Until a few years ago, remote work was an unusual perk that a few companies offered their employees. With the pandemic, the Work from Home model became commonplace. After more than a year of following this model, employers worldwide have begun making decisions about the future of work in their organization.
By and large, organizations are choosing between three options: remote, hybrid or in-office. Business owners and managers must decide what workplace model they want to use, considering the needs of their business and the employees.
This article discusses significant points one must consider before choosing the model that seems the right fit for their organization.
The place of work has become more associated with job satisfaction than ever before. Companies that fail to recognize this correlation between workplace and satisfaction are expected to face a wave of turnover, especially among employees with in-demand skills. The latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) supports this trend.
Experts caution that employers must analyze the pros and cons of each model to reach a decision. If you favor an “in-office, all-the-time” approach, the company could miss out on some significant bottom-line benefits. As per Global Workplace Analytics, a typical employer can save about $11,000 per year for every person who works remotely half of the time. While working from home, employees have advantages such as flexibility, better focus, and no commute. But, they could miss the social interaction and the joy of teamwork an office environment offers. This could be why many companies intend to give their people a model by allowing them to split their time between home and the workplace. This hybrid model is envisaged to maximize employee productivity and personal wellbeing.
Choosing a model depends on an employer’s specific cost-benefit analysis of factors, including company culture, and talent and productivity to be gained or lost. Before you decide on a model, take a look at the advantages and shortcomings of each model.
Prior to the pandemic, most of the organizations had nearly all employees working in the office. People usually have greater access to technology, more impromptu interactions and a more robust cultural connection in their offices. These factors are essential to moving the business forward. Owing to this, many companies prefer to return to this workplace model.
Research by a freelancing and hiring company called Upwork found that 23 million Americans plan to relocate due to increased remote-work opportunities. These employees may decide to pursue a new job if coming back to the office is mandatory. Before returning to an entirely in-person model, understand what your employees want by conducting an anonymous survey. If they mostly want to continue working remotely, you should consider their reasons to opine so.
Working in an office full-time works best for those who have a short daily commute, don’t require added workday flexibility, and enjoy the workplace culture.
The major benefits of remote work are access to talent from around the country and lowered operational costs. Without a physical office, employers can save thousands of dollars they pay as rent per year and save on in-office technology. Furthermore, WFH can allow employees to set a better schedule for themselves, be more productive without the distractions of an office, and be more present outside work.
The best remote companies help their employees engage and collaborate while working from home and invest in employee necessities by offering laptops, office-supply reimbursements, or high-speed wireless subsidization. Companies like Twitter allow their employees to select WFH as a permanent option.
On the downside, WFH makes it harder for employees to bond and communicate with each other. There do not have water cooler chats or team lunch gatherings. Also, it can be complex to grasp the tone when communication happens over mediums like Zoom or Teams.
Working remotely works best for those with a long commute or personal responsibilities that benefit from flexible working hours.
The hybrid workforce model is where employees work in the office for a few days a week or month and work remotely on the remaining days. This model offers the best of both worlds and helps people maintain a healthy work-life balance. Leaders of hybrid organizations must create an environment where employees are consistently available, and every team member is engaged professionally, even if they rarely come to the office. The foremost benefit of this model is that people can work however they want, whether that means coming to an office consistently, working from home every day, or something in the middle.
Nonetheless, hybrid organizations should ensure everyone is integrated into their work environment, irrespective of where or how they work. There must be clear expectations and standards about when employees can work remotely and when they should be in the office. Most importantly, it must be guaranteed that employees who choose WFH frequently are not disadvantaged. There is often a tendency to consider in-office employees as first-class and those at home as inferior to them.
The hybrid model works best for employees who want the flexibility of remote working as well as the collaboration, communication, and culture of an office setting.
After a long period of working remotely, you should have a clear idea about the business needs and compare them with your employees’ preferences before you decide. You will be faced with several questions if you plan to return to the office. Are your teams more productive at home or in the office? In which space do they have better focus? Which model has more pros than cons?
Here is a list of factors employers must consider:
Physical and Emotional Health and Safety
Employers must consider the health and safety implications of returning to the office full-time compared to working in a hybrid or fully remote setting. Is vaccination mandatory for in-office employees? Is there a proper air ventilation system? Has the company set up any physical distancing measures? Are the buildings sanitized and cleaned regularly?
The Nature of Work
Employers must list out what their employees’ responsibilities are, consider the setup and equipment required to carry out their tasks, and where they can do these tasks most effectively. Is there certain software or equipment that’s only available at the office? Are there specific tasks they could do from home without impacting the quality of work? Take all of this into consideration as you figure out whether to work remotely, in a hybrid setting, or in an office-first environment.
Individual Circumstances of Employees
If your employees have small children at home who need to be dropped to preschool or elderly parents who need extra help, their choice to return to the office will be impacted by these circumstances. For some employees, WFH can aggravate the level of stress. But for many others, this setup can allow a better work-life balance that can positively affect employee retention and bring down burnout rates.
Proper communication between and among teams is quintessential to the success of a business, regardless of the workplace setup. You must identify the communication styles and preferences of the employees to decipher which model suits whom. For instance, if people prefer in-person meetings and verbal communication, an office-first arrangement might be the best setup for them. If they choose the ability to pause and think about responses, a remote-first setup might work best for them since digital platforms allow them to be thoughtful and deliberate. If someone prefers being with their team during the brainstorming phase but wants to be alone during the execution phase, a hybrid setup may be ideal for them.
Opportunities for Career Advancement
The workplace model you choose can also impact your employees’ career advancement. Experts argue that proximity to leadership and influential figures in an organization often affects a company’s decision to promote employees. People who remain in the office full time will get an advantage because they will be more visible. Make sure you don’t discriminate against your employees that choose to work remotely. Besides this, onboarding and mentoring new employees can be done better if people starting their careers are present in the office.
An employee’s decision to return to work can be impacted by their colleagues’ decisions. If all their teammates choose to work from the office exclusively, electing to work remotely could be challenging or isolating for the employee. HR experts advise companies to prioritize what a team wants and less of what a company or individual wants. This doesn’t imply that you should not consider individual employees’ concerns. Every team needs to meet once in a while, but what frequency or schedule is best decided by the team. So, you may let the teams decide on the optimal balance between in-office and remote work.
Lately, many major corporations have embraced net-zero carbon goals for the future decades. By this, employees commuting long distances is often discouraged as a means to combat climate change. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, in 2018, the average American commute time was 27.1 minutes each way, or about 4.5 hours a week. A significant reduction in carbon emissions can be achieved if employees are allowed to telecommute or even adopt a hybrid model.
This article has analyzed the three workplace models prevailing across industries worldwide. Consider the factors outlined here while you gauge the pros and cons of the models. We hope you soon decide on the one appropriate to your teams and the company’s unique circumstances.