A hybrid work policy. A hybrid workplace model. A hybrid work system. If I had asked you a number of years ago what the word “hybrid” meant, you may simply be unaware of the meaning of the word. Perhaps a type of car, or a science-fiction character may come to mind. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our lives, the word “hybrid” has seen a real increase in usage. This article will discuss the meaning of a hybrid work policy and, importantly, the positives and negatives of such hybrid workplace models.
When various governments worldwide allowed in-person office work to return, many individuals (including employers) were concerned about the potential resurgence of COVID-19 amongst workers. For some companies, this risk was far too great, and employees were encouraged to continue to work from home. Others offered a blended form of work – partially in office and at home (a hybrid work environment). Further still, some industries that were required to take a practical approach to work returned willingly with extra safeguards in place. However, by far, it has been hybrid workplaces models that have gained popularity in the past couple of years. Hybrid work policies are essentially where an employee is able to work from home, using programs such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or Skype to chat and communicate with fellow staff or clients. That employee may choose to work full-time from home or mix their work with office work.
The creation of a hybrid work policy is not easy by any means. It is not a seamless process and difficulties will be encountered along the way. But there are some distinct benefits! This section of the article will talk about the impact of hybrid work policies on company running costs, the benefits to employee productivity, and a positive effect on work-life balance.
Positive sides of the hybrid work policy
It is not cheap to run offices. In the last few months (when this article was written in August 2022), the world has entered an unprecedented period where the cost of living and fuel have soared. The cost to heat, water and light office spaces has grown almost to the point of unsustainability for some employers. Thus, hybrid work policies may seem attractive. These give many opportunities. Perhaps an employer can look for a smaller premises. Less electricity and water will be used. With these costs lower, more profit can be made. And, in these uncertain times, this cannot be a bad thing. However, an employer must consider that hybrid workers, using their own water, heat, and electricity may begin to struggle to sustain hybrid working habits and may need additional support. But, in general, hybrid work policies do appear economically attractive – and rightly so!
Employee productivity may also improve. It must be said, most employees do not relish going to work. In particular, my mind is drawn to commuters. A commuter may spend a sizeable amount of their ages commuting to work in a year, making them resent the journey. In addition, there may be an early start for such an individual – this undoubtably affects productivity once they arrive in the office. Perhaps, for people in this situation, the option to limit their commute or work fully from home through a hybrid work policy will appeal to them and result in increased productivity due to a new outlook on their work. Also, for those who really do dislike the office environment, working from home might just bump up their productivity and likely improve your employee retention figures.
Further, it is claimed that hybrid work policies really do help people strike a better work-life balance. One study even claims that 90% of people believe having a hybrid option is essential to having a work-life balance.
As you can likely see, there are many pros to creating a hybrid work policy. However, there will be difficulties you encounter – either as a worker considering taking advantage of a hybrid work policy or as an employer considering setting up or encouraging a hybrid workplace. This section of the article will discuss the potential negative impact of hybrid work policies on an individual, the increased risk of burnout, and negative impacts on productivity.
Negative sides of the hybrid work policy
Hybrid work policies have been embraced across the world as the “future” of the workplace. In fact, in London alone, there has been a 20% increase in the amount of empty office space between 2020 and 2022. So, why even bother returning to the office? With reduced running costs and a surprising number of people adopting hybrid work policies, why not move everything online? Perhaps, the personal touch is lacking in a hybrid work environment. Many employers spend a long time setting up their companies with their employees in mind. Employers should know their employees well, to avoid negative employee turnover or, indeed, absenteeism. With employees removed from the office, perhaps employers will be in less of a position to assist their valuable workforce when things go wrong in their personal life. Employee benefits will be hard to implement. Stress, depression, and anxiety can creep up on any person, being removed from the office makes it harder for an employer to act! It is clear that hybrid work policies can be effective but removing that coffee break to chat with co-workers from your life may have a greater impact on your mental health than you may expect. In addition, for you employers, you will simply have to ensure that you are paying attention to your workers and are regularly checking up on them out of concern for their wellbeing.
In addition, we often talk about “leaving your work at the office”. Perhaps you receive an email from a customer at 5:35, and you should have left work at 5. You need to be home by 6pm. So, you leave it until the morning. You leave your work at the office; your customer is still happy – so why could a hybrid work policy affect this? Well, these days, we all have our emails on our phones, laptops/desktops, or even voice assistants to let us know when we have mail or an obligation coming up in our calendar. You may be tempted to do that last job, respond to that last email. And, in doing so, you may find yourself working longer hours without necessarily knowing it. Minutes add up and, once a job is begun, it is rarely finished half-done. If you, as an employee, try to adopt a hybrid lifestyle, it is important to still make a distinction between work and life. Although, as discussed, hybrid systems may in fact give you more quality time with family and friends, it can just as easily do the opposite. In fact, the Guardian reports on the effect that pressure receiving work at home may have on an individual.
Work-life boundaries and burnout
Linking to this problem of work-life boundaries and burnout, in an article written for both employers and employees it must be said that, for an employer, a reduction in productivity may arise from these issues. Although an employee may seem keen to adopt a hybrid work policy, an employer must ask if he or she is adequately prepared to mount an effort to ensure his or her employees are happy and safe under the business. It is no excuse to shirk employer responsibility or to neglect the creation of an employee wellbeing program. In addition, it must be said that there are many distractions at home – the urge to hoover the house, bake some bread, wash the car, or have a “quick break” on the PlayStation. Although I am sure most employees are reliable, this is still a concern – it is much easier to concentrate in an office environment.
In conclusion, hybrid work policies or hybrid workplaces are the very definition of a “double-edged sword”. There are a great many positives to working from home using a hybrid work policy and, of course, a number of negatives. In general, having a hybrid policy in place is a good idea. They may even attract staff to your company who like the option to blend their workplaces between the office and home. By all means, create a hybrid work policy. It may interest you that LeaveMonitor offer a remote leave booking system that you can use, making the lines of communication between remote workers and yourselves, as business owners, more reliable and secure. You can get a free trial here! Beware the pitfalls of hybrid work policies but, simultaneously, embrace the likely future of the blended workplace.