Article | Adaptive Spaces
The Hybrid Workplace is Here to Stay
January 26, 2023
What is the Hybrid Workplace?The hybrid workplace is one that is flexible in terms of where work is done. An employee who’s doing hybrid work might spend some of their time in a physical workplace, like an office, and some of their time working remotely, maybe from home or a coffee shop or some other workspace. The hybrid worker may spend two days a week in the physical workplace and three working from home, or four days at home and one in the office; ultimately, it depends on the circumstances in a given job.
COVID-19’s Impact on the WorkplaceHybrid working has seen a huge increase in popularity recently. By some measures, a majority of Americans have the option of hybrid work, and over 70% of employees plan to expand their hybrid working options over the next three years. This figure is lower in developing countries such as Thailand, where a smaller proportion of jobs can be performed with a laptop and internet connection, but it still represents a revolution in how we approach the workplace.
In forcing millions of people to work from home, COVID-19 simply accelerated the prevalence of the hybrid work model. It’s likely that many companies would have panicked if you had told them, prior to the pandemic, that most of their employees would soon be working from home. Yet many made the switch seamlessly. The hybrid work model is now extremely popular with employees, making for many a happy workplace, and shows no sign of going anywhere. The establishment of this sudden change in how we work has become known as the New Normal.
Adapting to the New NormalAn understandable concern for many businesses making the switch to hybrid work is that any disruption to productivity is minimized. Some employees are expected to work on a set schedule, regardless of location. Others may be given more freedom by their manager. In either case, communication is key.
This dynamic approach to working style is part of a wider set of changes known as the agile workplace. The agile workplace encourages flexibility in relation to things like office hours, how technology is used, the physical nature of the workplace, and how we work. These freedoms inevitably contribute to greater work-life balance. The big idea behind agility is that such an approach will result in a more dynamic and productive work culture.
New ChallengesOne of the major challenges of the overnight shift to working from home was the need for employees to learn how to use the many new technologies that entered their lives. Video conferencing software such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, in addition to other programs and apps such as file-sharing software, were suddenly ubiquitous, and it was vital that employees demonstrated their agility by being able to adapt to the new ways of doing things.
The challenges didn’t end there. A good example relates to the optimization of office space. Companies are increasingly moving away from the tradition of assigned seats and becoming more flexible about who sits where, as employees no longer have to be at a desk Monday to Friday, nine to five.
It’s worth remembering that one of the most important functions of the office is to enable collaboration, and this has led to a number of new developments. Companies increasingly desire conference rooms equipped with video conferencing software and so-called ‘huddle areas’ dotted around the workplace to allow for quick, casual meetings. For more formal meetings, it’s now common to have conference room booking systems so employees can reserve spaces. This not only requires new software, such as a specific booking app, employees also need to learn how to use it.
Health, Wellness, and the Hybrid WorkplaceBefore the pandemic most employees enjoyed multiple interactions with friends and colleagues in the office and experienced a commute that acted as a kind of pressure chamber between home and the workplace, easing the person into their workday. These things likely reduced the kinds of stress everyone naturally experiences at work, contributing to a happy workplace. The hybrid work model brings many positives to the table, but the loss of these stress reducers may be significant—particularly for people who live alone—and greater awareness of this work-life balance and support for employees in such situations are other areas that need addressing.
Greater appreciation for public health in the post-COVID world means that companies and employees now think more about how the work environment impacts our bodies—the air quality in an office building being a good example. Employees may have higher expectations for their office after getting a taste of working at home and in other places where they feel comfortable. This has translated into greater demand from companies for health and safety certifications, such as WELL. These things contribute significantly to creating a happy workplace and can be leveraged to attract new talent.