October 14, 2021 10:58 am Published by Categorised in: , ,

If there’s one thing the pandemic did for the world, it was to throw a wrench in the cogs of a well-oiled economic machine. While the initial scramble to hold onto and salvage what was left of this system led to creative ways of making remote work possible (and productive), a year and a half later, we find ourselves at a crossroads once again.

The availability and quick distribution of vaccines world over has created the option of slowly and safely reopening places of work to large swathes of the workforce again. The idea of going back to work from offices however, has been contentious, benefitting or disadvantaging different groups of the work force differently. This has been accentuated by the differences in opinion starting with the number of in-office and remote days between employers and employees – majority (29%) of employers insist on 3 days a week at the office and 29% of employees are still keen on fulltime remote work, or 20% opting for 1 day a week or less at the office. 
*PwC survey, 2021

To help you understand and navigate this impending, portentous transition we are breaking down the pros and cons for you here:

Pros:

1. For employers, reverting to a hybrid model could mean rolling back several initiatives that were introduced during the pandemic. These include time and financial investments made towards new technology, training, WFH benefits, etc.

2. For employees, hybrid work solves the most frequently reported issue with remote work – isolation and loneliness. This will help strike a much needed balance between collaborative work and the sought after flexibility at the workplace

3. The hybrid structure offers the opportunity to bring back huddle and bounce interactions that were at the crux of innovation. These helped with brainstorming and ideation in fast paced work environments. The virtual format made it increasingly difficult to bounce ideas off teammates and build plans at rapid rates. A few days of having the team in the office offers the chance to restore lost pace

4. While time may be lost due to longer commutes for employees, a few days in the office could also mean fewer work hours. Employees world over have referenced burnout and longer work hours as part of the virtual, work from home format

Cons:

1. Giving up the comforts of work from home arrangements for employees and reduced rental costs for the employer. This benefit worked both ways, cutting down overheads for firms massively, allowing them to save spends otherwise directed towards the upkeep and maintenance of expensive office spaces and utilities on a monthly basis. For employees, home office setup allowances helped them manage and make working from home more conducive, productive and comfortable

2. Many employees that have left cities with high costs of living to work from home, suburbs or less expensive locations for the past year and half. Making the switch back to hybrid work might force them to reconsider moving to companies that offer the option to continue working remotely for financial reasons

3. Hybrid work requiring the presence of employees in a physical location several times a week could also close the doors on access to global talent that came with remote work. For the duration of the pandemic, employers were able to hire highly skilled labour from across the world and build talented, well-matched teams

4. Disparity in organizations that are hierarchical but would like to implement hybrid work can leave remote employees feeling like they are missing out on opportunities such as ample team participation and consequently, opportunities for promotions in the long run

5. Hybrid functioning also poses a risk to diversity, indiscriminately affecting specific portions of the workforce more than others. Surveys conducted to this effect reveal that college graduates with young children and women were more likely to continue to choose remote work, curtailing their chances of receiving promotions and rising to decision making positions in the organization

All in all, the switch to hybrid functioning solves several issues that surfaced as a result of full-time remote work due to the pandemic. The questions both employers and employees need to address before making the switch is:

a) Is hybrid work necessary for a particular team or for the performance of particular functions?

b) Will it make the lives of employees easier or will it force them to look elsewhere for more flexible work options?

c) Is this decision a cost-effective strategy for both the firm and the employee?

Let us know what you think as you ride this transition and evolution in the structure of modern working.