The idea of a hybrid workforce isn’t new; it even pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic. As soon as the technology became available for mobile work, with laptops and wireless internet and cell phones, people began to work outside of the office. However, the pandemic sped up this trend by leaps and bounds. All of a sudden, as we all remember in March of 2020, almost everyone who worked an office job was sent home with whatever equipment could be mustered up, and these employees were home for months. Three years later, and some have not returned to the office yet. Employers across the world have been forced to work on their own flexibility to get workers back in the office, and now, some employees are flat out refusing to come back. The lengths some management teams have gone through to get workers to come into the office have been astounding, and the waning years have only seen more creative solutions come about for this.
In 2023, many businesses feel that the time has come to make a firm decision on how their employees will work in the future. Since the pandemic, entire industries have gone remote, but not every company has seen success with workers completing their jobs from home, making decisions on whether or not supervisors need employees back into the office even more difficult. Add to that the rising costs of real estate and utilities, and employers are struggling to make sense of it all. Whether a company is working fully back in the office, hybrid, or fully remote, there are pros and cons to each, and it is worth exploring all facets of hybrid work to see if it is the right fit for your company.
“You don’t gotta go to work… But you gotta put in work…”
For those with office jobs, the periods spent working since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States have been… trying at best. However, many workers hit their stride working from home. Saving money on gas and childcare and saving time by not commuting to work and sitting in traffic, lots of office employees found that a remote workstyle truly fit their needs and their lives, with less stress than they had experienced working in the office. While some smaller companies can and will remain fully remote, others need and desire the face-to-face communications and interpersonal work connections that working in an office brings. Some business owners found that it was difficult to keep everyone on their teams on the same pages, and there are also those that do not appreciate the complexities that remote work brings to teamwork.
With all of that being said, though, unfortunately for many businesses with empty offices, employers needed their workers to come back, and they have found that convincing their workers to return to an office environment has been more difficult than anticipated. At the beginning of 2023, the New York Times found that half of business offices are still at half of their pre-pandemic occupancy levels. The struggle is real with some businesses reporting that creativity and brainstorming are impaired by remote work, and a report from MIT shows that ties between coworkers declined by 38%, which business owners say causes lapses in productivity and innovation.
Some employers, like Amazon and Morgan Stanley, have ordered employees to come back to the office. Morgan Stanley noted that it was not the employee’s choice to work when and where they wanted to, but that those decisions lie solely with management. However, instead of returning to a full, five day work week in-office, Amazon is allowing for workers to return three days a week. This hybrid model, which experts define as working at least one day a week in the office, is becoming more and more prevalent, with experts from Wharton’s business school even declaring that hybrid work was the legacy of Covid-19, and it is here to stay. For now, it is the most balanced way of pleasing both the employee who wants to work from home and the employer who wants a working office again.
Balancing the Needs of the Many
So, how do workers and management hammer out an arrangement that is both beneficial and productive for all parties? Since every business and company are different, there will not be a single tried and true method for implementing a hybrid work schedule, but many companies are attempting to find that balance. The New York Times indicated that “the best hybrid arrangements promise to combine the values that all sides want: the creativity of in-person collaboration, the ease and fluidity of working from home.” So, now compromise has become the name of the game, with incentives of all kinds being offered by office management. New offices are being designed to entice employees back. Some of them have built Pickleball courts, while others have added “happy hours” to their office, offering drinks to their twenty-one and up workers at the end of the workday.
The American Society of Employers conducted surveys last year and found that the average time in office, at this point, is two to three days, and this seems to satisfy most employees. Right now, for hybrid workers, the most common day to be in the office is Wednesday, while Friday is usually the day employees prefer to work from home. However, it is important to remember that the logistics are only part of the plan. Experts from Wharton have indicated that mental health and an overall wellbeing is extremely important to workers, and now management is starting to pick up on that, implementing policies to enhance an employee’s health, or at least get them the help they need to become a healthier, well-rounded individual. Creating a positive office environment will make it so much easier to convince people to come back to work with the rest of their coworkers, and, for more information on that, please see our blog post from May 25, 2023. Part of that is taking their workers’ wishes into account when it comes to hybrid working.
If your business has gone hybrid since the spring of 2020, it is safe to say that there is no going back now. When interviewing new candidates for positions, hybrid and remote jobs seem to be generating the most excitement and leads. As for retaining employees, forcing them back into the office can lead to an unnecessary attrition that could take months, or even years to rebuild. Workers have shown that they are ready and willing to move to companies that better align with their lifestyle, and employers need to be ready to face the consequences of demanding a fully in-house staff.
For those willing to compromise, a hybrid workforce could be a tool to use in a successful employer branding or employee retention strategy. With the different incentives being used to lure workers back, as long as management is sincere, any of these could be part of a winning employer brand, and a good employer branding technique can lead to an even easier time when it comes to employee retention.
Meaghan Goldberg covers recruitment and digital marketing for Lionzone. A Patterson, GA native, after graduating from both Valdosta State University and Middle Tennessee State University, Meaghan joined Lionzone in 2018 as a digital recruitment strategist before becoming the social media manager.