The hybrid work week is here to stay. In the largest study to date, Harvard Business School researchers concluded that the post-COVID hybrid work week is not only here to stay, it might indeed be an optimal solution for the employer and the employee.
Further, in a global survey of employees by tech giant Cisco, recent changes in the work environment indicated it will never be the same. Fully 57% of workers expected to be in the office 10 days or less every month. 77% of employees wanted to see a flexible work style. A whopping 97% wanted to see safer work places before they returned and a meager 9% thought they would return to the office full-time when things re-opened.
Determining the optimal work week is a significant challenge for employers. As part of the CISCO survey, fully 68% of knowledge workers (a person whose job involves handling or using information) were already working from home and going into the office, an accurate description and definition of the hybrid office environment. The primary differentiation between remote work and hybrid work is that remote work gives more freedom to the staff, while the hybrid work style allows the staff to interface with co-workers in the office.
Obviously, working from home and from the office has been around for a long time. But the pandemic resulted in the convergence of many factors that did not exist. The strengthening of cyber security has allowed most devices to transact and conduct business safely and efficiently from almost anyplace in the world. Until recently, larger band widths were not readily available. That is no longer the case. Advances in networking have provided faster speeds which have also enabled better video communications via platforms like WebEx, ZOOM, and Teams. The evolution and merging of all of these technologies has provided the perfect opportunity for remote communication to not just succeed, but to thrive.
Author Denise Lee, in a recent article for CISCO Systems, summarized the timeline of hybrid work. She wrote “Not too long ago, ‘hybrid work’ was seen as a luxury, a benefit for those who could manage their work from home every now and again. Forward thinking? Yes. Ubiquitous? No. But throw in a pandemic-induced, grand experiment of work-from-home, and suddenly hybrid work went from nice-to-have to must-have.” She went on to say, in order for a hybrid work place to be successful, an employer needs to be aware of three issues that are to be wrapped in a work environment or culture of “accountability, trust, and discipline”.
Hybrid work is an opportunity for employees to work onsite or offsite, moving between various locations. It is a blend of being in the office or out of the office on a regular schedule, or rotating back and forth between those environments based upon the needs of the employee and/or the employer. Hybrid work conditions should promote employee inclusiveness, interaction, and stress well being. In other words, the employer and employee need to be able to establish their own meaning of hybrid work, so as to maximize the needs of the employer and the performance of the employee.
In the Harvard study, Professor Prithwiraj Chodbury concluded that hybrid work is not only here to stay, but it might indeed be an optimal solution for the employer and the employee. In citing the study Chodbury delineated the results of his study to a level of specificity that is intended to help employers deal with the nuances of hybrid work schedules.
In reviewing the Chodbury study, author Ben Rand of the Harvard Business Review, says the optimal solution is a “Hybrid schedule in which employees roughly split their workweeks between the home and office appear to work the best. These schedules allow for the right mix of flexibility and engagement that not only make the employee happier, but more productive and creative, resulting in higher-quality work……”. Overall, Chodbury sees the hybrid model as one that describes the split work week as “the best of both worlds.” According to Chodbury, employee productivity did not suffer. Actually, his results showed that hybrid workers were highly productive and happier than others.
Specifically, an employer needs to be flexible in how they establish and maintain a hybrid work schedule. The optimal work template will be based on the requirements of the job in question and the willingness of the employee to work within them.