There is no doubt the pandemic made remote work and work-from-home a new normal for many workers, especially those in professional roles. We also know that many industries and roles (including manufacturing, hospitality and healthcare) do not have flexibility when it comes to work location. Now that pandemic restrictions have eased, many organizations are still navigating the next step – to embrace remote work, explore a hybrid workplace between remote and in-office, or require employees to return to the office full-time.
Remote vs. Hybrid
Studies have shown that remote work did not stifle productivity. In fact, evidence shows it increased during the pandemic. Corporate profits steadily rose from the second quarter of 2020 through the end of 2021, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis (CNN). As pandemic precautions subsided, though, many companies decided that they wanted workers back in the office, often citing “the need to strengthen workplace culture and foster greater collaboration and innovation” (CNN).
Both employees and leaders see value in returning to the office for human interaction, collaboration, building trust with face-to-face meetings, as well as mentorship and guiding new employees. However, workers value flexibility and the other benefits of remote work. How can employers balance all of these factors?
Pros of Remote Working
- Work from anywhere – Home, coffee shop, the beach, you’re able to work from any location as long as you have secure connections and a comfortable working environment.
- Flexible schedule – Since you can work from anywhere, you can choose the hours you want to be most productive and have time to schedule other appointments like doctor visits.
- Virtual collaboration – In this model, you have opportunities to connect and work with professionals and teams all over the country or even the world.
Cons of Remote Working
- Lack of in-person facetime, and social interaction – Working remotely removes the ability for social interaction and “water cooler” chats. This can leave people feeling isolated and lonely.
- Difficulty unplugging – Switching off at the end of the day can tend to be difficult especially because you have access to your email 24/7. It’s important to set boundaries so you can unplug and focus on your personal life after the workday.
Pros of Hybrid Models
- Flexible schedule – Having the opportunity to work remotely and in person gives the chance to have a flexible schedule and choose when to go into the office.
- Combining the best of remote and in-person – Hybrid can be the best of both worlds where you have the flexibility to work remotely and in the comfort of your home as well as get the social interaction you may need for career growth and collaboration. This model helps to reduce feelings of isolation and enables you to connect with colleagues.
Cons of Hybrid Models
- Fixed schedule – When you’re in-office, you will likely have more of a fixed schedule that the employer can choose. While this provides structure and set work hours, it doesn’t give room to tending to other matters that you could when working remotely.
- Feeling left out – Sometimes there can be confusion and isolation when you are in a rotation with in-person and remote employees. You might feel left out of meetings or conversations that happen when you’re not present.
As remote and hybrid schedules become the norm, it comes down to employees wanting flexibility in their schedules and a better work-life balance. Flexible schedules allow employees to focus on their personal lives and stay productive and motivated when they’re at work. The ability to have flexibility encourages professionals to perform better and be happier with their workplace – keeping them loyal and incentivized in the long run.
Many large companies have changed their policies based on worker demands, while others have not. NPR notes the employee demand for remote work is a “shift in the balance of power between management and rank and file, as demand for workers has hit record highs in the past year. Companies are finding it hard to enforce unpopular policies and mandates when they fear their workers could just walk away.” (NPR)
The pandemic shifted priorities for many professionals. The realization that work can be done from home or in a remote setting has opened opportunities for people to work in an environment that can support their priorities and provide a balance. Companies are seeing that they need to hear their employees and test out various models to find one that works well for all parties.
According to CNBC, 50% of leaders say their company already requires or is planning to require employees to return to in-person work full-time. However, 52% of workers said that they are thinking of switching to a full-time remote or hybrid job. (CNBC)
What’s Best for Your Business?
What’s the right answer when it comes to balancing these two sides? Forbes notes that factors including “corporate policies, culture, financial status and many other factors might affect decisions, so there cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ type approach of work practices for every company.” (Forbes)
Remote work works best when the individual can work independently, can manage their time well, and needs flexibility in their schedule. Hybrid models work well to bring in in-person collaboration, team-bonding and keep the connection with the team. The answer may come down to customized solutions based on the team, each team member’s needs and the team’s collective needs. An organizational psychologist notes, “Leave it to individual teams to negotiate amongst themselves and what schedules work best for them to achieve those commonly agreed-upon goals.” (CNN)
“When people are asked to work on site full-time but would prefer to work hybrid or fully remote, Gallup’s research found that employees experience significantly lower engagement, significantly lower wellbeing, significantly higher intent to leave [and] significantly higher levels of burnout.”CNN Business
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