When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, offices across the US (and the world) were forced to shut their doors and transition their teams to full-time remote work.
Many companies worried this unexpected shift to working remotely would have a negative impact on employee productivity, engagement, and company culture. But, as it turns out, the opposite ended up being true.
According to the Workforce Sentiment Survey from CBRE, 90 percent of employees and company leaders reported that productivity either stayed the same or increased while working remotely. And according to Slack’s Remote Employee Experience Index, employees experienced a better work-life balance (+25.7 on the index), more satisfaction with their work arrangement (+20.1), and an increased ability to manage work-related stress and anxiety (+17.3) while working from home—even in the midst of a global pandemic.
So, the “COVID work from home (WFH) experiment,” though unexpected, turned out to be a success. Which has many wondering: is this shift to remote work permanent? Will people want to head back to the office after the pandemic is over?
Or are we witnessing the death of the office as we know it?
Remote work is here to stay…
There’s no getting around it—remote work is here to stay. As mentioned, it’s clear that employees are happier, more engaged, and more productive when working remotely—and most have no interest in going back to the office full-time.
According to the Reimagining Human Experience study from JLL, 72 percent of employees want to continue working from home on a regular basis post-pandemic, with the majority wanting to WFH at least 2 days a week.
…but not at the expense of working in an office
Employees may be embracing the remote work life—but that doesn’t mean they aren’t also eager to get back into the office. According to the JLL study, nearly 3 in 4 employees (74 percent) still want the option to work in the office.
A variety of factors are driving employees’ desire to get back into the office—with one of the biggest being the desire to reconnect with colleagues. According to PwC’s recent US Remote Work Survey, 87 percent of employees say the office is important for building relationships and collaborating with team members—which were also ranked as the most important needs for the office to fulfill.
Also, while working remotely is clearly a great experience for many employees, it’s certainly not the right fit for all employees. There are plenty of workers who have struggled to adapt to working from home—for example, trying to juggle work and home responsibilities or struggling with their WFH setup. According to the Hybrid Working Challenges and Considerations Survey from UK-based IT consultancy Atlas Cloud, less than half of the workers surveyed had a dedicated workspace at home—while the recent survey from Slack shows that nearly 25 percent of respondents struggled with internet connectivity issues. Forcing those employees to continue working from home indefinitely could lead to issues with employee morale, productivity, and retention–with the employee and the employer suffering as a result.
Clearly, full-time remote work for all isn’t the solution, either. So the question is—what is the solution?
The hybrid work model is the future
The COVID-19 pandemic hastened the move towards remote work. And while employees, for the most part, thrived in a remote environment, they’re also ready to get back to the office—at least some of the time—once the pandemic is under control.
And that’s why the future of work lies in the hybrid work model.
Also read: [Expert Opinion] Bertrand Duperrin: Toward a Hybrid Work Model
A hybrid work model offers employees flexibility to work both remotely and in the office—and it’s the model employees want from their companies going forward with, according to the JLL study, 70 percent of employees in favor of hybrid work.
Not only do the majority of employees want the hybrid work model—many of them expect it. According to the 2020 State of Remote Work report, a whopping 92 percent of employees surveyed said they expect to work from home at least one day per week post-COVID—and 80 percent said they expected to work from home at least three days per week.
If companies want to stay competitive in the post-COVID world, they need to create a work environment that supports both remote and in-person work—and empowers collaboration between the two.
How to successfully transition to a hybrid work model
Gearing up to go hybrid? Here are a few tips to help you successfully transition from remote work to a hybrid work model:
- Put safety first. After working from home for over a year—and doing so in the midst of a global pandemic—some of your employees may feel nervous coming back to the office. Before you welcome employees back, make sure you put necessary safety protocols in place (for example, setting up hand sanitizing stations and spacing out the desks)—and then let your employees know the steps you’re taking to keep them safe.
- Make your office more flexible. When your team was working in the office full-time, it made sense to have dedicated desks for each employee. But in a hybrid model, there’s less consistency in when and how long employees will be working in the office—so having a dedicated workstation for each employee makes less sense. Instead, try creating more flexible workspaces (for example, “hot desks” or communal tables), where employees can sit down and work for the day—then (after being sanitized) leave that space open for a new employee the following day.
- Empower collaboration between remote and in-person employees. The definition of the hybrid work model is that some employees will be working in the office and some will be working from home. But in order for the hybrid work model to succeed, those employees need to be able to collaborate—no matter where they’re working from. Make sure you give your employees the tools, software, and resources they need to effectively collaborate with their fellow team members—both when they’re working remotely and when they’re working in the office.
During the pandemic, your employees proved that they could manage remote work. And now that we’re moving out of the pandemic, it’s time to welcome them back to the office—while still allowing them the freedom and flexibility to work from home when it works for them. And now that you know how to embrace the hybrid work model, all that’s left to do? Get out there and empower your employees to do their best work—whether they’re at the office or at home.
Want to learn more about the challenges and benefits of the hybrid work model? Read this white paper:
Access White Paper
In our white paper “Future of Work: Make Way for Hybrid Work!” you’ll discover the eight main challenges of hybrid work; best practices managers, HR, internal communication, IT and employees all can adopt; and the tools for facilitating hybrid work.
Author: Deanna deBara