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Hybrid Work: a solution with an expiration date or the future of employment?

Ana Montes photo, Togo Hybrid work
Ana Montes

Go-To-Market Strategist at NTT DATA

Several years have passed since the coronavirus disrupted our lives, introducing remote work, which later evolved into a hybrid model, combining the flexibility of remote work with in-person attendance.

While this promises a balance between work and personal life, as well as an increase in individual autonomy and productivity, it also raises some questions. Is this work model truly effective, or is it just a transitional response to current circumstances?

Hybrid work and efficiency

One of the primary concerns about hybrid work is productivity. Many companies are questioning whether this new way of working negatively impacts employee productivity and the ability to maintain optimal levels of communication and collaboration.

A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group showed that 75% of employees were able to maintain or improve their productivity in individual tasks while working from home. Furthermore, this allowed them to significantly reduce the time they spent commuting to their workplace, giving them more usable hours during the day and more energy to focus on their job responsibilities.

 

The importance of finding the balance

In addition to this issue of efficiency, hybrid work offers undeniable benefits, but these can be offset by the issues caused by being isolated from the workplace. It’s not surprising, therefore, that most employees do not want to remain out of the office permanently, although they do want more flexibility in their work schedule.

A study conducted by McKinsey showed that up to 45% of respondents would consider changing jobs if they were asked to return to the office full-time, and when looking for a new job, 61% would only consider hybrid roles, and even 67% would be willing to forgo a certain amount of salary to maintain a hybrid job. 

Therefore, hybrid work is here to stay, as exclusively online work is unlikely to prevail, and companies that do not implement it may face difficulties in accessing talent.

Two computers doing hybrid work simultaneously

A review of the key characteristics of the hybrid 

system

Now that we’ve introduced some of the benefits and disadvantages of this system, let’s pause for a moment to delve into the details of a work model that balances office presence with remote work, promoting productivity, employee satisfaction, and business resilience.

According to the “Hybrid Work: New Work Models Report” prepared by the Thinkers agency (2022), there are several positive aspects of hybrid work:

  •  Fosters a sense of belonging through in-person interactions, which has been observed to persist without the need for daily office attendance.
  • Increases productivity as employees can better manage their work, reducing stress.
  • Encourages camaraderie with colleagues, as personal contact is not lost.
  • Enhances work-life balance through its flexible approach.
  • Facilitates collaboration, document access, and security.
  • Boosts the employee experience by combining in-person team interaction with the flexibility of remote work.

However, the hybrid model is not without its challenges. The same report identifies certain less favorable aspects, such as potential negative impacts on internal company dynamics, occasions when employees may experience a sense of disconnection, an increased risk to confidentiality, and in some cases, the potential to generate work-related stress. Additionally, the study emphasizes the importance of considering that not all workers have suitable workspace at their homes.

Trends in the era of hybrid work: large companies

Perhaps you’re wondering if there are differences in the adoption of this model based on company size. Let’s find out! Many companies have been taking strong measures against remote work and are enforcing partial office return mandates. In general, it can be said that large companies are more inclined towards in-person work, while small and startup companies are more open to remote or hybrid systems.

Meta has announced that employees will have to return to the office at least three days a week. Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Meta, advocates for partial office attendance, believing that employees are more efficient when working in person with team members for at least three days a week. In a similar vein, Zoom has also encouraged its employees to return to the office at least two days a week, despite facilitating remote work during the pandemic, citing difficulties in integrating and building trust with new employees.

Two men in a coffee shop doing hybrid work

Other companies like Google and Apple have proposed tracking office attendance to ensure that employees work in-person for at least three days a week rather than in a fully remote mode.

However, Salesforce is taking a different approach to attract more employees to the office. They introduced a new program called “Connect for Good,” a fundraising program in which the company would donate $10 to a local charity for every day an employee showed up at the office on certain designated days in June.

Not all large companies share this anti-remote stance. Airbnb’s team is scattered across multiple countries, some of which don’t even have offices. Their approach is for each person to do their work from anywhere and only come in person for product launches. Other companies like Microsoft and Novartis have also expressed similar views in this regard.

Trends in the era of hybrid work: SMEs and startups

SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and startups are the ones most inclined towards a remote or hybrid work model, for several reasons. Firstly, many of them have built their structures around remote work from the start, making them well-prepared for its development. Additionally, it represents cost savings for them as they don’t need fixed physical spaces. Moreover, it’s a strong advantage for talent attraction and retention, as many professionals are highly attracted to models where in-person presence is minimal or even non-existent.

A comparison of remote work by countries

We’ve already seen how companies respond based on their size. Let’s now explore the differences based on countries. The Global Remote Work Index Study, conducted by NordLayer, is a research that assessed 66 countries in relation to four aspects related to remote work: economic and social conditions, digital and physical infrastructure, cybersecurity levels, and the response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Topping the list are Germany, Denmark, and the United States, closely followed by Spain in the fourth position. Additionally, the study highlights Uruguay in 47th place and Chile in 48th place. Mexico ranked 50th, Argentina 54th, and Ecuador was positioned near the bottom, at 64th place.

Girl in a red sweater doing hybrid work from her terrace

According to NordLayer, this index is “a tool that allows digital professionals to assess and compare the suitability of 66 countries as places to work remotely.” To assist people in determining where to travel and work, it is based on “data collected by scientists from reliable and up-to-date studies.”

Regarding the aspect of digital security, it was analyzed whether each country has the necessary infrastructure and capability to protect professionals, as well as the effectiveness of legal mechanisms for reporting cybercrimes. In terms of socioeconomic attractiveness, political stability and living conditions were evaluated. Finally, in terms of physical and digital convenience, the speed of internet connectivity and the availability of coworking spaces in each country were examined.

Lastly, according to the Telework Data report prepared by the National Observatory of Technology and Society of Red.Es, the Netherlands is the European Union country with the highest implementation of telework. 53.8% of the employed population in this country works remotely occasionally or regularly. They are followed by Sweden (46.2%) and Luxembourg (45.1%). In contrast, the countries with the lowest levels of teleworking are Bulgaria (6.5%), Romania (6.6%), and Cyprus (12.7%).

Tools to empower hybrid work

In recent years, the growing trend towards hybrid and remote work has led to a notable proliferation of tools and technologies designed to support this new way of working. According to recent data, the market for online collaboration and communication tools has experienced exponential growth, with a significant increase in the number of companies adopting digital solutions to facilitate collaboration and integration among geographically dispersed teams.

However, among this wide range of tools, one stands out as essential for effective collaboration and successful integration with colleagues: a customized intranet tailored to the specific needs of the company and its employees. This intranet not only serves as a central point for accessing resources and internal communication but also acts as an adaptable platform that fosters collaboration, information sharing, and connection among team members, regardless of their physical location.

In an increasingly diverse and distributed workforce, a well-designed intranet becomes a key element in keeping employees connected, informed, and engaged while driving productivity and efficiency in an ever-evolving hybrid and remote work environment. Investing in an intranet tailored to the company’s needs has become a fundamental strategy for organizations looking to excel in the era of remote work. 


Building a smart hybrid infrastructure

In line with everything mentioned earlier, this new work model requires a sophisticated organizational infrastructure. It’s crucial for companies to invest in training to help employees navigate the challenges and opportunities of this work model. In the McKinsey study mentioned earlier, 64% of respondents believed that there should be more training in the hybrid model, indicating that many companies have a long way to go.

Hybrid work with computer and mobile

Companies worldwide have undergone a crucial journey to manage their transition to this model. It has been based on key aspects such as the assessment and improvement of technological infrastructure, the implementation of clear policies and guidelines, employee training in skills necessary for the hybrid environment, flexibility in policy adaptation, effective communication, performance evaluation based on results, and workspace adaptation.

Are you eager to learn more about this work model? In a second article of this series on Future of work, we will discuss new tools, including Artificial Intelligence, and solutions that have emerged to address this new model.


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