The Hybrid Workplace: no one size fits all has been saved
The Hybrid Workplace: no one size fits all
A perspective on how the hybrid working model operates in practice across different organizations after the COVID-19 pandemic
This article is the first in a series in which we explore how hybrid working models operate in real-life situations, discussing opportunities and pitfalls, and providing practical tips and tools.
Authors: Marjolein Wevers, Marloes Vermeulen
Since the pandemic reached the Netherlands in March 2020, several recommendations regarding working from home or the workplace have come and gone. “Work from home, as much as possible”, “Work from the office with a maximum of 50% per week” in June 2021, “Work from home, unless it is not possible”, in July 2021 to “No recommendations to work from home nor the office” in March 2022. Even though the work-from-home advice from the government in relation to COVID-19 has stopped, they still request employees* and employers to make agreements to stimulate hybrid working. But, how do we make this hybrid working actually work?
Reality kicks in and it seems that one size does not fit all and one size fits none. This indicates that there is not one solution or blueprint for employees as well as for organizations that guarantees success, and if a certain model works for an organization, it does not mean it will work for other organizations well. In fact, there is no scenario in which all of your employees will be 100% happy, nor will you get it right on the first try.
* Employees mentioned in this article are exclusively desk-workers
How are organizations currently dealing with it?
There is not one formula for success in terms of hybrid working. This also reflects reality. Whereas some organizations fully embrace the hybrid working model, others are more resistant. We’ve seen headlines of for example employees at Apple taking a stance against the company’s plan for a full return to the office. We recently heard of an example of an organization that was struggling to fill their vacancies and find the right talent, and they decided to scour the news headlines for companies announcing a full return-to-office policy, and decided to target those employees to recruit as they know the employees would potentially be more interested to jump ship.
While these specific cases get a lot of attention, the market shows that these outlier cases are not the standard. Many of organizations have gone all-in on the hybrid workplace and are trying make the combination of working remotely and working from the office happen. It is the art of finding the balance between what is beneficial for the organizational objectives on one end, and the preferences of the employees working in that organization on the other end. To give guidance on finding that balance, it is important to show what the hybrid working model could bring and which risks are lurking.
What are the advantages to exploring a hybrid workplace?
The majority of people do not want to work in the office full-time. Research implies that the employee prefers to be flexible in where to work, and therefore favors an organization with a hybrid way of working in contrast to an organization which requires full time physical attendance. We are currently facing a tight labor market which leads to low unemployment, plenty of open vacancies, and a war for talent with the result that organizations often have a hard time finding the right people for the right job. The hybrid work setup provided employees with geographic flexibility, eliminating commutes, and in many cases a better work-life balance. If most employees rather work in a hybrid working environment and there are plenty of organizations from which they can choose, the decision will not be that difficult.
Apart from the focus on talent and employee experience, organizations may be able to reduce real estate costs, tap into a more global potential workforce while mitigating immigration issues, and, as research indicates, perhaps enjoy productivity gains. Besides the benefits for both organizations and employees, there are also societal aspects linked to it such as improving the organization’s carbon footprint by reducing travel and in turn reducing traffic jams, and building a more diverse workforce by tapping into a more global pool of potential colleagues.
The above mentioned advantages of a hybrid workplace are far from exhaustive, and there are many more to think of. However, in practice, it is not always a bed of roses. Many organizations cite risks such as maintaining company culture and the feeling of belonging, driving innovation, and unfair performance evaluation. On a practical level, challenges arise where we find ourselves going to the office only to be in virtual meetings staring at our screens all day, or alternatively fighting for a seat on a Tuesday and facing an empty office on Fridays.
A hybrid work setup can have many advantages on an individual, organizational and societal level. The challenge will be in making hybrid work actually work. In our next blog we will dive more into the practical challenges faced by organizations as they navigate the hybrid workplace, and practical tips and tricks to mitigate these.
From zero remote to full flexibility
The Hybrid Workplace blog seriesRead the next blog
The Hybrid Workplace: from zero remote to full flexibility
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