Even though we’ve moved out of the peak and most dangerous phases of the coronavirus pandemic, its impacts on the workplace have yet to fully resolve. Companies are still asking themselves which working model is best, debating between office vs. remote vs. hybrid work.
Each one of these models have their benefits, but they may also have some drawbacks. Choosing which option to use depends on a number of factors, including the personality and culture of a given company and its teams. The model that a company chooses could change over time as well. Companies might want to deploy new working styles as they gather results or learn about new research and changes to employee needs.
We’ll dive into some of the factors that impact office vs. remote vs. hybrid work below. We’ll also be part of the ongoing conversation about what type of in-office (or lack thereof) style is the best. We know that both employees and employers are very passionate about this topic, and permanent answers aren’t likely to come soon, if ever. For that reason, it’s especially important that companies across different types of industries are sharing their results and what approaches have worked best for them. Companies can all learn from each other as we continue to reinvent and reimagine the future of work.
Office vs. remote vs. hybrid work
Like we mentioned before, the debate about office vs. remote vs. hybrid work is raging on. People on each side of the conversation are very passionate, and workers especially feel like more flexibility has helped their work-life-balance in many ways and they don’t want to go back to old styles of working.
During the most dangerous moments of the coronavirus pandemic, there wasn’t an option but for companies to stay remote. They wanted to protect workers and keep them safe, and workers especially had leverage to say that they weren’t willing to risk their health to go into the office. Many workers also lived in multi-generational homes or communities. Some were taking care of older relatives, or they had children at home that they didn’t want to expose to illness. Exposure to more people than necessary especially matters for workers that are immunocompromised or have underlying conditions.
Though coronavirus strains are still circulating, they’ve fortunately become much more mild and we now have vaccinations and treatments to help mitigate risk. Because of these changes in circumstances, workers don’t have the same sort of leverage to stay remote that they had during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. A struggling marketplace, as well as concerns about a recession are also causing some to speculate where the leverage on working models will be in the future—with workers or employers.
Wherever the leverage ends up, there’s no doubt that the coronavirus has reshaped how people and companies view the workplace. Many workers will never be willing to go back to in-office work, and some companies will have greater access to candidates because of their willingness to accommodate those realities. Though everyone is still deciding their stance on working models—and again, those stances may change—let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons for each type of work model.
An overview of in-office work
In-office work is the way that most people have understood the workplace for most of their lives. For many people, it was unheard of to do their work from home, especially before the technological advancements that made at-home work more of a possibility.
Working in the office allows many people to create more structured routines, build long-term connections with their co-workers, managers, and peers, and it also serves as a direct and physical connection to their workplace. The relationships that many people foster in the workplace feel like family, and it’s hard to recreate the bonds that physical proximity can foster. Zoom meetings don’t lend themselves to spontaneous coffee breaks, for example.
Some of the downsides to working in the office, however, include long commutes, more difficulty picking kids up or taking them to appointments, and workers of course have to live near the office. In-office work can also be more taxing for different personality types or anyone that requires accommodations based on medical or engagement styles. The office can also be much more distracting since there’s more chatter, movement, and people.
An overview of hybrid work
Hybrid work is the middle ground that many people believe merges the best of in-office and remote work. Most hybrid schedules ask for employees to come in a couple of days of the week, sometimes with set cadences or employees being able to choose their schedule.
These hybrid work-models ensure that workers have physical interaction and collaboration with co-workers, but they’re still able to retain the flexibility that allows them to work remotely when needed. With hybrid models, people may be more likely to live farther away from the office since they’ll only have to commute a few times a week. This opens the door to more lifestyle opportunities for workers. It allows them to live closer to family, and it lets them make other arrangements that don’t solely depend on where their office is located.
One common criticism of the hybrid model is that it doesn’t allow workers to settle into a permanent weekly routine. Every few days they’re disrupted by either returning to the office or going back home. Offices that organize themselves around hybrid work may not even have permanent desks that workers can use when they’re in the office. Because of some of the drawbacks, some critics view hybrid as the worst of both worlds, though many other people think it’s the sensible middleground.
An overview of remote work
The proponents of remote work may by and large be the most vocal of all three of these working model groups. Remote workers praise the flexibility to be able to better merge their life and work—sometimes meaning working from different locations because of familial or recreational reasons—and they don’t see themselves ever returning to the office. Lots of workers will now only consider opportunities or jobs if the roles are allowed to be remote-only. This means that tech, digital, and other remote industries may get the upper hand in hiring with certain job candidates.
Remote workers are able to save money by not commuting, buying coffee or lunch while in the office, and it gives people an equal advantage in the workplace. Women are able to merge their lives with work so that they don’t have to leave the workforce after having children, and people from different cities and states have an equal opportunity for employment everywhere.
The main critics of remote work believe that it may limit career opportunities (especially for younger workers), that it’ll keep companies from excelling without physical collaboration and motivation, and many critics cite the possible harms to businesses and communities that thrive from the foot traffic that offices provide. Companies also have to be much more thoughtful with how they engage remote workers that are scattered across various locations.
Office vs. remote vs. hybrid summarized
As you can see, and as you’ve likely gathered over the last two years, the arguments for office vs. remote vs. hybrid work are varied and dependent on many different perspectives. Each group makes compelling arguments, and the group closest to the middle—the hybrid group—doesn’t necessarily have the buy-in from the remote or in-office crowds.
What we do know is that some organizations and businesses lend themselves more to remote work. It makes sense that a crypto or digital-only bank would be more remote-friendly, while a car manufacturer or furniture retailer needs people to gather physically to create their product (though there is the fact that marketers and digital teams can support remotely).
Some organizations are also more traditional and appreciate the cultural and disciplinary components that they say in-person work provides. Employees who disagree believe that these organizations are looking for ways to exert control and are unwilling to adapt to work innovations. Whatever the cause, it’s likely that arguments will remain lively on all sides.
What should your organization do?
If your company is debating office vs. remote vs hybrid work, we suggest starting by gathering data. It’s best to understand what your employees want, how they perform within the parameters that they prefer, and how similar companies in your field are approaching these questions and circumstances.
Workify can help you gather this info through guiding you as you launch employee engagement programs and surveys. Our engagement specialists can help you see what questions will resonate with workers, and they’ll be able to utilize the latest in our surveying methodology during the process.
All of our surveys are connected to our Engagement Intelligence Platform, giving you the latest in employee listening and making it almost feel like you have an in-house analytics team. Our programs and surveys are also backed by I/O psychologists and our team of specialists will help you navigate the Engagement Intelligence Platform so that you understand all of your data and know what to do with it. Connect with us today to learn more and get started.