When the Present Feels Fetid, the Future Comes in Hybrid

11 Minutes Read Sandesh Burada

It is inevitable that the post-pandemic future of work would be hybrid. According to McKinsey, nine out of ten organizations would be combining remote and onsite work for their employees, as soon as early next year! As a long-term employee or a first-time student looking for work, this transition could become challenging. We’re here to break down the benefits and the challenges, as well as provide a head start on what to expect and how to thrive in such a model.

What is the Hybrid Work Model?

Before the pandemic, companies generally fell into one of two options: remote-first or office-first. Remote-first companies preferred their employees to work remotely whereas office-first companies expect their employees to work physically at the office space. However, this period of time brought to fruition the term “hybrid”. This brings up the question, what is hybrid and why is it prominent? Why are companies looking to implement a new form of work culture and atmosphere when the traditional method has been working for years? Well, the hybrid work model is a strike in the middle. In this model, employees have a choice. They can either choose to work physically in office spaces or can choose to work remotely from the comfort of their homes. Unlike previous years, employees have a choice. They can now choose which of the two (office-first or remote-first) works best for them and can easily switch at their discretion. But why are companies suddenly jumping to this model unlike before? Well, the answer lies in the employees’ well-being.

The pandemic has resulted in a significant rise in employee productivity and customer satisfaction, most of which has never been seen before. A notable finding is that organizations with the biggest productivity increases during the pandemic have supported and encouraged “small moments of engagement” among their employees, moments in which coaching, mentorship, idea sharing, and co-working takes place. As a result, these organizations are preparing for hybrid working by training managers for remote leadership, by reimagining processes, and by rethinking how to help employees thrive in their roles. Companies no longer need to bear the cost of developing a physical office space or spending on physical resources to motivate employees and in return, employees need not slouch due to the monotonous 9 am – 5 pm working model or develop a cognitive negative bias due to external stimuli. Although 68% of organizations have no detailed plan in place for their transition into their hybrid model, not every organization has experienced the same improvement during the pandemic phase. Keeping this in mind, improved intrinsic and extrinsic employee productivity, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and diversity and inclusion are the driving factors for a hybrid work model.

What the Hybrid Work Culture would shelter?

With over 40% of the global workforce considering leaving their employer this year, a set-in-stone approach is essential for the hybrid model to not lose out on attracting and retaining diverse talent. The Work Trend Index derives the inferences of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries in their recent study. The major trends from this study include:

  • Flexible work is here to stay
  • High productivity is masking a burnt-out workforce
  • Talent can be found everywhere in a hybrid world
  • Gen Z is at risk and will need to be re-energized
Over seventy percent of employees want their flexible remote working options in tact whereas over sixty-five percent of workers are craving in-person time with their teams. This will result in sixty-six percent of employers to redesign their physical workspaces to better accommodate hybrid working environments. Extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.

At the expense of connectedness and employee well-being, one in five global survey respondents state that their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance. Fifty-four percent feel overworked whereas thirty-nine percent feel exhausted. This barrage of improper management of work-life balance stems from unstructured and unplanned communication between the employer and the employee. Though productivity levels have risen during the pandemic, employees have never felt more burnt-out due to the intensity of each workday.

Though in the works, managing productivity without burning out employees is key for long-lasting success for this model. This is a factor that needs significant planning in order to establish the equilibrium if the hybrid work model is the future.

Depending on the side you are on, remote work allows organizations to widen their talent marketplace. As an employer, remote job postings allow for the diversification of your workforce. According to Microsoft, 46% of remote workers surveyed plan on moving to a new location this year as they can now work remotely. From the comfort of their home, workers no longer need to leave their house or local community to expand their career. While this may lead to migrating workers transitioning into local roles from an employee perspective, more opportunities present themselves now more than ever across, globally, giving each and every employee a fair chance.

The demographic of ages between 18 to 25 contributes to 60% of this generation. With increased productivity and reduced attrition rates, reliance on experienced professionals through the hybrid model could result in Gen Z struggling to find opportunities. With an underdeveloped youth workforce, companies could potentially lose out on long-term potential. Furthermore, the productivity levels of a younger worker tend to exceed that of an established official in the long term. Therefore, organizations will soon need to invest in their youth for long-term gains, at a time where productivity levels may reach its crest.

Flourishing Amidst Hybrid Work Culture

With the new working model set to take center stage potentially as early as January 2022, here’s a list of how employees can benefit during the transition to the hybrid model:

1. Productive at the right time every time

In an office-first model, employees are accustomed to work fixed hours between 9 am and 5 pm every workday. However, as they shift to flexible working hours, they can get work done when you are most productive. For example, a morning person would wake up early to get his work done whereas an evening person would see to their day first before starting their tasks. Employees now have the liberty of choice; either work with teammates on-site or work in a singular fashion from a remote location.

2. Work-life; Social-Life Intertwine

A recent study by Slack found that flexibility is a prominent reason to why employees are drawn towards the hybrid work model. When employees have more control of their work schedules, they can free up time to handle their personal tasks – whether it’s running errands, picking up their kids or awaiting a delivery to arrive. In parallel, employees can also improve their social life. Interacting with their friends, neighbors or family on a regular basis can improve relationships, reduce tension overwork and improve efficiency and happiness levels.

3. Reduced exposure to illnesses

In a survey conducted by Envoy, sixty-six percent of employees expressed their fears of returning to their offices. The core to their fears lies at worrying about their health and safety. Fewer people would lower the chance of a sick employee infecting others in a confined space. Since people now have an option to work remote as per the hybrid work model, a sick employee can stay at home altogether without worrying about salary deductions, lack of health benefits or job security.

4. Employee well-being

With rapid external changes constantly impacting the way we think and how we feel, the hybrid work model could potentially ease out stress levels and boost happiness within an employee. As India ranks one-hundred-and-thirty-fourth out of one-hundred-and-forty-four countries on the global happiness Index, this working model will allow employees to work at their own pace, finish tasks ahead of time, reduce hours in front of their device and avoid monotonous visits to the company office in the form of a nine-to-five job.

The way forward

What does the future hold for the traditional model of work? Over the new few months, companies across the globe would start developing their hybrid work plans and implement their models in their offices, ubiquitously.

This plan would include surveying their employees to find out what they need for the transition, developing employee personas in real-time and building the right infrastructure that’ll support flexible work patterns in offices. SMEs would now have a reason to invest more amounts of capital into their company culture as a result.

A common trend which employees would soon be accustomed to is the need to provide continuous feedback to their employers. Collecting this feedback would help employers iterate whilst building a hybrid workplace that thrives.

This is it! A year of remote work has challenged employers to rethink their traditional work models. Almost seventy-three percent of employees surveyed in Microsoft’s 2021 report desired for flexible remote work options post-pandemic and sixty-six percent of businesses are said to accommodate hybrid work environments in physical spaces. As we slowly transition to life before the global pandemic, hybrid work will be the model pushing organizations forward, globally. Whether employers would be able to hatch the perfect implementable plan is still unclear, however, if this model is to work across the globe, the key drivers lie within the well-being and the intrinsic mental states of the employee.

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