The question facing every employer right now is how to organise work going forward. Are we going to request employees back into the office, like Wall Street banks JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs did? Will we be fully remote, like early adopters GitLab and Doist have done? Or are we going for a hybrid working model? Along with Google, Facebook, Microsoft and PwC, many companies have announced such a hybrid working model because it combines the best of both worlds.
Breaking down the hybrid working model
Hybrid working models come in many different forms. It can consist of any mandatory distribution between office presence and remote work. For example, a 40% office versus 60% remote split, or one office day required per week. However, here at WorkMotion, we would stretch the definition much further.. We consider any model that is not explicitly office-first or remote-first a hybrid working model. This means that an entirely flexible work policy – “you can work from anywhere” – should also be qualified as a hybrid working model, even though this may lead to employees working from home (or the office) 100% of their time.
Now, this may sound strange, but it’s really not. It’s important to distinguish between policies and practices. The fact that a company decides on a certain policy does not mean that there will not be any deviations in practice. A remote-first policy generally does not forbid an office presence, so there might still be employees working from the office every day. The opposite can also be true. Although it’s unlikely that employees would be allowed to work from home every day under an office-first policy, it would generally leave at least some flexibility to work remotely.
Dangers of hybrid working as a policy
The strategic decision to go hybrid as an employer is a policy that we do not recommend. Firstly, “it comes with a built-in imbalance”, as Darren Murph, Head of Remote at GitLab and remote work thought leader, notably said. Employees that work from home can quickly become second-class citizens in the workplace. They miss out on casual coffee chats in the office and their virtual participation during meetings simply doesn’t weigh up to the participation of those who are taking part physically. They lack visibility, which is a crucial factor in order to be valued, rewarded and promoted.
Second, the strategic decision to go hybrid makes it difficult to leverage the opportunities with either an office-first or a remote-first policy. A remote-first policy allows employers to reduce (and adjust) their office space significantly. At the same time, it implies that the company’s benefits package is focused on the remote office. This can vary between allowances for home office drinks and supplies to providing entire workplaces at home. Precisely the opposite makes sense under an office-first policy. Employees may expect enough functional office space, and benefits are likely to include at least various options for the employees´ daily commute, for example.
Flexible policies create opportunities
Opting for either an office-first or remote-first approach solves the two problems of a hybrid working model. Firstly, it creates a level playing field for employees, and it allows employers to grasp the opportunities that come with either model. And in practice, most employees will adopt for hybrid working on their own. Not because this is the company’s policy, but because they want to. After all, most employees will also see a hybrid working model as the best of both worlds. The end result even captures the best of three worlds — there is clarity, in-office opportunities can be leveraged, and the employees have the flexibility that they want.
At WorkMotion, we are in the business of the work of the future. Therefore, we clearly have a preference for a remote-first policy. However, we have no hard feelings for employers that don’t believe in this model. Some companies also aren’t ready for this just yet. Really, an office-first policy is justified too. Just note that, when you are considering how to organise work at your company, these are the only two options you have. A hybrid working model is not an option, it’s simply an outcome in practice.