19 Aug 2021

The future of work is hybrid: work from home and the workplace

by Joan

There’s no doubt that workplaces have shifted for good. Even the non-believers who still oppose work-from-home models can see some good in hybrid practices. COVID-19 has brought about a new evolution in the work environment. According to Forbes, the pandemic has “fast-tracked strategic workplace initiatives to address a dispersed workforce and fuel digital transformation.”

According to a new survey, nine out of ten employers will be transitioning hybrid work practices when their workforce returns to the office. However, even though the pandemic has been affecting businesses worldwide for over eighteen months, many companies are only now beginning to iron out their hybrid work models.

What does hybrid working look like now?

Before the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for employees to work a day or two outside the office. Any more than a day or two, however, and most bosses would take notice. As far as most higher-ups were concerned, employees could not be as effective working from home as they were in the office.

The pandemic proved them wrong. According to McKinsey, productivity and customer satisfaction actually improved during the pandemic. Now, companies are torn. They’re struggling to rethink everything they’ve learned about employee collaboration and insert old ideals into remote work.

Some experts believe collaboration over distance will evolve into something natural. The emphasis shouldn’t be on controlling workplace collaboration, but providing employees with the tools for it to transition naturally.

Is the hybrid work model the future of remote work?

We’ve established that yes, hybrid work environments are the way of the future. Yet, let’s have a look at why they’re the workplaces of the future.

Up until now, hybrid workspaces or flexible offices have been a fad: something one company tried out, which other companies observed like guinea pigs in a science experiment. Some companies watched the results thinking, “maybe that could work…” Others looked away because there was no way flexible work practices would hold up in their business.

Then, COVID-19 happened and forced most companies to try a taste of a hybrid workforce full-time. Low and behold, it worked. Throughout the pandemic, the majority of companies benefited from the following:

Improved productivity

Over the past eighteen months, work-from-home setups have been tested as they never could have been before. Over and over, recent studies show that employees are, on average, more productive working remotely.

A Stanford study of over 16,000 workers showed that productivity increased by 16 percent among remote workers. A study executed by ConnectSolutions showed that 77 percent of employees are more productive working offsite and 30 percent accomplished more in less time, while 24 percent said they accomplished more in the same amount of time.

These are just two examples of studies that show how productive remote workers can be.

Enhanced employee satisfaction

More and more employees are planning to leave their jobs if they aren’t offered more flexibility. Research conducted by Prudential suggests that 42 percent of workers plan to leave their jobs if they aren’t offered more flexible work conditions.

A study performed by Accenture demonstrated that hybrid workers were able to develop a stronger work-life balance. As a result, the employees “had better mental health, stronger work relationships and were more likely to feel [better off] as a result of working for their organizations” — all strong arguments for why employees should be offered hybrid work conditions post-pandemic.

With COVID drawing to an end, the best way to hang onto your top talent is by implementing a hybrid workplace.

Reduced real estate and overhead costs

Companies are doing the math and finding that, not only is productivity increasing, but overhead costs can be cut significantly. For each employee who works from home half of the time, companies can save $11,000 per year per employee. Not to mention, each employee may save between $2,000 and $7,000 per year.

Hybrid work has the potential to save both companies and employees a lot of money, reducing overhead costs and improving employee satisfaction.

Reliable future-proofing

As many people recall, the last pandemic of this scale occurred in 1918 when the influenza pandemic struck the world. An estimated 50 million people died worldwide. With one pandemic every one hundred years, should we be concerned?

Hold on: let’s not forget the influenza A virus of 1957, the H3N2 virus of 1968, or even the H1N1pdm09 virus of 2009. These last three pandemics weren’t nearly as largescale as the Spanish flu or COVID-19. Yet, imagine being prepared the next time a pandemic struck?

Work-from-home policies keep your company from missing a beat if work-from-home protocols are ever issued again. In fact, before governments had us shift to working from home in 2020, some adaptable companies had already sent their employees home for the wellbeing of their staff.

Be prepared for the next major event by maintaining hybrid work practices.

Working from home vs. working in the office

The past year and a half have shown us that, between working from home and working in the office, neither trumps the other. Both styles of work have their purpose, along with pros and cons. However, the main difference between the two is the mindset to make them work.

Below are the key concerns about remote working and how to overcome them:

Productivity

A loss of productivity has been the main concern for managers and your CEO. Until recently, there were no studies showing that employees really can be as productive at home as they are at work.

As was pointed out earlier, studies conducted during the COVID pandemic have demonstrated that companies can be even more productive with remote employees. That’s not to say maintaining productivity doesn’t take an organization or the best tools in the industry, but it’s without a doubt possible.

Communication

One of the biggest worries about hybrid work is the effectiveness of workplace communication. We’re all on a learning curve, discovering how to engage our teammates through emails and Zoom chats. Yet, there’s nothing wrong with learning curves: we’ve embarked on them before and will do so again.

The key point about hybrid work and communication is, try to get your team in on the same days as regularly as possible. Imagine this: colleagues who see each other from Monday to Friday still only go out for lunch once per week at the most; there’s no novelty when teammates interact with each other regularly. Now, if one returns from vacation, suddenly everyone wants to go to lunch with them.

Overall, it’s the quality of time spent together, not the quantity, that builds relationships and sparks teammates to communicate well.

Commuting

Not only does commuting to work take time, but it takes energy too. For many people, public transit or rush hour saps their energy so that, by the time they get home, they’re too fatigued to balance their personal life and wellbeing.

For some, commuting has some benefits. Some employees take advantage of the lull in their day by brainstorming their workday, paying leftover bills… anything on their to-do lists. Nonetheless, there are days when even the most dedicated brainstormers need to forgo their commute time.

A hybrid approach allows employees a reprieve from commuting when they experience burnout from transiting.

There are numerous tech trends that can give you the boost you need. Here are just a couple to spark your innovation:

Video conferencing

Not every meeting needs to be held in person. Consider project updates where nothing new is on the agenda or meetings amidst major projects where no one wants to be torn away from their desks… There is a need for virtual working whether you’re in the office or not.

Virtual interactions are only as strong as the tools employees use to host them. Make sure to invest in the right resources — software and hardware — that fit your company’s work style and hybrid model. For more information, check out TechRadar’s top list of top ten video conferencing tools.

Room booking systems

Room booking systems have the power to boost both efficiency and productivity at work. What’s more, they now have the power to capacity both in-office and at-home workspaces.

One avoidable time-waster in the office is the struggle to find available meeting rooms. Once you discover one, you tediously open your computer, log in, navigate to your calendar, find a way to open the meeting room’s schedule, and make sure it’s available… NOT.

In actuality, you settle in the meeting room and hope no one has it booked within the next thirty minutes. You’ve done nothing wrong: your system simply isn’t set up for usability.

A meeting room booking system can mitigate time wasted on room hopping. For example, Joan 6 pro offers a wireless e-ink display that not only shows the meeting room’s availability in real-time, but employees can also book a room on the spot straight from the e-ink touchscreen.

Yet, can Joan help you at home? The answer is yes.

One of the biggest challenges of working from home is tuning out personal distractions. Often, these distractions come in the form of family members: the biggest difference between working from the office and working at home. A Joan Home setup can help you filter out distractions during your busiest times of the workday by displaying your availability right outside your office door. For more information, check out our work from home tips.

There’s no doubt that working from home is here to stay and there’s no doubt that it can be as productive, if not more so, than working from the office. 

Ultimately, now is the time to reinvent the workplace for hybrid work: reach out to our experts to learn more about how to help your employees succeed in a hybrid work model.