Is the Hybrid Work Schedule Here To Stay?

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The hybrid experiment has gained traction. By 2023, Gallup research indicated the numbers among U.S. workers had stabilized at about 28% performing exclusively remotely, 20% on-site and 52% working in a hybrid arrangement. Whether those proportions persist will depend on the overall economy and labor market and whether recession tilts the balance.

The best of both

The main models used for hybrid work are simple enough:

  • Shifts — the whole team works in-house a few days per week and remotely the rest of the time.
  • Split teams — some people work remotely, and others work on-site.
  • Flex — employees can choose where they prefer to work.

Most hybrid employers have tried out weekly configurations of three days in the office and two days remote. While three days in the office is seen as a sweet spot, patterns vary. For instance, Harvard Business School research advocated just one day on office premises!

Different employees gravitate to different styles, though it should be noted that executives are three times as likely as are worker bees to want to return to offices full time. But preferences cut across all seniority levels. Gallup ran a survey in late 2022 among 8,090 respondents to examine the pros and cons of hybrid arrangements.

The findings demonstrated compelling benefits:

  • An improved work-life balance.
  • More efficient use of time.
  • Freedom as to where and when to work.
  • Higher productivity.
  • Reduced fatigue and burnout.
  • Smoother coordination, collaboration and cross-functional communication.

A Stanford study discovered hybrid employees get more accomplished away from noisy office spaces, reduce commuting time and costs, gain self-esteem, and enhance trust with their managers.

Employers appreciate the availability of wider talent pools as well as cost savings on space (rent and utilities) and materials (supplies and food).

On the downside, respondents cited noteworthy challenges. They listed a lack of access to resources and equipment and a distance from office culture and relationships. It may also be emotionally draining to be constantly switching between schedules and spaces. It also may not be feasible for those with client- or customer-facing jobs, and it may create resentment over other colleagues’ more-flexible deals. Should those who are toiling in the office be paid more?

Making hybrid succeed

Managers can take steps to ensure hybrid arrangements operate as smoothly as possible.

Start by designating which days are for in-office work. Research from Prodoscore reveals that workers are most productive Tuesday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Interestingly, those assigned boring chores perform better at the office, while those undertaking more creative tasks excel at home. If an entire team works from home, however, the whole group underperforms, as no one wants to commit extra time.

Managers should set initial expectations. They should ponder why they actually are going the hybrid route. Will team members schedule their own hours? While on-site, they can help employees interact with teammates and utilize equipment.

Maintain clear policies for communication. Provide feedback in person. Use constant updates and virtual tools to link remote and in-house employees. You may need to customize software platforms to incorporate data visualizations, progress reports and project management.

Hybrid work can be a plum perk

There is still insufficient longitudinal data to confirm whether hybrid workers are more productive. However, it is clear the opportunity for flexibility attracts and retains talent. Whether it is for child care duties, mental well-being or regular access to outdoor green spaces, ensure your employees understand their side of the bargain. How do they spend their at-home hours? Gallup reports a combination of working (86%), training (27%), innovation (26%), meetings (24%) and exercise (22%).

Take that with a pinch of salt. Some are probably watching TV. Managers recognize some trade-off is necessary to keep their teams contented.

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