Let's rewind two years back to 2019 and look at the predominant work culture at that time. While remote work was common enough in some fields, many people still did the daily grind of commuting to work in a shared office space. Fast forward to 2021, and a good majority of offices have adopted remote work culture, or are even moving toward the hybrid work model.
As times are changing and employee needs are evolving, it is important for organizations to adapt to the changes quickly and make their employees feel valued and supported. According to a study conducted by Deloitte, 43% of the companies surveyed did not permit their employees to work from home or did so only rarely before 2020. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the scene for many fields, forcing all those who could do their work remotely to move to the work from home model for safe social distancing. Additionally, the same Deloitte study stated that almost 54% of the employees don't want to go back to the office now and prefer working from home.
Since many offices have started slowly opening back up, organizations have to restructure their office culture to work best for both the employees and their company, which is where the hybrid work model can be the best solution.
Overcoming the limitations of remote work
Any work culture will be challenging if we don't know how to fit in. Whether it's remote, in-office, or hybrid work, employees need guidance and support. While remote work has a lot of benefits, it can also introduce a few major challenges for both the organization and the employees working there.
High reliance on technology
Since remote work means everyone is spread across multiple locations, employees should be provided with the right tools to be able to keep working and remain productive. Without the tools they need, it's harder to collaborate effectively, access the information they need, and get the job done on time.
Difficulty in team building
When teams are all working in the office, it's easier to organize team building activities, but it's not as convenient when it comes to remote work. In cases like onboarding new employees, the lack of in-person interaction and disjointed communication remote work sometimes can make it hard for those new hires to connect with the rest of the team.
Worsened mental health
Most full-time remote workers experience less human interaction, as they generally spend their work hours at home and away from coworkers. This can increase stress and feelings of disconnection, which can affect their mental health. The KFF Health Tracking Poll data says that during the pandemic, a larger than average share of young adults report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder (56%). With the COVID-19 pandemic already causing more anxiety and grief than usual, remote work added to the immense stress of lockdown, making mental health a huge concern worldwide.
A closer look at the hybrid work model
It's always good to have the best of both worlds, which is why hybrid work may turn out to be the best mix of fully remote or fully in-person models. The hybrid work model usually combines working from the office and at home, offering the benefits of both.
With hybrid work, teams are usually composed of a combination of employees working from both the office and remote spaces. Many organizations have already started rolling out this model for their employees and are experiencing huge success rates with respect to employee satisfaction and productivity.
Hybrid work culture can be roughly divided into four categories:
"At-will" model: Employees are provided with the flexibility to come to office depending on their convenience.
"Split-week" model: Work days can be divided into work-from-office days and work-from-home days. For example: employees could choose to work from the office for two days and work from home for the rest of the week.
"Shift-work" model: Many organizations have already been operating in this model where some employees on the team work a morning shift and the rest work in afternoon or evening shifts.
"Week-by-week" model: This model allows employees to alternate weeks working remotely and in the office. This is a great option for employees located far away from the office, as it allows them to consolidate their travel and take alternating weeks off from their commute.
Effective work in the hybrid model
When employees are provided with the flexibility to choose their own work schedule, they are often more productive. However, while productivity is important, focusing solely on productivity without also establishing a balance could lead to serious workforce burnout. Ideally, the hybrid work model makes it easier for employees to find a balance between work and everyday life.
Making sure your employees are happy and supported increases productivity and reduces employee turnover, and one way to increase employee satisfaction is by offering more flexibility in the workplace. Continuing only with fully in-office work models can lead to employee dissatisfaction and narrow your company's talent pool. However, as many companies have learned during lockdown these last two years, fully remote work limits human interaction, negatively affects employee mental health, and impedes team building.
Adopting the hybrid work model can allow your organization to strike a balance between these two options, lowering operational costs and giving your employees the flexibility of working from home while also offering the connection and interaction of in-office work.