Throughout the last few years, hybrid work has brought major changes in the way people work or even how they approach work. The time has come to gather data and run deep analyses of our new normal.
According to a recent Atlassian study and Tracey Brower, by bringing more flexibility in offices and employees' lives, hybrid work has been improving work-life balance and well-being at work. But since hybrid is not one size fits all, and we’ve really never operated this way before, there are many ways to go wrong.
Luckily, we know how to do it right. Here are the 7 factors of success in a Hybrid Work Model.
The debate about where work occurs – whether it should be done entirely remotely or in the office – is a false contradiction that has been extremely misdirected and perpetuated by the media. In reality, some organizations are enforcing full-office or full-remote models, but the best learnings from the last few years have been about hybrid work-and the benefits of work that can be done both at home and at work.
A world where people have more choice and control over when, where, and how they work is the most attractive and certainly the reality that most want.
There are positive links between flexibility and employee sentiment, engagement, and more.
A large majority of people say that, most of the time, they have multiple choices when it comes to the place they work. The new Atlassian study cites that on any given day, more than 55% of knowledge workers are in a position to choose to work from the office or from home. And about 51% can choose to live in a different area from where their office is located.
Moreover, 43% of knowledge workers work in a hybrid manner, spending some time in the office and some time working remotely – an increase from 27% in 2021. Aside from that, since 2021, all-remote work has decreased from 34% to 22%, while office-only work has increased from 35% to 39%.
Consequently, because flexibility is high in demand from talent, companies are willing to provide more of it – especially given the intense and competitive labor market.
And regardless of sentiment, the US job market is still growing; seeing an "increase of 226,000 jobs in October of 2022".
And it also makes sense that all the generations are expecting more flexibility in working options, according to a study by LiveCareer. If we zoom in, it appears that 76% of Millennials, 69% of Gen Z and 64% of Gen X expect flexibility in a job. So much so, that when respondents were asked about the most important benefits when it comes to work, 38% of Millennials, 33% of Gen X and 32% of Gen Z identified flexible working benefits as most important.
But interestingly, we saw a reduction of flexible work as a people's priority, in comparison with other issues, based on a new study of 13,488 people across 15 countries by BCW. Indeed, we can see job security, stable employment, workplace and culture as employee's top concerns now.
And still, the desire for hybrid and remote work remains on the top of the list of priorities - and it's even more true among workers who are already, or have worked, with these degrees of flexibility.
The most interesting and exciting part is probably the data about how flexible work is affecting people and companies. Still, according to the recent Atlassian study, the results are significant:
The health of the team has also improved since 2021. With more people reporting flexible work options in 2022, only 5% of teams are unhealthy, compared to 29% in 2021.
People's fundamental need for control-and to be treated as adults-is met by flexible work in a powerful way. According to studies by Indiana University, people's level of control made all the difference to their health and even their mortality when they had high stress jobs. When people had more control over work intrusions during non-working hours, stress and health levels were positively impacted, according to research at the University of Illinois.
The important take-away message: Flexible work really works for people, and for organizations: This is why we designed Café!
Consider the following factors when seeking to enhance the flexibility of work within your organization.
Different jobs require varying amounts of face-to-face interaction, which can lead to inequity. Decide how you'll manage options for flexibility by setting general principles. Also, provide a consequent amount of transparency and clarity about why some jobs require more in person presence than others—for instance, involving the need for hands-on experimentation in labs, interaction with customers or co-creation with teams.
In addition, inviting input from remote participants in every meeting foster presence equity and make sure important concepts in an organization such as mentorship or development and career advancement opportunities are available to all, regardless of working location.
Creativity is a real matter when it comes to flexibility, because work can be flexible in very different ways. Stretching the ability to be creative helps to give more flexibility to people, most of the time.
Considering flexibility is only questioning the place people work from is very restrictive. Maybe a receptionist needs to be there to greet guests for most of the day, but they can share responsibilities across the team. This allows them to work a few hours a day when other members are in direct contact with clients and can work from home on tasks that are not in direct contact with clients. We also have to take into account the flexibility not only of where people work, but also of when they choose to work or what projects they are working on.
Creativity can also involve finding reasons or opportunities to bring employees together, in the office or for a specific occasion. When most employees are working remotely, it can be difficult to get a team or office together, celebrate or simply create strong connections.
While flexibility can be enhanced through creativity, hosting events and encouraging people to celebrate together is a very powerful way to make the hybrid model work.
Another key to success with flexible work is intentionality. Be specific about when people need to be in the office so that teams can solve problems to generate new solutions in person, rather than assuming they need to be in the office every day. Enable people to consider how and where they work best, and what tasks they can do remotely rather than in the office. Encourage teams to adopt new standards to share schedule information so people can commute when others are in the office.
By offering visibility over people, places, and schedules, the intention and opportunities of meeting with coworkers significantly increases. It's a real key to success when going hybrid.
Perhaps the biggest challenge in hybrid or remote work models has become meeting people and building relationships - especially between teams, and even more so with newcomers.
An important key to success in a hybrid model is to encourage interactions between people, and to facilitate connections between teams. You can imagine how hard it can be to establish new connections if you don’t run into someone at the coffee machine. That level of serendipity and unity at work will likely never be how it was before 2020, but can we design for those interactions to happen even more? Or at least more intentionally?
In fact we can. But in order to do this, people need to be prompted by a shared mission, a shared experience, and/or interest. Because how much better would it be to discover that Leslie also speaks Mandarin, and next time you're in the office together, you can make sure to greet her in Mandarin?!
While not all of us speak Mandarin, many things could prompt connection, like an upcoming event, a common day at the office, or shared interest in learning.
Studies have found that people who work remotely often face difficulties setting boundaries. When work comes home, it can be hard to turn it off. There's also been increasing trend to skip out on taking sick days, instead simply working from home and being productive, regardless of how someone feels. Because if you can do it from bed, what's the harm, right? Well even the best policies in the world (aka flexible work) need etiquette and norms to support a healthy work life. Make sure people feel comfortable to turn off and take time off seriously. Let's bring back the sick day!
Many companies have been cautious in setting guidelines on how often and when people should be back in the office. But clarity on these things can actually relieve the pressure for people to reinvent their schedules week after week. It can be helpful for leaders to decide with their teams that they'll be in the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, for example, so that people know what to expect. Companies should continue to provide flexibility, of course, but guardrails can enable people with the consistency and clarity they might need.
After all, we're still in a time of transition of how we work, and there's evidence to support that this type of consistency can be beneficial to productivity.
Work has changed, and workplaces should follow. We need to test new spaces and ask people for feedback on how well they are meeting new needs. By offering many dynamic spaces to choose from, you can ensure to test spaces for all kinds of work: from concentration and collaboration to learning, socialization and rejuvenation. Make sure people have cultural permission to work from different spots, not just at a workstation. Even better if you have neighborhoods where people can find a familiar face, like their teams or work besties!
Learn more about space booking vs desk booking, or People Centric Space Management
With all the challenges of the pandemic, one of the positives is knowing how many people and businesses have learned about work and how it's going. Overall, demands for flexible work have increased, and the positive effects of flexible work are encouraging. The future of work is certainly flexible, and it is here.
It's a reality: a new area of work has started, bringing more flexibility and life-work harmony to employees.
We believe hybrid work is a sustainable model when correctly executed, and that's what Café has been designed for: to make hybrid a way for people and companies to succeed.