Two years ago, I would have sat down to write this blog post in my office at 1 Righter Parkway (PSCI headquarters). Today, it’s being written from my home office. Due to the pandemic, I have been working from home for the better part of the past 18 months. In short time, however, I will be heading back into the office – at least part-time.
Like other employers around the nation, PSCI is currently formulating our return-to-work plans. While many companies are planning to go back to business as usual, others are opting to stay remote.
There is a third option, however, one which PSCI will be embracing, and that’s the hybrid work model.
Already adopted by companies like Microsoft and Google, hybrid working is a type of flexible working where an employee splits their time between the workplace and working remotely. Seen as a way to attract and retain talent, it’s rapidly becoming the preferred work choice for many – especially technologists.
In this blog post, we review both the benefits and challenges of the hybrid work model.
The Benefits of Hybrid Work
Though it may seem like an employee who works from home half of the time would be half as productive as one who’s in-office, the data doesn’t support it. In a research paper published by Microsoft, on how the pandemic impacted company performance, 82% of leaders said their companies were at least as productive as they were before the pandemic.
How can this be? Well, for one, gone are long, draining commutes. When employees sit down at their desks, they’re fresh, motivated, and ready to go. Two, they have better control over their environment and can better rid themselves of any distractions. And three, they are not constrained by the 9-5 workday. They can more easily work when they feel inspired to do so.
Employee Well-Being (and Safety)
In a 2020 SurveyMonkey study, employees who worked remotely reported feeling happier than colleagues who remained working in the office. Which is important because, as this Oxford University research suggests, a happy worker is a more productive worker.
Working remotely 100% of the time, however, can be isolating. The hybrid model allows for employees to reap the benefits of working from home as well as offering the chance to see and socialize with coworkers.
What’s more, allowing employees to work from home, at least part of the time, is better for their safety. As many of us are now accustomed to social distancing, hybrid working will reduce the number of people in the office at any given time, creating more personal space.
With a reduction in the number of employees at the office, employers need less office space. Instead of each employee receiving their own office, a successful hybrid office will incorporate shared spaces and take better advantage of occupancy levels. This will allow employers to cut down on rent, office supplies, and other business expenses.
The Challenges of Hybrid Work
Though we believe the positives of the hybrid work model far outweigh the negatives, the hybrid work model isn’t without its challenges. The most glaring, of which, we’ve outlined below.
Heightened Cyber Risks
When it comes to IT security, a company’s users are its weakest point. When employees work from home, employers have less control over the devices they use to login to their systems. Employees using self-provided tools means a potential for more shadow IT – the use of IT systems, devices, software, applications, and services without explicit IT department approval.
Properly training employees on cybersecurity risks and how to stay safe online, however, can mitigate this risk.
As has already been stated, remote workers can be quite productive. That productivity, however, could come at a cost as remote workers may work longer hours and take fewer breaks than their in-office counterparts. When left unchecked, this can lead to burnout. In addition, some employees may even be overwhelmed by the need to toggle between two different sets of work routines, at home and in the office.
By carefully cultivating a company culture that focuses on the work itself, employers can prevent a culture of overworking.
Technology Set-Up for Meetings
When everybody worked remotely, meetings naturally took place virtually to great effect. Video conferencing software would accurately detect the speaker and placed the spotlight on them. With a split workforce, however, this won’t always be the case. If the person running the meeting isn’t trained in the art of hybrid facilitation, it’s easy to envision how a meeting could quickly go awry (i.e., walking off camera while continuing to speak).
Until those skills are in place and your company deploys the technology to support them, consider continuing to hold virtual meetings – even if many participants are connecting from the office.
When properly thought out and planned accordingly, the hybrid work model promises to give both employer and employee what they desire. A true best of both worlds’ scenario.