In June 2021, CEO Tim Cook announced plans for Apple going forward. The company had asked employees to come back to the office three days a week, with the remaining two working from home. It sounds like a reasonable hybrid model that provides enough flexibility. However, most of that flexibility was taken away in the same announcement as the three days in the office are firmly set for the whole company for Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. This was a missed opportunity as it disempowered the employees to make that choice for themselves. With a couple of other companies announcing unlimited work from home or work from anywhere, it created a backlash.
Hybrid, remote, or office? The conversation about whether it is better to work from home or the office is a rather pointless exercise because the answer is, predictably, “it depends.” It depends on each individual. Each of us has different personal, psychological, physical, and social needs and individual factors that shape what works for us and help us do our best work. It is all about flexibility and choice. Only then can you reap the most benefits. However, it only works when you make sure that what is rewarded is not “visibility” or being in the right place at the right time but the value delivered to the organization.
Glint’s survey of over 300,000 employees showed that 31% would like to work fully from home, 56% would prefer to stay remote at least half of the time, and 13% prefer a primarily in-person environment. A hybrid environment seems to be the preferred choice. Companies recognize it as the number of remote or partially remote jobs posted on LinkedIn has skyrocketed from 2% in January 2020 to 13.7% in May 2021.
Types of remote work
When it comes to hybrid work, you have several options. Let’s start with fully remote and work down to the office-only setup.
Fully remote – you get rid of all your real estate and move 100% to work from home or work from anywhere. No office at all. This works only for companies where every single job can be done remotely. Even with that, you may still consider offering some co-working or flex spaces for those who struggle working from home.
Remote first with micro hubs – you design your practices and processes, so they assume everyone is remote. However, you do keep an office for those whose job doesn’t allow them to work from home or who can’t. You can get rid of a significant portion of the office space, but not all of it. This may be the best proposition for those who want to access talent worldwide but don’t want to do 100% work from home. You create multiple micro hubs, small offices all over the world where employees living nearby can regularly show up, socialize, collaborate, and feel like part of the team. This space doesn’t even need to be yours. There is enough co-working and flex space in the majority of bigger cities around the world. Micro hubs also make the size of the individual teams smaller. Therefore people can know all the others working from their location, and that creates a more homely feeling.
Dynamic hybrid – you provide flexibility but still expect everyone to show up at the office regularly. There is no fixed schedule, and it is primarily left to the teams and individual employees when they work from the office and when from home. Pretty flexible for individual people, but somewhat confusing and difficult to coordinate since you never know where everyone is.
Static hybrid – your goal is to get the best of both worlds and provide the opportunities for social interactions and chance encounters to support the employees’ innovation, creativity, and mental health. The key here is to provide enough flexibility that each employee and team can find a blend that will work for them depending on their tasks and personal situation. However, they commit to a certain schedule. So one team can pick Tuesdays and Wednesdays in the office while another Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. In this setup, you still need to keep a decent-sized office space. It also allows for some employees to choose a fully remote work.
Synchronized hybrid – again the best of both worlds with several days a week at home and several in the office. However, less flexibility for employees as the days are set globally for the whole company. For example, Tuesday to Thursday is everyone in the office, Monday and Friday work from home.
Office first – by default, everyone is in the office. However, people are allowed to work from home occasionally, but not regularly.
Office only – everyone works from the office—no official work from home.
It should be all about the job
Esther Tippmann, Pamela Sharkey Scott, and Mark Gantly suggest approaching the decision about what hybrid model works the best from two perspectives: task context and internationalization. Task context is either relational and more office-centric or transactional, where you can have a virtual distributed team. Internationalization is then either low when you have employees only in a couple of countries or high when you have employees all over the globe. From this, you can derive four models. Having highly relational tasks with a presence in only a couple of markets suggests having large hubs or offices. If you are more spread than hubs with smaller satellite offices would work better. If the tasks are very transactional with well-defined processes and don’t rely on relationships, then a distributed and fully remote global organization without local offices can work just fine.
A hybrid workplace is here, and it is going to stay. Both employees and employers recognize that. So it is only a question of the approach toward hybrid. Yes, it might be beneficial for the company to have all employees in the office on selected days, but enforcing the rule and mandating specific days, kills autonomy. Leaving the choice of which days work from home and which from the office to employees and teams shows trust, and ultimately employees will do what makes sense to be able to get things done and be able to have those chance encounters and social interactions even without company’s oversight.
Go for the hybrid workplace model, but if the nature of the work allows it, leave the choice of when to show up in the office on the employees. Flexibility is the future.
What is your take on the topic? What are the keys to a successful hybrid workplace? Which type of hybrid workplace works the best? How many days a week would you prefer to work from home versus from the office? Or do you believe that the future is fully remote?
Photo: Goumbik / Pixabay.com
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