The Hybrid Office Model Is Here To Stay

COVID-19 supercharges workplace transformation.

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hybrid-workforce
Irene McConnell
4 min read

August 10, 2021

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Chris works in Beijing. Pat works in Lima. Morgan works in New York City. They all work for the same company which is located in London. They’ve never met. They probably never will. This isn’t the workplace of the future. It’s the workplace of today.

It’s a hybrid model that has been fuelled precipitously by the worldwide spread of a virus.

Steve Morrow, who also works for the same company from Parramatta in Western Sydney, is currently looking for a new job. Like many, he’s been working remotely since March 2020. Also like many, he says he has “no desire to return to a cubicle again … ever.”

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While he’s not desperate to find a new job, he says he’s surprised by the number of employers that want people to be on site.

If he was desperate, he says, he recognises that he would have to consider going into an office something he’s now loathe to do.

“I can’t stand the thought of being confined to a cube all day,” he says.

“I’m a productive employee and I don’t see the need to be face-to-face with all the technology we have today with Zoom, Webex, etc.”

At this point, Morrow says, he would not consider changing jobs if it required him to be physically on-site.

He’s not alone.

The Genie Is Out of The Bottle

Research conducted by plugable, based on responses from 2000 US adults in January 2021 found that, like Morrow, nearly half of those currently working remotely would rather work at home for the long haul than head back to the office.

Joe Flanagan, a senior employment advisor with VelvetJobs, has experienced the reluctance—or utter refusal—to consider jobs that require employees to be onsite firsthand.

“Candidates today are less forgiving of employers who don’t provide the flexibility of remote or hybrid work,” he says.

“Many applicants that I have worked with simply refuse to consider in-office jobs because they don’t want to go entirely back to the way things were.”

Corey K. Brown is a case in point.

Brown recently changed jobs. Having a hybrid working environment was a big part of his decision-making process. After having worked entirely remotely for more than 18 months at his last job, he says the leadership team decided to bring all staff back into the office.

That, he says, “was a game-changer for me and many of my coworkers.”

It Was Also A Decision That Defied Logic.

The company had been entirely in-office prior to the pandemic. Then, like many, it was forced to send people home to work.

During that time, says Brown, the company had “historical growth.” That, he says, should have proven that employees could work effectively remotely.

After getting pushback from employees, the company agreed to move to a hybrid environment.

It’s a move that more companies are likely to seriously consider. Employees have become seriously averse to on-site work requirements after getting a taste of the benefits that remote work can offer.

(Related: Smart Strategies For Getting A Job Quickly).

Opportunities For Employees.

“Hybrid work offers a number of key opportunities for both personal and professional growth”, says Corey K. Brown, head of marketing with risk3sixty.

Flexibility and work/life balance are two primary benefits, according to Brown.

Even the little things — like being home to admit a service person, or having the flexibility to leave for appointments, or to throw a load of clothes in the wash can be highly valued.

(Related: The Best Stand-Up Desk For Your Home Office).

Those are personal life convenience-related perks, but the benefits of remote work can become much more tangible.

Scott Hirsch is CTO and co-founder of TalentMarketplace, a recruitment platform for tech companies and candidates.

Based on input from job seekers on his platform, Hirsch says that many have started searching for new job opportunities beyond their immediate location — including across the country.

“They could even start looking for work in places that offer higher pay than their current location,” he notes.

Of course, those remote jobs wouldn’t even need to be located in the United States. Remote work literally opens up a world of possibilities.

However, as with anything, there are always both upsides and downsides, says Hirsch.

Worrying Drawbacks.

First, Hirsch says: “While remote work means more job opportunities since you can search outside of your location, it also means more competition.”

Consider a rural community in a sparsely populated area where you are the only IT developer with qualifications for a position that you’re a shoo-in for. If that position can suddenly be handled remotely (and it can) the competitive field of candidates has grown exponentially.

This, says Flanagan, is the biggest challenge facing candidates in a remote/hybrid work environment.

People who have been laid off over the past year are looking for work, and so are people who have been waiting to ride out the volatility before changing their jobs.

There is an influx of talent supply, which makes it harder for average and above-average candidates to get noticed or receive call-back interviews.

On average, most people are applying to more job openings today and getting far lesser responses. Those who are less likely to feel the pinch of competition are “niche experts or workers with very specific skill sets,” says Flanagan.

Being able to work anywhere in the world opens up a lot of opportunities, but also raises issues related to interacting with people across time zones. Get together for lunch at midnight, anyone?

And, says Hirsch, while not having to commute to work is certainly an advantage, onboarding and working entirely remotely can negatively impact the social aspects of a job.

Plugable also points to some “bad habits” that can emerge when working from home based on its research:

  • Spending too much time using smartphones, or engaging with social media and the internet (37%)
  • Shopping online during the workday (34%)
  • Binge-watching Netflix shows during the workday (33%)
  • Leaving home for non-essential trips (shopping, nail/hair appointments (26%)

A lack of a productive space for work (cited by 34% of respondents) and dealing with technical computer or internet issues (cited by 33%) can also negatively impact productivity, while also leading to frustration for employees.

(Related: Best Coffee Machines To Fuel Your WFH Productivity).

While many have come to recognise and acknowledge that the fear of employees being “out of sight and out of mind” was largely unfounded, employees themselves have lingering concerns as Brown acknowledges.

“Learning to grow in your career without interacting with your team directly can be a drawback”, he says.

It’s a work model that’s not for everyone.

The good news, though, is that while some remnants of remote work are likely to remain long past the pandemic, the majority of companies are most likely to take a hybrid approach, allowing both them and their employees — current and prospective — to have the best of both worlds.

 
– Irene
 

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