre-pandemic situation. On the other hand, expectations from employees have changed since and therefore this type could lead to a mismatch with these new developed expectations.
* Employees mentioned in this article are exclusively desk-workers

Full flexibility
On the far right side of the spectrum, we identify the exact opposite: full flexibility in time and place. This means that the employer leaves the decision on where and when to work to the employee 100, meaning they full flexibility in time and place. This could include setups such as the ‘digital nomad’ and ‘workations’ . Key here is that there is no additional support for the employees to enabling the connections and collaboration; it is a model that assumes employees will find each other when they need to, where they need to. One can imagine that employees interested in this type of model will over time self-select into these types of organizations. This hybrid workplace type is the most progressive, and this is where we see many organizations start their thinking of the hybrid workplace, yet they often move slightly more to the left of the scale.

‘Supported’ flexibility
As we move slightly towards the left, we encounter a type called ‘supported’ flexibility; the organization gives a directional number of days or activity based indication for employees to go to the office. Similar to the previous type, this adapts to the expectations of employees, yet supporting structures are put in place to help employees connect and collaborate. Further into this blog we will go into some examples of what these structures could look like.

‘Scheduled’ flexibility
One step further to the left of the spectrum, there is a type which we call ‘scheduled’ flexibility. In comparison with the previous type, this includes a (potentially mandatory) number of days in the office for teams to get together, while people can opt to work from home on the other day. This is where we see the area of tension between trust and freedom of choice on the one hand, and control and ability to plan on the other. The difference with ‘supported’ flexibility is that the office and home working days are at times not just directional but mandatory. ‘Supported’ flexibility also requires a (major) change in culture and ways of working in terms of investment and support.

In conclusion

In reality, of course, this is a scale and most organizations can be plotted somewhere between different types; in many cases even multiple types within one organization depending on the type of work or employee desires.
Even though there is no blueprint for a hybrid working model which works for one or multiple organizations, it is possible to identify certain types which can be a better or worse fit for specific companies. Each model has its unique challenges, which we will dive into in our next blog.

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