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    What Is The Hybrid Workplace?

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    Vithya Subramaniam

    What is a hybrid office?

    The hybrid workplace is a concept where employees spend part of their time working in the office and the other part working at home or elsewhere. 

    Hybrid work allows employees to fit work around their lives by choosing where and how they want to work. It is also a stepping stone for companies who are weighing whether to adopt a remote work environment. 

    The 6 Models of The Hybrid Workplace

    Hybrid work is not one size fits all. One on end, it ranges from a mostly remote work environment with flexible office space, to a company that still retains large offices with limited remote work. 

    To decide which type of hybrid work suits your company, there are a few things to consider. Key amongst these are: 

    • The type of talent you want to access 
    • How much you want to reduce your real estate cost by 
    • The appetite in your company to experiment 

    A good framework to look at is this 6 models of hybrid working released by Mckinsey in July 2020. 

    McKinsey’s 6 Models of Hybrid Working.
    McKinsey's 6 models of hybrid working

    The model puts into perspective the balance between each of the key factors. 

    Hybrid work is a more palatable concept for most companies 

    Despite the fact that 68% of employees say they are just as effective working remotely, there’s still resistance towards going full remote. 

    Chief among the reasons is concern that some leaders have towards their employees feeling isolated and difficulties they might have in collaborating. 

    This is where a hybrid work model can strike a balance between the increased productivity and cost reduction that remote work brings, and the easier collaboration and better social interactions that on-site work entails. 

    Advantages of a hybrid workplace 

    A hybrid working method brings with it many benefits: 

    1. It is what employees want 

    Time and time again, surveys have found that the employees, particularly millennials, are split in half when it comes to choosing between remote work or on-site work.

    Most employees simply want the flexibility to choose whether to work remotely or from the office.

    This is a natural reaction because certain tasks are more suited for the collaborative space in offices, while other tasks are more suited for the focused quiet of homes. 

    balance work from home and work from office

    A hybrid office helps companies to give their employees the flexibility to have the best of both worlds. Some companies in Singapore that have adopted a hybrid workplace model are DBS and UOB.

    2. Employees who need access to the office can still get them 

    Due to reasons such as regulations or need to access specialised equipment, employees who are performing certain functions are unable to work from home all the time.

    For instance, MAS regulations means some traders are unable to bring secured computing systems home with them. And quality assurance professionals need access to lab equipment to conduct checks. 

    Having a hybrid office would allow the company flexibility to: 

    • Designate these employees to come in on the days they require to do in-office tasks; or 
    • Designate them for in-office work and their colleagues for remote work. 

    This way, the company’s workforce as a whole can have access to the office when needed, and still work remotely the rest of the time. 

    3. Reduce the isolation that some employees may feel 

    Another reason why a hybrid workspace is becoming popular is because many employees report feeling isolated and distanced from their company when solely working from home. 

    Particularly for employees who stay by themselves, working from home can be tough on mental health. People need a sense of community in order to feel included. 

    Having one or two days a week where they can have some interaction with fellow colleagues can help provide this needed interaction and boost morale. 

    4. In-office time allows for certain tasks which doing remotely is hard

    Certain things are just hard to do remotely. Chief amongst these are onboarding and collaboration. 

    social distancing at the hybrid workplace

    Learning something new through video calls and emails is not the most effective way to properly onboard a new employee.

    For one, any informal learning such as “what kind of person is Amy like” or “what’s Adam’s role in this project” or “how’s Finance involved in this?” are almost impossible to anticipate or impart. A newcomer might also be loathe to ask questions swimming in their head for fear of being a burden or annoyance. 

    Hybrid work whereby a a newcomer comes into the office to absorb the environment and culture, and meet with his/her new colleagues, for a few months, before going off remotely can help tremendously. 

    5. Reduced Operations and Real Estate Cost

    Hybrid work can result in substantial cost savings on real estate rent and operating costs. 

    We estimate that companies in Singapore spend between $900-$1200 per month to house an employee in a Grade A office space in the Central Business District.

    By adopting hybrid work for 20% of their employees’ time, or for 20% of their headcount, the company can reduce their office space and the operating costs of that space by a corresponding amount, resulting in cost savings that are not trivial. 

    The office space retain its value as a space for socialization and collaboration.  

    6. Stepping stone towards remote work

    For companies that are in transition or weighing whether to switch to remote work, a hybrid work model can be a stepping stone for them to slowly ease their way into remote work. 

    The company can build up its cloud and technology infrastructure, take its time to introduce well considered remote / hybrid work policy and allow its employees the opportunity to get used to working remotely. 

    Disadvantages of a Hybrid Workplace.

    Seeing as how the hybrid workplace is a work in progress, it does come with some downsides. 

    1. Certain types of employees may be disadvantaged 

    The headquarters of any companies tend to be the hub of information and operation. So people who spend more time there may accumulate more power.

    Also, many interactions and camaraderie-building are on an informal basis, through water cooler chats and spontaneous meetings between colleagues in the hallways. 

    If some employees are permitted to be based wholly in the office, they could find it easier to build up relationships that can further their careers. There could develop an “Office Club” similar in terms of privileges to an “Old Boys’ Club”.

    Companies need to be very careful in how they design their hybrid work policies to ensure both employees onsite in the office and those working remotely have the same opportunities for career advancement. 

    To add to this, some segments of the employee population who are already underrepresented at the leadership level (eg. women with young children) may be more likely to want to work remotely. Employers will have to be very intentional in how they structure the remote work environment so that these groups are not at a disadvantage because of their inclination.

    2. Difficulty communicating between on-site and remote staff 

    When you have a brainstorming session with 8 team members in the office and 2 working remotely, you can immediately guess that it will lead to a tough session.

    Team members working in the office will find it more convenient to discuss and whiteboard items amongst themselves, face to face. Those listening in on video conference may find it hard to catch what is being said and whiteboarded. This ultimately leaves them feeling ignored and out of the loop, and leaves the team without the benefit of their input. 

    The technology to ensure a good experience for a joint onsite and remote meeting is just not there yet. Hence, team leaders will want to be thoughtful in how they arrange for meetings to be held. 

    4. Unequal workplace infrastructure and tools

    Sleek ergonomic chairs, standing desks and large monitor screens are de rigueur in many offices in Singapore’s Central Business District. Companies are aware that quality furniture and equipment help improve their employees’ health, safety and productivity.  

    However, the same cannot be said of their employees’ workspace at home. Many employees work off their dining tables, beds or sofas, unwilling to purchase equipment on their own dime because they do not know whether they will be called back to the office.

    Needless to say, this has serious consequences on employees’ health and productivity. In a 2020 survey of chiropractors in the US, 92% of them report more incidences of patients suffering neck and back pain since the stay-at-home guidance began.   

    To add to this concern, under the laws of most countries, the employer owes their employees a responsibility to provide them with a safe environment and not to put them in harm’s way. 

    If a company decides to implement a hybrid work policy, this is one glaring risk that they will have to rectify. For a flexible and affordable way to cater for employees, look at remote work platform services such as ours.  

    The Future of Hybrid Work

    We believe that the hybrid work model really is the future of the workplace. 

    Finding the right balance and creating the right policy in order to maintain a smoothly running team is tough, but achievable. 

    In our next article on the hybrid workplace, we will examine the pros and cons of the different models of hybrid work, so stay tuned! 

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