The 3 different types of hybrid work

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Highlights:

  • Hybrid work is growing, but there’s no one-size-fits-all model that works for every organization.
  • Employees and employers disagree on how many days can be worked from home.
  • There are three types of hybrid work models emerging right now. Take a look below.

 

Over the last year, we saw an unprecedented, rapid shift in how we work—and workforces aren’t done transforming yet. While the pandemic triggered a major overnight transition to working from home, change is still upon us. And in this next normal, hybrid work is the model on everybody’s mind.

Neither 100% office-based nor a permanent work from home situation, hybrid work aims to offer the best of both worlds. But while hybrid work is being used as an umbrella term to describe flexible part-remote, part-office arrangements, there’s still little consensus about what hybrid work actually looks like. 

What is hybrid work exactly?

For example, a recent Future of Work survey by PwC found a huge spread in the optimal balance of office time vs. work from home time. More than half of employees said they’d like to work remotely three or more days a week. 

Executives, on the other hand, were closely split on whether workers should be in the office two days a week, three days a week, or four days a week. Meanwhile, data from Microsoft found that two thirds of workers want to share more in-person time with their colleagues once the pandemic is fully over.

One thing these stats do agree on? There are no longer hard-and-fast rules about what work looks like. But that’s the true beauty of hybrid work—it frees organizations to establish the models that best fit their unique needs, whether that’s the three office days/two work-from-anywhere days split that Google just announced for most employees or some other model.

That said, hybrid work isn’t a free-for-all either. There are three primary models for hybrid work that are emerging. Here’s what they look like, and the pros and cons for each.

Model 1: Employees split their week—part remote and part onsite

Likely the most top-of-mind model for hybrid work, this time-based split sees most employees performing some aspects of their jobs from home or elsewhere several days each week, and coming into the office the rest of the time.

Pros:

  • Employees can choose to perform aspects of their job in the setting where they can be most effective (for example, doing work that requires deep focus from home, and coming into the office for planned collaborative activities). This can positively impact productivity and work satisfaction
  • Predictable traffic flows and staggering in-office schedules may lessen the demand for physical office space, resulting in resource and cost savings 
  • Investments in technologies that support both onsite and remote users will see greater returns because they can be used seamlessly by the entire workforce in all situations

Cons:

  • If everyone’s schedules are irregular, it can be difficult to coordinate and manage onsite attendance and in-person activities
  • It may require a more proactive effort to keep teams and cross-functional groups connected

Model 2: Some employees work remotely, others work on-site

In this model, where employees work isn’t determined by the day of the week, but by their roles and responsibilities. Some jobs and teams will work on a fully remote basis, while others continue to come into the office every day.

Pros:

  • Office occupancy is predictable—on any given day, managers know who is coming in, allowing for greater planning
  • Greater consistency for employees who prefer routine
  • Remote jobs can be staffed from anywhere in the world, not just employees close enough to come in some days each week

Cons:

  • Individual jobs don’t offer the flexibility of hybrid, with the associated benefits. Roles are either office-based on remote
  • Remote employees may be an afterthought and may not benefit from the same thought and inclusion into company culture as those who work onsite
  • There may be continued segmentation of tools, processes, etc. for remote and office employees, resulting in a fragmented workforce

Model 3: Some combination of the two

It isn’t always possible for all employees to work remotely—for example, some workers may be involved in production and need to be physically onsite. On the flip side, some remote hires may reside too far from the office to come into the office on a regular basis, while other workers may want to split their time between in-person and remote. This third hybrid situation includes a mix of scenarios, with some employees working remotely, some working purely onsite, and others doing a mix of the two.

Pros: 

  • Allows an organization to provide flexibility to some employees, even if the overall model cannot fully accommodate remote work for all (i.e. some workers need to remain onsite)
  • Greater number of options to meet individual preferences

Cons: 

  • Can be difficult to scale if the model becomes overly complex
  • Multiple hybrid models may further increase the risk of worker isolation and company fragmentation

Whatever the model, it’s time to embrace flexibility

The future is hybrid—and this means work is becoming more flexible than ever. As businesses explore new hybrid work arrangements, it’s important to consider the needs and desires of employees, as well as other important considerations that can make hybrid work a success

While shifting to a hybrid work model will undoubtedly take some proactive thought and careful planning, there are exciting changes ahead. And there’s no time like now to start thinking beyond whether hybrid work is a good idea—and to find the best fit for your organization’s needs.

Originally published May 13, 2021

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