Back in 2020, we all wondered when the workforce would go back to normal when many of us had our first experiences with remote or hybrid work. Now, it's pretty clear that we’re not fully returning to "normal," as the hybrid work model has become the new norm.
Is hybrid work the future of work?
Hybrid work has changed our traditional perception of the workspace and will continue to shape how we work in the future. Research conducted by AT&T suggests that hybrid work will be the standard working model across industries by 2024, with 56% of work done off-site.
A hybrid working model is one of the new perks employees seek in their jobs. A Gallup survey shows that 42% of employees had a hybrid job as of February 2022, and 53% expected their jobs to be hybrid in 2022 and beyond. Moreover, 59% preferred a hybrid working model, compared to 32% who favored exclusively remote and 9% who favored entirely on-site. A Mckinsey research suggests that for those who left the workforce during the early phases of the pandemic, workplace flexibility was a top reason they accepted new jobs.
“Currently, Plug and Play is embracing hybrid work policies. This means three days in the office are required, and two days remote are allowed. A lot of our team members focus on coming on the days their team hosts our ecosystem. We listen to our employees, and our needs as a team have changed during these last few years.” - Candela Fitzgerald, Global Head of HR, PNPTC
There are many reasons why employees favor hybrid work. Higher flexibility, more sustainability, reduced cost and time spent commuting, a better work-life balance, and improved mental health are some of the big ones. For many employees, mental health has become more important than before the pandemic, as suggested by Microsoft's Work Trend Index 2022. A Salesforce survey shows that 59% of workers surveyed said that hybrid work would improve their psychological wellbeing.
Employees' preference for a hybrid model is something companies can't afford to ignore. In fact, although many companies have started their return-to-office earlier this year, the employees are probably not returning to the same office from pre-pandemic. For instance,
- Twitter re-opened its offices in March but is continuing to let employees choose their work models, including being remote full-time.
- HubSpot has offered its employees three flexible working options. Employees can choose from working at the office three or more days a week, two or fewer days a week, and mostly from home. They can change their options once a year.
- Coinbase announced that 95% of its employees still have the option to work from home, an office, or a mix between the two.
These are just among many other companies implementing similar flexible work models.
Hybrid work technology trends
As hybrid work becomes common across industries, we’re also seeing various technology trends emerging. These technologies are helping companies manage their hybrid work more efficiently and effectively. Some were developed before the pandemic but have shown greater value in a post-pandemic world and hybrid working environment. Here are some popular trends to consider:
- Smart offices
Smart offices are innovative office solutions that help employees work with higher efficiency, better flexibility, easier collaboration, and without physical restrictions. More intelligent than traditional office space, a smart office can understand how a work environment is utilized most efficiently. Smart offices may have tools including a meeting room reservation tool, video conferencing software, sign-in checkpoints, intelligent climate and lighting control, voice control, a gaming system, and more. VergeSense, for example, is a startup providing a smart sensor platform capable of using computer vision to measure the occupancy and utilization of office spaces.
- People analytics
People analytics platforms help employees manage time, improve productivity, and avoid mundane tasks. They collect and analyze data to help organizational decision-making and have become a crucial tool for many forward-thinking HR teams. Clovi is one of the top people analytics startups offering data insights on communications, payroll, surveys, wellness, and claims.
- Artificial Intelligence
Artificial Intelligence has been leveraged in many aspects of the hybrid workplace, such as financial operations, customer service, business automation, IT operations, and video streaming and hosting. AI solutions can automate live-stream captioning, unlock video analytics, help address incident management and crisis resolution, automate budgeting and forecasting processes, and more. For instance, Curiosity.ai gives users one search across all their files and apps with an AI-driven solution to increase productivity regardless of their work environment.
What challenges might you face with hybrid work?
Traditionally, company data is accessed through the corporate network. That, however, has changed under a hybrid work environment. As employees work in different locations using different and sometimes insecure networks for work, securing sensitive data and information can be challenging. Domestic devices such as printers, TVs, and cameras can also create further vulnerabilities.
“Our operational teams have added a portfolio of virtual tools to help replicate the energy and communication, but sometimes I still miss the daily in-person elements. I just love having those deeper relationships that grow during lunch or coffee.” As suggested by Sanam Amidi, Director of Commercial Operations & Automation at Plug and Play, it may be a struggle to maintain a solid and connected work culture in hybrid work. When employees have less time to catch up and socialize at the office, will they still have a sense of team bonding? It could be challenging for hybrid employees to collaborate effectively if there's a lack of communication.
Making "hybrid" work for your company
There's no easy way to find the best hybrid work strategy. Every company operates differently, and employees' preferences may differ when it comes to work models. But here are a few things you can start with when figuring out a strategy that works best for your company.
- Improve security management
Consider choosing innovative technologies like business VPN and cloud-based solutions to take your company's data security to a whole new level. Adopting a Zero Trust network access model and having employee training that educates them on the "trust none, verify all" mindset is also essential.
- Hold virtual team-building activities regularly
Team-building and company culture should not be undermined by hybrid work. Hold regular virtual events or activities, such as online workshops, game sessions, or something as simple as a ten-minute team chat. This way, you can still make your employees feel connected and supported despite not being able to always see each other in person.
- Feedback and reviews become even more important
Employees are less likely to succeed without regular feedback. And it becomes even more crucial for hybrid teams, as there can easily be a lack of communication when team members work from different locations and schedules. Therefore, companies should fully utilize their performance review systems and ensure that employees receive feedback on their work progress and performance. This will be helpful for them to know what they’re doing right and how they can improve when working in different environments.
The COVID-19 pandemic made us realize that hybrid work can be just as effective and productive - with a good strategy. By using innovative business solutions, hybrid work can create a brand new environment and culture for a company, including high productivity, positive engagement, and happy employees.