Fringe Benefits and Perks

The Hybrid Work Model: What’s the Purpose of the Office?

Explore the shift in work dynamics brought by the hybrid work model, its impact on office spaces, employee productivity, and the purpose of physical workspaces in the modern professional landscape.
In This Post:
Expert Contributors:
Karla Pincott

Karla Pincott

Managing Editor of Business Woman Media

Kelly Freeman

Kelly Freeman

Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at Interact Software

The office environment is not everyone’s favorite cup of tea. Some employees enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of co-working spaces, while others thrive in a hectic and booming office. In contrast, many need the comfort of their home to work and create.  

Thus, most employees need or want different working arrangements to thrive.

Nevertheless, the shift that we’ve witnessed for the past two years is obviously due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a few months, both companies and employees had to adapt and pivot to WFH amidst a worldwide health crisis. 

However, one of the most important was that the office might not be the catalyst for success we have been led to believe. Moreover, many employees were, in fact, overperforming while working from home.  

That’s why it doesn’t come as a surprise that these days, companies provide the option to choose between several types of work arrangements. Everything from the hybrid working model to remote work is now presented as an employee perk. One that competitive companies “must” have in their arsenal if they want to attrachigh-performing talent. 

However, it’s undeniable that being present in the office provides opportunities for recognition and acknowledgment from superiors and top managers. With this idea in mind, the expression “close to mind, close to the heart” conveys a clear message – the office is indeed the best place for realizing one’s ambitions.

On the other hand, remote working offers a new sense of freedom and commodity that employees have not experienced in an office setting. With internal communication apps on the rise it’s easy for employees to stay in touch with their colleagues and handle tasks.

Hence, some companies are willing to mix both options by using a hybrid working model, which gives workers the ability to choose.  

But what are they choosing between? 

Is the Office Crucial for a Thriving Business?

Amid the pandemic, executives were left with the question:“Is office space a necessity or just an over-glorified expensive venue?”  

Most employees became accustomed to working from home, and since the pandemic began and lockdowns ensued, remote work became the norm. Some people found pleasure in remote working. Others, however, felt the pressure and had trouble with isolation and anxiety.

Thus, providing multiple options is still the best solution that HR teams and managers can provide. As the end goal is to boost engagement and productivity, personal preferences play a key role for each employee.

Both work arrangements have their pros and cons.

Because people are different and have their own ideas and expectations of what a productive work environment looks like, managers started to wonder: “Is a physical office crucial for a thriving business?” 

Here are some important benefits an office can bring to the table: 

1) Time Management

This draws a line in the sand for people that can leave their work behind in the office and the ones that stay connected even after working hours. There’s always one more task that takes a little bit longer or starts a little bit late.  

The conclusion is that the office provides employees with a clear structure and a tight time schedule. In-office employees usually have fixed working hours and lunch breaks. Hence, they are expected to complete their work for the day during those fixed hours, and then they are free to enjoy their personal life without interference. 

Having boundaries is crucial for the employees’ mental wellbeing. 

2) Building Professional Relationships with Colleagues

This is one of the most significant pain points people have expressed after the lockdowns and switching to remote work. Loneliness can take a tremendous toll  and affect  mental wellbeing.  

This study shows that in-person contact cannot fully replace remote ways of maintaining mental health. Furthermore, many of the respondents suffered from loneliness, sadness, and decreased happiness when they only interacted remotely despite the increased frequency of remote interaction.  

Employees can easily assert themselves and get to know each other better when working together in one place. Moreover, building interpersonal skills, office friendships, and collaborating are all assets that make the team more robust and efficient in the long run. 

Experience has proven that it’s difficult to maintain company culture remotely by keeping it alive, engaging, and genuine. 

3) Company Culture

Every company has its own unique culture. If nurtured, company culture can very well be the selling point in the talent recruitment process. It can also play a significant role by improving employee retention.  

Making efforts to maintain a strong company culture and nourish the company spirit with the help of different online chats and gadgets are more challenging than face-to-face communication and engagement.

4) Recognition & Face-to-Face Time with The Manager

This is by far the most important aspect that gets lost in remote working settings. While this issue can be considered unimportant by some, having the chance to get to know leaders personally and work with them closely is priceless for recognition.   

It gives employees the chance to shine and show their unique personality traits that may sometimes be buried during online chat meetings. Recognition can be quickly gained through face-to-face contact and by having a presence in the office.  

When handled correctly, they can significantly impact an employee’s career.

Does Working from Home Really Work?

According to recent remote work statistics, 58% of employees stated that if the company doesn’t allow them to work remotely in their present position, they would absolutely look for another job.  

For some people, this is the ideal scenario; for others, it is arduous and displeasing. It all depends on the person’s character and preferences for professional surroundings. 

Why Don’t People Like Working from Home?

When there are no distractions, and the person knows how to manage their time and work assignments efficiently, working from home is favorable. However, working from home with kids and family members can be challenging for many. Being a parent and managing an eight-hour long workday can be too much to handle.    

It may be manageable at first, but when prolonged, this scenario becomes a significant burden on workers who tend to their children or dependents.   

In this scenario, the focus is not 100% there. As a result, productivity and efficiency levels decrease significantly. This leaves workers with little to no drive, meaning that they do the bare minimum at their job just to get through the day.  

Companies are trying to accommodate the needs of their employees by providing them with different solutions that can support them.   

Why Do People Love Remote Working?

1) Freedom

This is one of the crucial benefits that people gain from working remotely. They oversee what gets done and when if they stay within the deadlines given to them by their managers. They can take control of their environment and work schedule, feeling more in charge and in control of their work life as a result.

2) Skipping “Rush Hour”

Another advantage of remote working mentioned by employees is skipping the morning traffic. The average American employee spends at least 27 minutes commuting to work each day, and that total is only increasing. 

According to NPR,“more than 14 million individuals spend an hour or more getting to work.” Therefore, they get an additional hour or two for themselves and can skip the commute by working from home. 

Employees can use these hours for a break, or to recap on events past or planned. According to a study by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American, the brain requires significant downtime to remain productive and develop its most original thoughts.  

3) Personalized Work Environment

Employees don’t choose their work environment or office setting while working in an office. They could have a noisy coworker or sit next to an air conditioner, both of which can influence their productivity.  

Working from home or remotely allows people to design their ideal home office or workstation. For example, workers can choose a standing desk over a sitting one with their workplace furnishings, or maybe they would prefer to work outside in nature or in a café rather than at home. Studies have repeatedly shown that physical office environment elements may significantly impact employee behavior, perception, and productivity.  

Working remotely allows people to discover their own ideal work environment, whatever that may be. 

4) Saving Money

People who work from offices pay for commute costs like public transportation, gas, and maintenance. If they drive, they may have to pay for parking as well. Furthermore, an employee may get a coffee or buy lunch during the day.  

All these costs add up.  

However, working from home has its own set of expenses. Employees must consider their energy expenditure, such as electricity, in addition to broadband internet prices. They may also bear “starting” expenditures on telecommuting technologies, usually paid for by their company. Desks, chairs, network routers, and monitors are common work-at-home expenses.  

In the long run, these are far less expensive than what office workers will pay daily for commute and food over the course of many years. 

5) Improved Work-Life Balance

Many remote jobs also have flexible hours, which means that employees may start and stop their days whenever they like if their work is completed vigorously and on time.

When it comes to tending to personal life expectations, having control over the work schedule is very beneficial.

Dropping children off at school, running errands, taking an online exercise class in the morning, or being home for a contractor are all duties that are simpler to juggle when employees work from home.

hybrid work model

The Hybrid Work Model

The hybrid work model is slowly becoming the design that both workers and managers can agree upon as the preferred working arrangement.  

What exactly is a hybrid work model? This model supports both working remotely and in an office.  

Many companies give workers four workdays in the office and one day working remotely. Other companies are even more flexible. They give their workers the freedom to choose how many days a week they will work in the office and support when they want to work remotely. 

How can Companies Easily Transition into the Hybrid Work Model?

Managers needed to address concerns that staff may feel forced to return to the office to receive more face time with their managers following the lockdowns, and thus receive more recognition.  

However, it was discovered that the best approach to eliminate these concerns was for leadership to model the non-traditional strategy. 

The executive leadership team has a great deal of impact on employee behavior. Therefore, the reasonable next step would be for leadership to set the tone by acknowledging that working from home is acceptable and even encouraged as long as it does not lead to an increase in productivity.  

Doing so will give employees the confidence to do what’s best for them and allow them to place their trust in the new working arrangement.  

Is the Hybrid Workplace a Breeding Ground for Inequity?

The biggest concern in a hybrid work model is that managers may consider office workers more hardworking and trustworthy than their remote counterparts and compensate them accordingly.  

According to Karla Pincott, the managing editor of Business Woman Media,

“Those who are in the office or at least working in a hybrid model, will have a better chance of advancement in most companies than those working completely remotely.”
Karla Pincott
Managing Editor of Business Woman Media

Proximity bias is instinctive. It’s an evolutionary aspect of our cognitive decision-making process that we’ve utilized as a mental shortcut for decades to prioritize what seems safest. However, the prioritization of safety does not always result from inaccurate judgments. Instead, people judge based on their prejudices rather than their understanding or evidence.  

According to Kelly Freeman, Head of Internal Communications and Engagement at Interact Software, “Research shows that we favor the people we spend the most time with. In fact, it’s where the idea that ” you’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with” comes from. With workplaces changing rapidly, this preference for physicality may cause anxiety for remote and hybrid workers who don’t wish to return to the office with the same frequency as before.

However, the worry for some people is that their absence from offices will be disadvantageous in career terms.

Employees who work in the office more frequently can form better bonds with managers and will be relied upon and rewarded, excluding others.

This is called proximity bias: an unconscious preference for those in our immediate physical company.

The mass shift to hybrid working is relatively new, so organizations and employees alike are only now beginning to understand the consequences now. The office will almost certainly return, though, and some form of hybrid working is likely to stay with us.

Suppose employers want to negotiate this tricky subject and ensure that all employees have equal representation. In that case, it will need strategic thinking about the kind of initiatives, technologies, and communications that will support this.”

Simply put, leaders are still trying to overwrite the mentality of in-office workers and adapt to the present workforce demand which is part-time work from home. Thus, putting aside favoring workers who are present in the office and focusing on the results and accomplishments of individuals. 

Is Proximity Bias Real?

Managers needed to address concerns that staff may feel forced to return to the office to receive more face time with their managers following the lockdowns, and thus receive more recognition.  

However, it was discovered that the best approach to eliminate these concerns was for leadership to model the non-traditional strategy. 

The executive leadership team has a great deal of impact on employee behavior. Therefore, the reasonable next step would be for leadership to set the tone by acknowledging that working from home is acceptable and even encouraged as long as it does not lead to an increase in productivity.  

Doing so will give employees the confidence to do what’s best for them and allow them to place their trust in the new working arrangement.  

hybrid work model

Conclusion

The debate between the necessity of the office versus the freedom of remote working and the hybrid work model is just starting. They all offer a range of unique perks and benefits, but they also have their downsides.

However, not every company is suited for hybrid work, and not every executive team favors WFH. It comes down to the employees’ character and self-discipline they command.

Written by Shortlister Editorial Team

Sources

  • “Surprising Working from Home Productivity Statistics (2021)” by Apollo Technical 
  • “Can remote social contact replace in-person contact to protect mental health among older adults?” by Louise C. Hawkley Ph.D., Laura E. Finch Ph.D., Ashwin A. Kotwal MD, MS, Linda J. Waite Ph.D. 
  • “The Psychological Benefits of Commuting to Work” by Jerry Useem in The Atlantic  
  • “Stuck In Traffic? You’re Not Alone. New Data Show American Commute Times Are Longer” by Gabriela Saldivia in NPR  
  • “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime” by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American 
  • “An Overview of the Influence of Physical Office Environments Towards Employee” by N.Kamarulzaman, A.A.Saleh, S.Z.Hashim, H.Hashim, and A.A.Abdul-Ghani 
  • “Proximity bias is real. Returning to the office could make it worse.” by Megan Rose Dickey in Protocol 

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