Struggling to decide whether you should require all employees to return to the office or to keep them working remotely? Maybe you have thought about creating a combination of both? With the end of the pandemic in sight, organizations are starting to question whether they require employees back in-office.
The different work environments
Most people are familiar with in-office workplaces – as these were the ‘norm’ for many years – and remote workplace models, which allows people work whether they want. Most people are familiar with remote work after the events of 2020.
A hybrid work model combines both in-office and remote work. Some employees may be completely remote, while others might be in-office. Alternatively, organizations might opt for a 2 day at-home and 3 day in-office scenario (or a similar arrangement). In most hybrid cases, organizations are flexible in letting their employees choose where they would like to work from, whether it be remotely, in-office, or a combination of the both.
In this article, we compare some aspects of work in a remote environment, in-office environment, and a hybrid work model so that you can make the best decision for your talent.
In-office, remote, and hybrid work comparisons
1) Work-life balance
Office: Work-life balance has become a hot topic over the last 5 years as many people believe that this balance has off. In fact, 66% of full-time employees in the U.S. did not strongly believe they have a good work-life balance.
Remote: There some contradicting studies when it come to work-life balance of a remote worker. In one survey, 67% of people said their work-life balance improved when they started working remotely, while in another survey, 7 in 10 Americans working from home during COVID-19 are struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance as the ability to separate work and home is challenging. These contradicting studies may be in large part determined the type of work, commuting time, travel time, etc.
Hybrid: Work-life balance is the top reported reason that people seek flexible work, and in a recent survey about 86% of companies provide some sort of flexible work options for this very reason. The hybrid workplace is seen as more flexible as employees can choose which work environment is best for them, hence, it helps promote a healthier work-life balance for the employee.
Bottom line: Regardless of the type of workforce, work-life balance has always been top-of-mind for employees. Organizations should survey their employees – ask them what they prefer and why. This will help determine the best work arrangement that allows for productive and happy employees.
2) Company Culture
Office: In the office, it may be easier to promote your company culture since you can demonstrate those values to your employees and team face-to-face every day. There should be constant reminders of company culture throughout the office – through the actions and behaviors of employees.
Remote: While building a connection with remote employees can be tricky, it is not impossible. Creating a digital hot spot can help build those work connections. Check-in for people’s birthdays, ask about weekend plans, or comment on a recent new story. Simple gestures help create strong employee experiences and build that company culture. There are many tools you can use in the remote setting to build company culture (ie., Teams, Slack, etc).
Hybrid: Promoting company culture in a hybrid environment is challenging since remote workers can feel as though they are being left out since they are not in the office when others are. Similar to the remote workforce, having the right technology that allows people to connect and allows organizations to showcase their values is vital in a hybrid workplace.
Bottom line: While it may seem that company cultures are easier to create in the office, great company cultures are not (and will never be) determined by physical space.
3) Operating Cost
Office: Leasing office space is expensive! Factor in other operating costs (electricity, wifi, commuting expenses (if applicable) etc), in-office space can be pricey and can definitely be seen as a downside to in-office working.
Remote: If people are working from home, businesses don’t need to worry about leasing expensive office space. For employees, the ability to work from home also saves them commuting (which can be a big money waster as well as time). On the other hand, buying and up keeping with remote office supplies can be seen as a downside especially if businesses do not offer reimbursement for paper, wifi, desks, etc.
Hybrid: If organizations choose a hybrid structure, they can save on operating costs by downsizing the size of their office space. The less room they need to hold their employees, the less money they will spend on operating expenses. Logistics may be harder – but techniques such as hoteling—reserving a desk or workstation space in advance of use—or hot desking—where workspaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis have been implemented in many organizations. In fact, it’s worth noting that 30% of multinational firms already use hot desking.
Bottom line: While there may be a decrease in costs if a business goes fully remote, it is worth considering what your employees want. If employees think they work better in the office, organizations should consider whether cutting down on hard costs will be worth a decrease in employee productivity or collaboration. For organizations that are not ready to go fully remote, hybrid work allows a great way to cut down on hard costs without sacrificing the happiness of employees.
4) Competition for talent
Office: Requiring your employees to work in the office has location-based limitations when searching for top talent. Your employees need to be able to make it to the office in order to complete their jobs which can limit your search for the possible employees you are targeting due to them not living in the area. If you are recruiting specific hires for a job, you may miss out on talented employees if you require them to come into the office to work.
Remote: A huge advantage of remote work is that you can hire from anywhere. Your talent pool has suddenly become a lot bigger! Competition is high for top talent, therefore, allowing your employees to work remotely may be a selling piece when trying to recruit.
Hybrid: A hybrid structure is the most flexible option that organizations can offer their employees. All employees are different, some may really want that in-office experience and others may like the comfort of working from home. By leaving the option up to employees it can be a big selling point for recruiting top talent. This enables organizations to find the best employees in their location and give them the option to work in the office, but also ensures that they are not losing out on great employees that may be located far away. Employees have appreciated the increase in flexibility they saw over the pandemic, and McKinsey reported that 52% of workers would prefer a more flexible working model post pandemic.
Bottom line: Remote and hybrid work opens up the talent pool and is definitely a big advantage in the current war for talent.
Office: Some organizations may think that the office is most productive place for employees. However, nearly 70% of employees feel they are distracted at work. This may be due to a number of factors including peers chatting or the high stress environment. With that being said, there can definitely be an advantage to having your peers and managers in the office, particularly in highly collaborative environments.
Remote: 77% of remote employees say they are more productive when working from home. This can be due to fewer distractions from other employees, less stress of your manager looking over your shoulder, or they just prefer the comfort of their own home.
Hybrid: Since it depends on the employee where they are most productive whether it be at home or in the office, by implementing a hybrid workplace, you are meeting all employee’s needs. This means employees that find they are more productive from home can work there and the same goes for in-office workers. This hybrid strategy offers the best answer for your employees and leaves the option up to them so that they can perform at their very best.
Bottom line: Every workplace is different. When it comes to picking a work environment, organizations should consider what employees want.
Undeniably the future of work is leaning towards hybrid models to allow for better work-life balances, finding and retaining top talent, and to lower the organization’s overall cost, but every workplace is different and every employee is different. Whether you opt for a fully remote, in-office, or a hybrid structure in the future, organizations need to ensure they have the right tools in place to implement the change smoothly.