Hybrid Workplace Model — Good or Bad For Work Culture?
As the pandemic turned our living rooms into workspaces, employees experienced a spectrum of emotions. On one hand, they are glad to save time on the commute, but on the other hand, some feel confined and miss the convivial atmosphere of offices. After all, birthday celebrations on a screen are not the same.
Thanks to a rapid vaccination drive, the world can finally see a ray of hope. However, it’s not easy to simply slip back into the old routine. The pandemic brought about many significant changes in the way we work. As offices gear up to re-open, the biggest question is — how do we include lifestyle changes made over the past year into the workplace?
The answer lies in hybrid workplaces. Let’s try to understand what a hybrid workplace model is and how organizations can make the most of it.
Hybrid workplace meaning
A hybrid workplace model is designed to support working from the office and the convenience of our homes. Harvard Business Review defines hybridity in the workplace as “work configurations that include employees who are co-located in the same physical space as well as employees working remotely.” The choice to work from the office may be left to employees or certain teams may be called to the office on some days on a need basis. Some employees want to come back to the office while others have adapted to the work from home setup that affords them more flexibility and freedom. A hybrid workplace supports both modes of working without hampering productivity and communication.
As HR leaders try to formulate a plan best suited for their organization, let’s discuss the pros and cons of a hybrid workplace policy.
Advantages of hybrid working
Hybrid workplace solutions have a lot of factors in their favor. Here are a few:
Focus on efficiency
Remember how colleagues often raised eyebrows when you left a few minutes early or exactly on time, even though you were done with work for the day? It’s okay for employees to leave early in such situations to spend time on themselves and their families. The concept of working late to prove your dedication to your job is dated. A hybrid workplace model doesn’t insist on spending nine hours in front of a computer if the job can be done quicker. Instead of focusing on quantity, it encourages organizations to focus on the quality of work.
One of the biggest advantages of working from home has been a restoration of work-life balance. This has been a boon, especially for working parents and employees who are caregivers for their elderly family members. A hybrid workplace policy will allow these employees to continue to do the same. Even if employees work from the office for a few days every week, hybrid working reduces the stress of the commute and leaves room for one’s social and mental wellbeing.
Helps organizations save operational costs
Since the new hybrid workplace doesn’t require all employees to come to the office, organizations can save rentals by having lesser/smaller workspaces, especially those spread across multiple geographies. They can also save a lot on catering with most employees working from home or bringing their own lunch. Several organizations offered cab services or shuttle buses to commute to work. By switching to a hybrid workplace model, several employees will work remotely, allowing companies to cut down on transport-related expenditure. These small changes can save organizations a lot of money which can be reinvested in business operations and human capital leading to a healthier bottom line for the organization. This brings us to our next point.
Increases your talent pool
The virtual world has shown that it’s capable of holding together an entire organization with ease — be it daily operations or onboarding new recruits. Since geography is no longer a definitive factor in hiring, a hybrid workplace can allow companies to recruit employees from across the globe. Moreover, as operational costs go down, these savings can be invested in the best talent to add value to the organization. Hybrid working thrives on flexible hours. Hence, even if an employee comes from a different time zone, with a proper system in place managing deliverables won’t be difficult.
Challenges of hybrid working
A hybrid workplace model may seem like the future of the workplace. However, things aren’t as rosy as they seem. Here are a few concerns surrounding the hybrid workplace policy:
Difficulty in building a fun work culture
While virtual quizzes and happy hours have their own charm, nothing can beat the excitement of socializing in the office. Be it group yoga sessions or a quiz competition — fun activities in the office contribute to healthy work culture. With a hybrid work environment, it’s hard to recreate the thrill of meeting together in a common space and indulging in friendly banter with people from different teams. With employees scattered across different locations, connecting with teams for a group activity becomes harder and often saps the fun.
Risk of lobbying
Some organizations may use the hybrid workplace policy to give their employees the freedom to choose if they want to work remotely or come to the office. Employees living in different cities and those with caregiving responsibilities may choose to work from home permanently. However, those who come to the office may have more opportunities to socialize and rise through the company hierarchy, as compared to those who work remotely. One of the biggest drawbacks of a hybrid work environment is people forming small camps and getting closer to those who have the power to boost their careers.
Lack of human connections
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the power of human connections. For almost a year, we were deprived of the warmth of a hug and screens were the only way to express love, hatred, empathy, anger, or gratitude. Sending an email that says, “Good job. Proud of you!” will never match a pat on the back or a reassuring smile on a job well done. Hybrid workplaces can become a huge roadblock as relationships are formed over video calls and, sometimes, blank screens, instead of face-to-face introductions. This may lead to workplace loneliness, leading employees to feel dissatisfied or misunderstood at work.
Does your organization have a hybrid workplace model in place? Tell us more about it in the comments.