Hybrid Work’s Moment
Over the past three years we’ve talked about the rise of remote work and questioned the future of office space. Those questions have accompanied disruptions in business, including companies insisting they would never go remote (until they did) and that they would always retain office space (until they didn’t). Still, as old-school managers insisted on a 100% return-to-office policy, and employees with newfound leverage refused, hybrid work has emerged as a compromise of the moment. But can it last?
One of the reasons people don’t like coming into the office is a commute. Long commutes have been shown to lead to lower job satisfaction and productivity and a recent study showed that up to a third of employees would be willing to take a pay cut in exchange for a shorter commute (or no commute at all). Of that third, almost 90% would take a cut as high as 20% of their salaries.
But apart from the downside of a commute, aren’t there positives to in-person working? Definitely.
One of the challenges many companies shared, particularly those who did not previously have remote work as part of their organizations, was the difficulty of imparting culture, particularly in the onboarding process. Many were used to activities like job shadowing or the informal interactions that build trust and camaraderie that happen in hallways or at water coolers that just can’t happen in things like “virtual happy hours,” however well-intentioned such cringe events are.
Factors in Considering Hybrid
So what do companies need to consider if they aren’t fully committed to remote work as the no-turning-back future but also know something big has happened and demands of “everyone back to the office” are falling on deaf ears and leading to resignations of some of their top talent? While each company has different needs, these four factors are common considerations when deciding if hybrid work makes sense:
- Productivity — are your team members more productive at the office or working remotely? There’s been plenty of time to accrue data on this question.
- Physical Space — do you need the same level of physical space that you did prior to the pandemic? If a large amount of your team is now remote, they don’t need permanent work stations.
- Client Wants — are clients expecting to see you in person, and if so, are they expecting the sort of space that you had prior to the pandemic?
- Talent Acquisition — what are the employees you are currently recruiting asking for? Do they want to come into an office, or are they expecting at least some kind of remote arrangement?
The answers to these questions will determine whether a company should use a hybrid work environment to bridge differences in their staff, or fully commit to one form of work or another. While some advocates of hybrid work seem to point to this as a wave of the future, others see it as an uneasy compromise or necessary phase for companies to use in order to find their future path, which may lie in remote or traditional working.
How Does Hybrid Work?
Many companies are requiring 2-3 coordinated days in the office, usually in the middle of the week to offer people maximum flexibility with their weekends. The rest of the week is remote. On the in-person days leadership knows everyone will be together so certain meetings are prioritized on these days. With the emphasis on collaboration, often these days will not be times for the focused, deep work that remote work can empower, but for the sorts of casual drop-in interactions that can help drive team cohesion and understanding.
Companies are also offering more social interactions on these days, whether that’s lunches together or drinks after work, to maximize the shorter amount of in-person time people have, giving them some time with their colleagues that can help power the rest of the week and give them something to look forward to the week after.
There are no “rules” for hybrid work. Many companies are writing those rules now, for however long hybrid work remains a phenomenon. But perhaps what business owners should most consider is not so much what they want or prefer, but what their team members want.
If they are building a business to sell, they need to look forward to how things will be done in the future, not on “how things have always been done.” A seller wants to take over a business in which the issues of how the company works have already been settled — whether by experimentation or practice — not something he/she is going to have to figure out after you leave.
Are you thinking about your work environment and how to prepare it for a future sale? We’d love to talk to you about it. Give us a call today.
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