7 Strongest Benefits and 5 Unexpected Challenges of Hybrid Work
According to a 2021 research, 71% of US employees would prefer a hybrid or fully remote job even outside of the pandemic. And 68% of workers said that combining office and remote work is the ideal way to arrange their schedule.
At this point, it’s clear that hybrid work is not a COVID-19 fad that will disappear once the pandemic is over. With more employers considering the possibility of hybrid work or already introducing it in some form, let’s take a look at the biggest pros and cons of this arrangement.
What is a hybrid work model?
The hybrid work model is a setup where one part of the team works from the office and another part works from home. The teams can alternate their locations or choose to permanently work from the office or remotely.
Hybrid work is something many companies were virtually forced into at the beginning of the pandemic. And when many workers started returning to the office, others continued working from home. For 45% of US-based companies, hybrid work is the preferred arrangement of 2021, and here is what it entails both for them and their employees.
Benefits of hybrid work
If it wasn’t for the many advantages of hybrid work, it would have never gotten so popular in the first place. Here are the 7 biggest reasons to consider it.
1. Better adaptability
Almost two years into the pandemic, it may seem like the worst is behind us. However, we never know what the future has in store for us. Many companies were completely unprepared for the instant switch to remote work in the March of 2020, which created a lot of challenges on its own. Whereas a company that already practices hybrid work in some capacity will never be taken by surprise by any changes to its setup and will be able to adapt to those changes faster.
2. Higher flexibility for employees
Out of all employment models available right now, hybrid work provides the employees with the most flexibility and is even more flexible than remote work. For example, an employee can switch between working from home when they need to take care of a family member and working from an office when everything is settled at home.
They can influence their own schedule to a degree — for example, a hybrid worker may choose to start and end their workday outside of regular working hours to avoid peak commuting time. Moreover, a company that has already gone through a hybrid transformation will likely display flexibility in other aspects.
3. Access to a wider range of talent
When hiring in a traditional in-office environment, companies typically need to choose from whoever is available within a reasonable distance from the office. This creates some limitations, especially for companies outside of the biggest cities with the largest pool of qualified candidates.
This is not a limitation a hybrid-first company will typically face. Remote work is the preferable option for millions of highly competent employees who will gladly take a position even thousands of miles away as long as it’s attractive to them personally.
4. Lower costs
Hybrid work is an opportunity to cut costs both for the employer and the employees. For the employer, it means that they can downsize the office space, spend less on electricity and other utilities, and achieve lower maintenance and cleaning costs.
The employee working from home mainly saves money on commuting to and from work, which can be a substantial expense item in the case of using public transportation or driving their own vehicle. A remote employee may also spend less money on dress-code-friendly attire and buying lunch.
5. More opportunities to focus
With a few exceptions here and there, the standard workday is still 8 hours. However, according to a study of almost 2,000 office workers, an average employee is only productive for less than 3 of those hours.
Some of the distractions workers face, such as checking social media or making tea and coffee, are not exclusive to the office environment only. But some of them, like talking to your coworkers, definitely are. As a remote worker, you can keep all communication to a work-related bare minimum, which will make it easier for you to focus on the task at hand.
6. Environmentally friendly work
This may not have seemed like such a big advantage one or two decades ago, but now that we are living in the middle of a climate change crisis, every effort counts. The growth in popularity of hybrid work means that the amount of commute the employees are doing is lowering dramatically. This, in turn, lowers energy usage, fossil fuel consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the much-needed environmental change.
7. Employee satisfaction
In early 2021, thousands of companies across the US have seen millions of employees walk out of their jobs in what has become known as The Big Quit or The Big Resignation. The rigidity of some companies and their lack of desire to adopt remote or hybrid work models is often named as one of the reasons for the Big Quit.
Adopting a more flexible approach and giving the hybrid model a try is something any employee should consider. It will always positively influence the satisfaction of the employees and will make them less likely to participate in the next wave of mass resignation.
Challenges of hybrid work
A switch to the hybrid work model is often the biggest change a typical company has gone through in the past few years. Needless to say, this kind of change doesn’t always happen completely hassle-free, and here are the 5 most common challenges of hybrid work.
1. Technical difficulties
One of the most unexpected complications of the shift to remote work is that not all companies were technically prepared for the new conditions. Setting up a hybrid work environment where remote workers can equally contribute, get a fair evaluation, and participate in communication alongside office workers has proven to be challenging for some companies and downright impossible for others.
Moreover, with remote employees operating from different locations, and often their own devices, creates another challenge for the company’s system administrators. Maintaining the security of company data and enforcing high cybersecurity standards is no easy task when working with a remote, geographically distributed team.
2. Micromanagement at every level
For many managers, especially those who are used to working in an office environment, hybrid work creates an increased risk of micromanagement. When a manager does not see an employee eye-to-eye, trust can gradually disappear from their work relationship, leaving space only for micromanagement and surveillance.
This can go as far as putting the number of hours worked by the employee over their input and using screen-recording software to monitor what the employee is doing on their computer during work hours. Naturally, this does not lead to the establishment of a culture of trust, which is essential in a hybrid workplace.
3. Proximity bias
A traditional office environment is not always an even playing field because of office politics and other factors. And while office politics are not usually a big part of a hybrid work landscape, remote workers face the risk of being overlooked for promotions and new opportunities due to something called proximity bias.
Proximity bias is when a manager subconsciously favors those in close proximity to them — in other words, remote workers often end up at disadvantage compared to office employees. This can especially affect women, who are already more likely to choose remote work due to being primary caregivers for their children.
4. Employee burnout
Employee burnout is something all modern workers can experience regardless of the workplace model, but hybrid employees are particularly vulnerable to this problem. This is the direct result of the proximity bias and in-office employees being treated differently from remote workers.
A remote worker then feels like the only way to get treated better is to work harder and to spend more hours working. This can also be reinforced by the worker’s manager, who may demand more from the remote employees than from in-office workers due to the lack of trust in their complete involvement in the work process.
5. Unusual migration patterns
The shift to hybrid and remote work has unearthed a surprising side effect: workers who no longer need to pay exorbitant rent in major cities begin moving to smaller cities. On one hand, this brings a boost to areas that may have previously struggled with attracting white-collar workers. It can also give those workers an affordable place to settle down with their families.
On the other hand, those remote communities may not be ready for the influx of workers, and without the necessary infrastructure, creating a comfortable environment for an increased population can take years.
Moreover, bigger cities that are seeing an outflow of skilled workers will likely also see negative effects in the job market, housing, and small and medium business sectors, as there will simply be fewer potential employees to occupy the positions and customers to purchase the goods and services.
Hybrid work provides a lot of flexibility and other benefits both to the employee and the workers, but it doesn’t always come easy. Facing certain challenges is nearly inevitable, but with enough motivation and the right approach, they won’t stand in the way of you transforming your worldview and career.