Why the future of work might be ‘hybrid’

What are the pros and cons of remote work combined with office presence times? What this hybrid model mean for companies in real life? In essence, it is important to provide a coherent structure that allows employees to be their most effective. Companies also need to create an environment in which no one is disadvantaged. On the one hand, that can mean being aware that not all employees have a quiet workplace at home due to care duties or crowded apartments and providing additional office space. On the other hand, employees who have very little office time shouldn’t feel excluded. One solution could be (coworking) office space passes that each employee can use according to their needs in combination with regular all-hands online meetings. 

Interesting thought: How can we overcome the race and gender gap in hybrid work models?

This article was originally published on BBC on August 31, 2020. Read it in full here: https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200824-why-the-future-of-work-might-be-hybrid

Companies are looking to the post-Covid future. For many, the vision is a model that combines remote work and office time.

Since Covid-19 upended our lives, employees around the world have settled into the rhythms of mandatory remote work. Now, as companies try to decide the best way forward for their workers, it’s clear that many employees don’t want to stuff the genie entirely back into the bottle.

  • A survey in May showed that 55% of US workers want a mixture of home and office working. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double, from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic. In China, employment expert Alicia Tung has predicted that in 10 years’ time, there will be a 60/40 split of onsite/remote work.
  • A common procedure of existing hybrid companies, accelerated since the pandemic started, is to designate certain days for in-office meetings and collaboration, and remote days for work involving individual focus. Physical presence might be required for orientations, team-building and project kick-offs, but not necessarily for other work. “We try to use home working days less for video sessions and more for the tasks that require concentration. A task that may take several hours in the office may be completed in just an hour or two at home,” says Baruch Silverman, founder of personal finance website The Smart Investor.
  • The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, an HR professional association, believes that most companies will retain physical offices. But changes are afoot, as some companies will be reluctant to maintain the same amount of office space for a smaller number of workers.
  • Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor with expertise in remote work, believes that once the pandemic subsides, working from home two days a week will be optimal for balancing collaborative and quiet work, while benefitting from the reduced stress of less commuting.
  • Anita Williams Woolley, who researches organisational behaviour and theory at Carnegie Mellon University, believes that it makes sense for organisations to evaluate their space and consider downsizing, but without eliminating meeting space.
  • Worry over the unintentional exclusion of remote workers is behind one of Minervini’s key suggestions: aim towards equalisation. Ideally all workers would be in the office on the same days, although this may be impractical for socially distanced offices. Leaders should be in the same boat as employees, to whatever extent possible, with roughly equal face time.
  • It also helps foster more empowered employees, which leads into Minervini’s final suggestion for optimising hybrid work: modularisation. This involves dividing up work into tasks that employees can complete independently and make decisions on quickly, without requiring colleagues to be online simultaneously. “You need to break the temporal chain of synchronicity,” urges Minervini. In other words, an efficient hybrid workplace shouldn’t demand that everyone works the same hours, at the same pace, though occasionally this is necessary. A mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication methods helps geographically-distant teams work best.
  • It just takes a little creativity and comfort, getting used to a new way of doing things. And so for me the silver lining in the pandemic is that it has forced organisations to find ways to do that. And I really hope they never go back, because for people’s wellbeing, work-life balance, etc., it just really is better to have this kind of flexibility.”