It has been more than two years since the onset of the pandemic, a once-in-a-century phenomenon that cost millions of lives all over the world. It has also shaped the white-collar job scene forever. Never before was there an emphasis on remote work, irrespective of industries.
It made sense as without a foolproof way to protect people from the virus, remote working would ensure that workers are relatively safer. This ensured that productivity was maintained at least to a certain level while workers felt confident within the safety of their homes and with their near and dear ones.
But now, after three major waves of infections and two mandatory doses of vaccination, the risk of contracting a severe infection from COVID-19 is waning by the day. But remote workers who were forced to adapt to work from home without a viable second option are reluctant to come back to the office for more than one reason. So managers and top executives of major companies have settled for the midway approach of hybrid working. This would mean that for a select few days of the week, employees would have to come to the office for several reasons that the top management thinks are non-negotiable.
But the response to this hybrid approach unlike the anticipated ‘best of both worlds’ was at the best lukewarm.
A study by Microsoft titled ‘Work Trend Index’ found that currently, 38% of workplaces in the US have adopted this hybrid policy with another 15% more likely to join the bandwagon by the next year.
“One thing is clear: We are not the same people that went home to work in early 2020. The collective experience of the past two years has left a lasting imprint, fundamentally changing how we define the role of work in our lives. The data shows the Great Reshuffle is far from over. Employees everywhere are rethinking their “worth it” equation and are voting with their feet. And as more people experience the upsides of flexible work, the more heavily it factors into the equation. For Gen Z and Millennials, there is no going back. And with other generations not far behind, companies must meet employees where they are,” the study noted.
It is not only in the US that this trend has surfaced. Japan, across the shores which is infamous for its lack of work-life balance and long in-office, stays in the pre-pandemic days is seeing a change in the winds too. Fujitsu, a leading IT company in Japan had found that 74% of their total workforce opined that the office was the best place to work in the pre-pandemic phase. But in a survey conducted in May 2022, an overwhelming 55% of them say that they will like to work from home and office in a flexible manner with 30% opining that they would work from home all the time given an opportunity.
But while it may seem elementary that it is work from home for most of the week and just two days of old-school work from the office, the dynamics in practicality can be a lot different.
No wonder, Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella at the time of releasing the Microsoft 2021 Work Trends Index Annual Report said: “Over the past year, no area has undergone more rapid transformation than the way we work. Employee expectations are changing, and we will need to define productivity much more broadly — inclusive of collaboration, learning, and well-being to drive career advancement for every worker, including frontline and knowledge workers, as well as for new graduates and those who are in the workforce today. All this needs to be done with flexibility in when, where, and how people work”.
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by the Pulse of the American Worker found that 87% of people want to work from home at least 1 day of the week. 68% of American workers say the ability to work remotely and on-site is the perfect work model.
According to the Remote Work & Compensation Pulse Survey, only 8% of remote employees are willing to return to work full-time following the pandemic. While 48% of workers prefer to work from home full-time, the remaining 44% want to work from home part-time throughout the week.
The survey found that around 83% of employees would leave their current job if their pay was reduced as a result of working remotely.
According to Stanford research, 55% of respondents prefer to spend some time at work and some time at home. The report stated that around 25% of workers prefer to work from home full time and 20% exclusively want to work in an office.
The study also found that some employees would try working from home but soon find it to be too lonely. Some people grew addicted to one of three things: television, refrigerator, or bed, and returned to their office.
A survey by owl labs found that in the United States, 87% of workers would like a 10-hour/4-day work week, while 82% would prefer core working hours.
According to a recent survey by an economist, 34% of respondents claimed that face-to-face interruptions from coworkers are the most common reason they lose attention at work. Working at home made 36% of respondents feel more focused than working in an office while working in an office made 28% feel less focused.
Does this mean the hybrid model of work may be the superior choice for many businesses? At this point, it may be too early to say but the next couple of years will let us know for sure.
Assessing which roles are most suitable for remote working, onsite working, or hybrid working is important. This will assist in establishing the long-term goals and ambitions for work in the future.
Hybrid work models are used by 63% of high-growth companies
An Accenture report noted that regardless of where you are located, ensuring your workforce is healthy and productive will yield bottom-line benefits. The report found that 63% of high-revenue growth businesses are adopting productivity anywhere hybrid workforce models.
The concept of blended workforces is rejected by 69% of organizations with negative or no growth, who prefer all onsite or all remote staff. A hybrid strategy is preferred by 83% of workers.
Meanwhile, employees and employers who participated in the Remote Work & Compensation Pulse Survey in May 2021 expressed a desire to be entirely remote 48% of the time. Hybrid working arrangements were preferred by 44% of employees. Employers support the mixed work paradigm 51% of the time, while only 5% cite entirely remote work as an option.
Gen Z employees want some form of onsite work
Gen Z employees want to experience onsite work in some form, Accenture’s report reveals, despite growing up in an era of selfies, texting, and virtual reality.
More than 74% of Gen Z respondents prefer interacting with colleagues face-to-face, followed by Baby Boomers (68%), and Gen Xers (66%).
Will compensation change for remote employees or hybrid employees?
A recent remote work survey by salary.com also found the following. 92% of employers do not have a system in place for determining compensation for employees who work remotely only part of the time. There is no formal mechanism for establishing remuneration for remote workers for 72% of firms.
Over 97% of firms said they will not lower pay for workers who work partially from home. However, 21% of employers would make salary adjustments based on an employee’s contribution, geographic location, and worries about company culture. During the pandemic, 9% of employees transferred to another area, making it hard to return to work full-time.
In a survey of 94% of employees, they believe that salaries should be determined by skill set and not where they are located. In determining remote pay for new hires, 25% of employers take different factors into consideration.
Employers surveyed said they would consider the following factors when determining pay: Competitiveness outside the organization (67%), Competitiveness inside the organization(58%), Cost of living expense (43%)
According to 34% of employers polled, a full-time remote employee in a different geographic market would not be hired at the same rate as an on-site employee.
Does the hybrid work model cost more for employers?
In a recent survey conducted by Prudential Financial Inc., 34% of workers said their employers should provide resources to establish a home office. Whereas 33% of workers said their employees should be reimbursed for expenses associated with remote work.
The Remote Work & Compensation Pulse Survey by salary.com found that 51% of employers expect employees to have to return to the workplace. However, provide them with the flexibility to work remotely part of the time.
Should companies pay these work-from-home expenditures if employees have the option to work in the office full-time? Businesses will need policies in place when addressing these questions by their remote and hybrid workforce.
Having the same systems for both office and remote work could cost employees double for some of the equipment needed. A few of these include phone systems, fast internet access, security, and more.
Employers will also have to think about hiring remote workers from states where they do not have a physical presence. This could include paying higher unemployment taxes and navigating new labor laws in the state where the person works.
Due to contradictory state regulations, employees in some areas may suffer double taxation.
When crafting policies and establishing guidelines there are several things to consider. Businesses should carefully plan and check what specific requirements states require in the locations they plan to hire remote workers.
If a company is searching for contract remote workers, staffing services can help them with these challenges.
On the other hand, if there are fewer employees in the office on a given day, businesses will need to lease less office space. In new leases, employers should also try negotiating a rent deferral or abatement. They should do this in case the state or government declares them ineligible to work owing to a future pandemic.
Synchronous vs asynchronous
It is crucial to remember that not everyone has the same working schedule or is in the same time zone when doing hybrid work. Working in an asynchronous manner can be a useful best practice strategy to adopt to increase productivity. Asynchronous communication is the practice of communicating and pushing projects forward without requiring other stakeholders to be available at the same time. Communication in an office is largely synchronous.
In other words, it is far from simple to figure out how to do this. That is because, in order to correctly design hybrid work, you must consider two axes: place and time.
The axis of location is currently receiving the greatest attention. Millions of workers throughout the world, including Fujitsu’s employees, have abruptly switched from being place-constrained (working in an office) to becoming place-unconstrained this year (working anywhere). Many people have also made a change down the time axis, from being time-constrained (working in lockstep with others) to becoming time-unconstrained (working asynchronously whenever they choose).
For best efficiency, a deliberate balance between synchronous and asynchronous is beneficial. Working asynchronously is not a goal in and of itself; it is about being considerate and choosing to forward a topic or project asynchronously when possible. This allows for more synchronized moments.
Asynchronous work that is extremely capable nevertheless allows for some synchronous dialogue.
Negotiating personal choices
The other factor that will ensure the success of hybrid models is how flexible they are to cater to the personal preferences of individual workers. It can be as simple as some people are most productive at the beginning of the day while some may gather steam post-lunch.
Depending on our particular preferences, our ability to work at peak productivity and performance differ substantially. By considering employees’ preferences when designing hybrid work, it will make it easier for others to understand and accommodate those choices.
Companies on the hybrid path are figuring out how to incorporate their workers’ viewpoints. Many companies are providing managers with simple diagnostic survey tools to better understand their teams’ personal preferences, work contexts, and key tasks—tools that allow them to learn, for example, where their team members feel most energized, and whether they have a well-functioning home office, and what their needs for cooperation, coordination, and focus are.
To make hybrid work, one must consider how work is completed. In the age of hybrid labor, it has become far more complicated. And usually, there are two more preferred ways to deal with the issue. As employees shift to more flexible work arrangements, one option is to greatly increase the use of technology to coordinate tasks. Robotic devices that move around the plant can be deployed to aid the work process which can record comprehensive in-the-moment visual data. This data then can be transmitted back to all team members for examination.
According to studies, many firms still have a long way to go when it comes to remote working best practices and employee well-being.
Longer hours, continuous video conversations, and merging business and personal lives are not conducive to employee contentment over time. According to a survey conducted by Monster, a job-search company, more than two-thirds of remote workers are experiencing burnout symptoms.
The other way is to take this new tectonic shift as an opportunity to re-engineer workflows that are used from pre-pandemic times and in a way, reinvent the wheel or design a new way to move forward.
Existing harmful practices should never be replicated in new hybrid arrangements, as was the case decades ago when corporations began automating work procedures. Many organizations just overlaid new technologies atop existing processes, thereby repeating their weaknesses, idiosyncrasies, and workarounds. Companies typically did not start making use of new technologies until years later, after several costly rounds of reengineering.
The starting point for this can be to figure out if any of the tasks in the current workflow system are unnecessary or needlessly cumbersome. The other aspect to consider is can some of the tasks be automated with the right application of technology. Also, workplaces need to be redesigned to ensure the best possible environment for collaboration, cooperation, and communication.