The Brave (and not-so-new) World of Hybrid Workplaces
Although hybrid workplaces have become synonymous with COVID and the work-from-home orders of the pandemic era, the truth is that flexible work environments are nothing new. In fact, the concept has been on the rise for a couple of decades now, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Much has already been written about the pros and cons of both fully in-person workplaces and hybrid or flexible organizations. It seems like the more you look at either side of the equation, the more arguments you find either in favor of or against it. The truth? In the future, it’s highly unlikely that the workforce will ever be all one way or the other. The ideal solution for most companies is, and will continue to be, some kind of hybrid solution that allows for both in-person and remote work.
So if hybrid offices are here to stay, what does that mean for us, our companies, and the future of work? As a virtual or all-remote organization, Aventi Group has many years of experience with hybrid work and can speak with confidence about its complexities. So let’s dive in and explore those questions.
Who’s going hybrid?
As I said above, the concept of employees working remotely is not a new one, at least in the tech world. Companies started exploring telecommuting as early as the 1970s. When I worked at IBM back in the ‘90s, they were already converting their offices into open-plan workplaces. A quick search of top tech companies’ websites shows that almost all of them have a hybrid work policy in place.
For example, earlier this year, IBM’s HR chief, Nickle LaMoreaux, said that most of their employees only need to come into the office “from time to time,” and very few need to come in five days a week. In response, the tech giant will be cutting back on its physical space, eliminating much of the 70 million square feet of office space and the 1,000 locations it had pre-pandemic.1
Adobe (an Aventi client) is another organization that is leaning into the hybrid workspace concept. They will allow most employees to work from home up to 50% of the time, and also plan to allow up to twice the current number of full-time remote employees. Gloria Chen, Adobe’s chief people officer, posted the following on Adobe company blog: “We know one size doesn’t fit all. When we say flexible, we mean flexible.”2
And, as part of their commitment to sustain a flexible workplace for their employees, SAP has pledged to do the following (from TechRepublic):
- A 100% flexible and trust-based workplace
- An inclusive environment in which people can work from home, at the office, or remotely
- Flexible work schedules
- Inspiring office designs and office buildings that prioritize sustainability and health
- Full compliance with local regulations across the many regions where employees work
These companies and others, including Twitter, Salesforce, and Microsoft, have made flexible work a priority, reflecting the needs and priorities of their employees while continuing to innovate and fulfill their customers’ needs.
Why it works
If so many large organizations are making full-time office work a thing of the past, clearly something is working. There are many pros to having a remote or hybrid workforce, which have been discussed in detail many times elsewhere. A few of the many compelling reasons for a company to go hybrid/flexible are:
- Employees are happier because they can set their own hours (to some degree), be with their family more often, and spend less time and money commuting.
- Scaling back office space is cost-efficient for companies.
- Employees can live/work from almost anywhere, allowing organizations to build more inclusive teams and giving multiple perspectives a seat at the (virtual) table.
- Virtual collaboration tools are getting better and computers are becoming more economical to have at home.
- Employees have fewer–or, perhaps, different–distractions at home, creating a more productive work environment.
In short, hybrid workplaces offer multiple benefits to both organizations and their employees. Virtual work opportunities are here to stay, and they will only continue to become more ubiquitous as the technology supporting them continues to improve.
Why it doesn’t
With all of that said, I don’t think physical offices will ever fully go away. Maintaining an office space offers too many advantages to do without one completely. Again, the benefits to working in person are many, so I’ll name just a few key ones here:
- Workers create an essential community with their colleagues and feel a stronger connection to the company.
- Younger people just starting their careers gain a valuable–and even enjoyable–learning experience.
- Working virtually makes it harder to build a company culture or propagate strategies and themes.
- Collaboration and teamwork can be difficult when done entirely virtually.
- Full-time virtual employment can lead to burnout and difficulties putting work aside for family and personal time.
I for one have worked in both virtual and in-person settings throughout my career. I am a big fan of virtual workplaces and flexible in-office policies. It works well for Aventi, and frankly we couldn’t exist without broad acceptance of remote work and online collaboration by our clients. But I also really enjoy and see tremendous value in face-to-face meetings. I would never want to give those up entirely.
Personally, I predict that remote and virtual work will become even more prevalent and accepted around the world and across industries. But at the same time, in-office (or face to face) options will continue to be important. And so I expect the shared workspace industry (Regus, WeWork, etc.) to continue to grow and evolve, providing innovative new ways for companies to have in-person meeting space and collaboration potential without the cost and complexity of permanent physical offices.
Full-time in-office mandates will become harder and harder to enforce as people increasingly expect flexibility in their work situation. In fact, at ServiceNow, 87% of employees surveyed said being able to work remotely would be a part of their future employment decisions.3
And finally, effective leaders, from the C-suite down to frontline managers, are going to have to become much more accepting of remote workers, trusting the fact that they can and will get their tasks done without constant oversight. I think this shift in management will have a lasting effect on management best practices, and future management candidates will need to spend far more effort building the skills necessary to lead and run organizations that operate partially or completely remotely.
If you are interested in working with Aventi Group, either as a client or a contractor, submit your resume to be considered for future projects or check out our careers page. We’re always looking for individuals with a diverse background in marketing.
1. [https://www.businessinsider.com/ibm-ceo-hybrid-remote-work-for-most-employees-post-pandemic-2021-3] ↩ 2. [https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2021/06/25/adobe-embraces-hybrid-remote-work-post-covid.html]↩ 3. [https://www.zdnet.com/article/work-from-home-is-here-to-stay-companies-must-adjust-to-succeed-says-servicenows-chief-customer-and-partner-officer/]↩