The transition to at-home work that has taken place during Covid has led many firms to question whether they need their staff to be physically present in the office. Companies that would never have typically trusted their employees to work remotely have spent a year or longer with an entirely remote workforce. Investments in technology have been made, and new routines developed.
With the requirement for work at home starting to ease, firms are now facing a choice regarding the extent to which at-home work should be embraced – whether to require all employees to return to the office, or whether some hybrid is possible. This article explores some key considerations associated with hybrid works – combining some elements of work from home with in-person work.
Benefits of hybrid work
Provides greater employee flexibility than traditional office work
The first benefit of hybrid work is that it allows for greater flexibility – potentially benefiting employees that have other commitments (such as child care) that they also need to take into account. By allowing employees greater flexibility in where they conduct their work, it is possible to attract and maintain employees where a traditional job – requiring in-person work every day of the week – would simply not be feasible.
Potentially less office space required
Another key benefit of hybrid work (relative to full in-person offices) is that it may reduce the total cost of office space that is required. The cost of leasing and maintaining office space and desks is often not insignificant, and if employees spend at least a proportion of their time at home, then the requirements for this are substantially reduced.
Some level of employee connections are maintained
A benefit of hybrid work compared to completely working from home is that it maintains some degree of connections between employees. While it is possible to lose the office culture if no one meets in person, requiring (or encouraging) some degree of physical work together can help maintain employee interpersonal relations.
Different hybrid alternatives
While the nature of full work from the office, and full work from home are clear, ‘hybrid’ work has many possible interpretations – with different benefits associated with each.
The choose your own approach
One possible implementation of hybrid work is to allow employees to choose for themselves the extent to which they want to work from the office. For some employees, working from the office may be their preference. For others, staying at home may be a better setup. And for others, a combination of both could work well.
The choose-your-own approach to hybrid workplaces give the greatest consideration to what works best for your employees. Rather than dictating a one-size-fits-all policy, the choose your own perspective allows employees to select the setup that will work for them.
The downside of this is that it places control on employees. This may mean roles that would better function with in-person coordination may be conducted remotely. It may also make it harder to plan for office space requirements. Unless there is some form of formalized schedule, it is difficult to downsize your office space below the number of employees that you have.
Barebone office staff spread over the week
Another approach to hybrid work is to distribute the requirements for employees to come in over the week. You may for example be able to operate with only 40% office requirements by having employees coming in just two days of the five regular working days.
A key benefit of this approach is that it ensures that all employees are integrating with one another. Rather than some employees deciding to work at home every day (in turn not meeting other colleagues), this approach ensures some degree of social interactions.
Some key considerations with this form of hybrid work include:
- Whether the daily routines are fixed: Having set days that employees come in (e.g., a proportion of employees only coming in on Mondays/Tuesday, a different group on Wednesdays/Thursdays) may give employees greater ability to plan their weeks. The disadvantage of this approach though is that it means certain employees will never meet others. If you have a staggered approach (e.g., with the days changing for at least a subset of employees), then it is possible that everyone will get to know everyone.
- Whether the setup is the same across employees: Another key consideration is the extent to which this setup applies to all employees. While there are clear equity benefits in treating everyone the same (and this may reduce resentment), there may be operational benefits with having managers in the office to supervise lower employees.
In-person 'Fridays' and other company-wide consistent schedules
A final approach to hybrid work is to have in-person days infrequently – potentially every Friday (or every other Friday). This has the benefit of maintaining some forms of company-wide connections, while also allowing employees to maintain a large proportion of at-home work.
If this approach is adopted by the company, it is important to consider the impact it could have on the required office space. If everyone is required to come in at once – and everyone must have a desk – then the required office space is no lower than everyone working in person. Alternatively, if everyone is only coming in for in-person meetings or presentations, it may be possible to have a much smaller office environment – setup with only meeting and presentation rooms.