Hybrid work - The future of work?

The Corona pandemic has turned the world of work upside down and led to an involuntary test of how well companies are positioned for remote work. Due to the positive results, many suspected that employees would only work remotely in the future and predicted the end of the office. However, as we also suspected last year, the current trend is that the work of the future will be hybrid. So what does hybrid work mean? And how can companies optimally position themselves for the flexible world of work?

What does hybrid working mean?

Hybrid work refers to a time- and location-independent form of work in which employees no longer spend every day in the office, but work both in and out of the office. The home office in the home study is only one possible alternative to the office. The café around the corner, co-working spaces, the home office abroad and any other place that enables productive work can also be used for work. The same applies to working hours. The classic 9-to-5 job is giving way more and more to individual time management in the context of hybrid work.

However, there is no concrete definition of the distribution of days of presence and days with remote work. Instead, the concrete design of hybrid work will differ from company to company or even between individual departments. This is because the degree of flexibility depends on different factors, such as the role in the company and the area of responsibility.

What are the advantages of hybrid work?

Hybrid work combines the advantages of office work and mobile work. If the necessary conditions are created in the company, hybrid work offers numerous advantages for employees, employers and society.

How do workers benefit from the hybrid work model?

  • Work-life balance: Bringing the children to school, then being able to start work emails and a round of yoga at your favourite yoga studio at lunchtime: thanks to remote work, individual needs can be integrated into the working day more easily. In addition, long commutes to the office are eliminated, saving time that can be spent on leisure activities.

  • Cost savings: Less face-to-face work also means lower costs for employees. Subscription tickets for public transport, driving (including the search for a parking space), expensive meals in the city centre - all these costs are (partially) eliminated with remote work. Hybrid work also makes workers more location-independent. Since they no longer have to live where they work, they can alternatively live cheaply in the countryside.

  • Satisfaction: In addition to such measurable benefits, "soft" factors, such as a personally furnished workspace or the possibility to wear relaxed clothing even while working, are an additional plus in the home office that increase satisfaction and lead to more productivity on balance.

What advantages does hybrid work offer for companies

For a long time, it was assumed that employees in particular would benefit from flexible working models. However, the forced home office showed that companies also benefit from the new approach.

  • Cost savings: With permanently fewer people in the office, cost savings are also possible on the part of employers. Survey results among company managers show potential savings of up to 20 per cent. An individual workstation no longer has to be provided for each employee, which means lower costs for office equipment. As a result, less office space tends to be needed, which saves on rent. In other scenarios, the hybrid model leads to a fundamental restructuring of the office organisation. Expensive office space in city centre locations is abandoned in favour of satellite offices spread across the city.
  • Employer branding: Already today, the "war for talents" is no longer won by salary alone. The possibility of flexible work schedules will become an important criterion for employer branding and the acquisition of new employees. This is especially true for sought-after specialists in the areas of IT and technology or finance. At the same time, companies outside the metropolitan regions will have easier access to skilled workers. Young, qualified employees who want to continue living in the big city are now a potential target group thanks to remote work.
  • Productivity: Contrary to the widespread prejudice that productivity would decrease through remote work, this is often not observed in practice. On the contrary, numerous managers even report productivity increases during the Corona pandemic. The possibility to work in a focused manner without disturbing noises as well as a fundamentally higher employee satisfaction thanks to more flexible work are reasons for this.

Sustainability, strengthening rural areas: societal benefits

Hybrid work also offers advantages for society as a whole. The elimination of commuting to the place of work and unnecessary business trips, which are sometimes accomplished by domestic flights, not only saves time, nerves and money, but also reduces CO2 emissions. Hybrid working thus effectively contributes to climate protection.

The possibility of remote work also increases flexibility in the choice of place of residence. Skilled workers are no longer forced to move to metropolitan regions for qualified work, which leads to a higher social mix and consequently a strengthening of rural areas.

What are the challenges of hybrid work?

Despite all the opportunities that hybrid working offers, it turns out that it also brings different challenges. Managers are therefore faced with the task of optimally positioning the culture and the organisation in the company for digitalisation.

Suitable processes and structures must ensure that employees are integrated into all processes regardless of where they work and have (timely) access to all information. Only in this way is optimal collaboration between distributed teams possible. At the same time, all colleagues must be empowered for digital collaboration. Because not every employee is already confident in using technology and tools.

Another challenge is maintaining the company and work culture. Already today, many employees complain that they feel less connected to their company and the vision due to permanent remote work. At the same time, team spirit decreases when colleagues only see each other via video conferences. This makes it all the more important for managers to encourage and demand communication within the company and between colleagues.

Last but not least, companies fear losing innovative power through distributed working. While standard tasks can easily be done from anywhere, regular exchanges, creative sessions or joint brainstorming sessions are indispensable for innovative ideas.

How can Hybrid Work succeed in the company?

The transformation to a hybrid company is not a process over a few days or weeks. Rather, it is characterised by constant learning and regular adjustments. Nevertheless, companies should think about a successful transformation and create the necessary conditions. So what does it take to overcome the challenges of hybrid work and reap all its benefits?

1. determine the vision for hybrid work

First of all, decision-makers need to be clear about the role remote work should play in their own company. Is the primary goal a possible cost saving or are the employees and their individual needs the focus of hybrid work?

2. define remote work roles

Based on this vision, specific roles can be defined for employees, which clearly define how many days they work remotely. Criteria for this are, for example:

  • Does the job allow for remote work at all?
  • How independently does the employee work?
  • What is the seniority of the employee?

Accordingly, roles can be defined for individual departments, teams or even at staff level.

3. provide equipment for teams and workspaces

Optimal equipment is necessary for successful collaboration of hybrid teams. Thanks to mobile devices such as laptops, smartphones or tablets, remote workers are empowered to be productive outside the office. Digital tools for project management and communication enable quick and easy collaboration between all participants.

In contrast, the office will serve primarily as a social meeting place in the future and must facilitate exchange between employees. As a result, office space must be redesigned. Instead of individual workstations, lounge areas and numerous meeting possibilities offer space for creative exchange. Modern office technology such as smartboards allows simultaneous collaboration with remote colleagues.

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4. create technical infrastructure

Thanks to a modern technical infrastructure, everyone in the company has access to the information they need. All documents are stored in a central location and can be accessed via secure connections from anywhere in the world. Thanks to zero-touch hardware, employees are suitably equipped and ready for action in just a few minutes.

Companies that position themselves for the future of work at these different levels create the conditions for a successful transformation to a hybrid company.

Further information (external link): BCG Study - Remote Working and the Platform of the Future