For generations, the workweek looked the same. Before March 2020, alternative work models were only available for a lucky few, mostly tech employees. Due to a global pandemic, 70 percent of full-time employees in the US worked from home. Organizations around the world had to immediately adapt to a work from home reality. Zoom and Teams meetings replaced chatting with colleagues and your home turned into an office (at least it was supposed to).
It’s been a year since we’re not going to the office regularly, so what do employees and employers think about remote work now? At first, it might have looked appealing, but there is much more to It. Is company culture experiencing erosion, do people feel work-life imbalances? Are we going back to the traditional work model and what is hybrid work?
Hybrid work - The new norm?
In these challenging times, flexibility is the key, and that is exactly what the hybrid work model offers. There are many variations to it and it’s up to companies to organize the workforce most suitably. Some organizations might decide to give all employees the flexibility to work on-site and remotely part of the week. Other companies might offer either-or options, so employees work full-time remote or full-time on-site. And others might do a mix of both.
Remote work helped people take back control over the working week and organize it according to their needs. Working parents got more family time, people who previously spent hours stuck in traffic didn’t have to commute and in general, people had more time for personal obligations. Research from Wakefield shows that nearly half of their respondents (48%) say they’d like to mix things up and work some days from the office and some days remotely. It’s important to mention that interest in hybrid work isn’t specific to knowledge workers. Employees in industries that normally require on-site presence —including 61% of healthcare employers, 41% of construction/manufacturing workers, and 34% of retail and hospitality workers— say they would prefer to work under a hybrid model. “There’s this new realization and awareness of how you work best, what’s important in life, and how you want to spend your time,” says Janet Pogue McLaurin, the global research principal at Gensler.
Remote work - It’s not all black and white
Problems many employees felt working from home during the last year are isolation and lack of social interactions with colleagues. Work From Homers are also working longer hours, spending more time on meetings, and keeping up with more communication channels according to Gallup. Although remote work offers more flexibility it’s also a lot harder to disconnect with rising workloads. It is easier to unplug when you have a dedicated space to work in. Leaving the office at the end of the day used to create a natural transition in your day and traveling home gave you time to decompress. It’s easy to forget those boundaries when your kitchen table is your office and it’s so simple to send one more email or tweak a slide on a presentation you're working on a workplace change strategist, and CEO and founder of the consultancy Flex+Strategy Group in New York pointed out the importance of employee training on how to make the work-life balance.
[QuoteText]"Simply handing an employee a laptop and downloading Zoom or some other collaborative software is not enough to help employees manage their work and lives through the pandemic and beyond,"
- Cali Williams Yost, Workplace change strategist.[/QuoteText]
What do employers think about hybrid work?
According to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 68% of executives think employees should be in the office at least three days a week to preserve the company culture, once the pandemic is over. It looks like leaders are keener to come back to the office than workers. PwC survey found top managers think in-person interactions are going to help strengthen company culture and internal collaboration. But a lot of workers don’t feel that way and are not ready to give up their newfound flexibility.
[QuoteText]"Many employees (41%) say they would consider taking a job with a lower salary if the company offered a hybrid work model. Furthermore, 47% of employees say they would probably leave their job if the employer didn't offer a hybrid work model once the pandemic is over. “If you’re not offering these kinds of evolving benefits, there’s a competitive disadvantage, “
- Lynne Cazaly, workplace specialist.
Hybrid work and different industries
The tech industry is already accepting the new work model. Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an e-mail to employees announcing workers could now enjoy four “work-from-anywhere weeks” to give “everyone more flexibility around summer and holiday travel.” Spotify, Twitter, Square, Unilever, Atlassian allowed employees to work from anywhere, forever.
On the other hand, the titans of banking are not that willing to keep up with the hybrid work game. JPMorgan Chase chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon said he is fed up with ZOOM calls and remote work and announced offices will make a comeback. Goldman and Sachs CEO David Solomon called working from home an ‘aberration’. “I do think for a business like ours which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” Solomon said.
What do numbers show? PwC’s US Remote Work Survey showed that few executives think a company can survive a completely remote set up. The question was: If COVID-19 was not a concern, how often do you think a typical employee needs to be in the office, if at all, in order to maintain a distinctive culture for the company?
These are the results:
So, it all comes down to a hybrid work model. There is no set template. Companies will have to decide how and when to go back to the office – and in which scope. Leaders need to rethink productivity and what goals do they want to accomplish? There needs to be a fine balance between keeping your employees satisfied and strengthening the company culture in any work environment.