The Pros and Cons of Hybrid Work Environments

Is your company considering a permanent hybrid work environment? Perhaps you’re tasked with looking at the advantages and disadvantages of various hybrid models. Or maybe you’re writing a hybrid work policy.  

Here’s what human resource departments and company executives need to know about hybrid workplaces. 

5 Hybrid Workplace Models 

When it comes to the work environment, “hybrid” has multiple meanings. In addition to fully remote or fully in-office options, Inc. reported five hybrid workplace models: 

  • Office-centric hybrid: which requires employees to come into the office most of the time
  • Fully-flexible hybrid: giving employees complete choice
  • Remote-ish (or remote-friendly) hybrid: which may include work-from-home (WFH) days and scheduled in-office days
  • Hybrid remote office: which offers employees a menu to choose how they want to work
  • Remote (or virtual)-first: which favors remote work and remote processes 

Considerations Regarding Various Hybrid Models 

Some of the factors your company will want to consider as it examines a permanent hybrid model might include: 

  • Preventing work distribution inequities
  • Ensuring employees know what to do and how to get it done in a timely way
  • Placing necessary boundaries and controls on company expectations
  • Encouraging collaboration between remote and in-office workers
  • Averting possible inequities in the treatment of employees in different locations, including access to information, executive face time, perks, and career advancement
  • Managing logistics, such as desks, technology, out-of-state payroll laws, etc.
  • Avoiding employee turnover by deeply reflecting on the needs and wants of your employees when it comes to remote, hybrid, and in-office policies 

Possible Disadvantages of a Hybrid Workplace 

Furthermore, the following are perceived or real disadvantages of a hybrid work environment:    

  • Management fears that remote employees are slacking (the “butts-in-seats” philosophy)
  • Increased costs to ensure that remote workers have the proper equipment, can securely transfer data across all devices, have fast internet service, and can quickly access IT support
  • Possible need for office renovations
  • Placing women at career risk, as reported in this Harvard Business Review article, because of perceptions regarding commitment level of and mentorship opportunities for those working from home
  • Proximity bias—the idea that those who work near their team will be more successful
  • Some employees may prefer routine and consistency, struggling to adjust between days at home and those in the office
  • Modern “open office” spaces often lack privacy, distracting coworkers
  • Employees may overwork from home and experience burnout
  • Working at different hours may decrease collaboration and efficiency
  • Attempts at developing company culture through on-site, after-hours activities can be a fun team building activity for some, but may be impossible to attend for those with family caregiving responsibilities, putting a large portion of employees at a disadvantage 

Possible Advantages of a Hybrid Workplace 

By contrast, here are some possible advantages of a hybrid workplace. 

  • Employee flexibility to work in a way that best fits individual styles 
  • A wider talent pool for recruiting 
  • Greater employee retention 

The future of work

What’s clear is that hybrid workplace options are the future. Employers who want to remain competitive should consider offering work-from-home options, if they can, in addition to traditional workplace models.  

Two details are less obvious:

  1. Deciding which of the five hybrid work models to implement for your organization, and
  2. How to develop hybrid work policies that prioritize company needs while addressing those of employees. 

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