One of the unforeseen side-effects of the Covid pandemic has been the creation of the largest remote working experiment ever conducted. This experiment has forced business leaders across the world to reconsider the ways their organisations operate, resulting in a large-scale shift from office-based work to hybrid ways of working.
In this blog, we’ll break down the benefits of hybrid working into three broad categories: those that benefit individual employees, those that benefit the organizations they work for, and those that benefit society in general. We hope to show that while these new ways of working are likely to have a huge positive impact on the individuals and organizations that adopt them, society in general stands to gain just as much.
Hybrid working benefits to individuals
The most immediate benefits associated with hybrid working are those experienced by individual ‘knowledge workers’. These benefits tend to vary according to the specific form of hybrid working being implemented within any given organization, department, or team. In general, though, they fall into three main categories: improved well-being, increased income, and increased mobility.
Improved Employee Wellbeing
People with experience of hybrid working tend to say that it gives them more freedom and autonomy over where and how they work, and that it allows them to spend less time commuting. Together, these changes have had the effect of improving the work-life balance of many hybrid workers and of making them generally happier.
Effective Increase in Income
In the ‘old world’, many people were spending twenty or thirty pounds a day – sometimes more – commuting into the office. Over the course of an entire year, this could amount to thousands of pounds spent on commuting costs alone. By allowing people to work from home much more often, hybrid working helps knowledge workers minimise their commute costs and thus effectively functions as a tax-free increase to disposable income.
Where once commute times were a decisive factor in determining where an individual was willing and able to work, hybrid working has loosened the constraints surrounding geographical mobility, allowing knowledge workers to work for organizations based in a much wider range of locations.For example, it’s now perfectly conceivable that someone living in Manchester would be able to work for an organization based in London, commuting into the office once a week or once a month and working from home the rest of the time. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly conceivable that someone living in Manchester might even be able to work for an organization based in, say, California, flying across for big events but working entirely from home the rest of the time.This is likely to make it much easier for many hybrid workers to find work without being forced to relocate.
Hybrid working benefits to organisations
One of the most stubborn misconceptions surrounding hybrid working is that while individuals stand to gain massively from these new ways of operating, the benefits to organisations themselves are far less clear. This is not the case. Moving into a new world of work, hybrid working is likely to offer a significant competitive advantage to those organisations that are able to make it work.
Reduced real estate costs
To start, there are huge financial benefits available to organisations bold enough to embrace hybrid working. Put simply: organisations that do not need to provide a desk in an office for every single one of their employees will be able to save huge amounts of money by reducing the size of their office footprints. Real estate costs – particularly in large, affluent city centres – can be colossal. Less space equals less rent.
Improved worker productivity
Organisations are also likely to benefit from the improved mental well-being that hybrid working offers their employees. Workers that are happy and well-balanced are far more likely to be productive. (This is what many recent studies have shown – productivity tends to increase when people work remotely). Organisations that are able to maintain a happy, highly productive workforce are likely to be far more competitive than those that aren’t.
Improved retention rates
One of the primary concerns that we hear is that hybrid/virtual working negatively affects retention. Organisations worry that if their employees are not coming into the physical office each day, then these employees will not have a chance to form close bonds with their colleagues or grow attached to the organisation’s vision. This will mean that when recruiters and head-hunters come calling, these employees are less likely to remain loyal to their current organisation than they would have been under the old office-based regime.In practice, what we are actually seeing is that many companies refusing to offer appealing virtual and hybrid working packages are losing their employees to companies that are willing to give these employees what they want. It may be fair to say, then, that two potential benefits associated with hybrid working are improved retention rates and a greater ability to attract top talent.
Bigger talent pool
Tying in with the last point about improved retention rates and ability to attract top talent, organisations that adopt hybrid working will also have a much larger range of locations from which they are able to hire than those that do not.Under an office-based model, for example, an organisation based in Seattle would have been forced to hire from Seattle and its surrounding areas. Under a hybrid model, the same organisation will be able to cast its net much further, perhaps to the whole of the US, thereby significantly increasing the number of candidates from which it is able to select its employees.
Ability to grow headcount without added space costs
Due to the less demand placed on workplace utilisation, hybrid working presents an opportunity for organisations to shrink their office footprints and thus significantly reduce their real estate costs. But many organisations are tied into long-term real estate deals – for a range of reasons – that make office downsizing difficult, if not impossible. The silver lining for these organisations is that they are now in a position to significantly increase their employee headcount without incurring any additional space-related costs.
Improved visibility of senior leaders
Most meeting rooms and auditoriums have a limited capacity, which restricts the number of employees that can be present for any given event. This means that information tends to cascade down the organisational hierarchy, passing through different management layers until it finally reaches employees on the ground floor. Virtual meeting rooms, on the other hand, come with no space constraints whatsoever, creating an opportunity for senior leaders to interact directly with every individual in the organisation.
Hybrid working benefits to society
Whereas the benefits of hybrid working to individuals or organisations are relatively easy to measure, it can be quite difficult to quantify the benefits that these new ways of working bring to society in general. We can, however, make a number of quite general points about the far-reaching, societal impacts of hybrid working.
Hybrid working promises to have a hugely positive impact on the environment. With fewer workers coming into the office each day, the need for huge office spaces is significantly reduced. Smaller offices not only mean reduced rental costs – they also mean reduced office pollution.And if fewer employees are required to come into the office every day, or travel overseas for business, then pollution associated with commuting (cars/trains/flights etc.) is also likely to drop.When rolled out on a global scale, these changes – relating to office footprints, commuting, and business travel – are likely to mean that the amount of carbon being produced by the corporate world is going to plummet – a major win for society.
Higher employment rates
If knowledge workers are able to apply for jobs based in a wider range of locations, and if organisations are able to hire from a much larger pool of candidates, then job postings for these kinds of hybrid roles are likely to be filled far more quickly than those that are strictly office-based. This will likely mean that rates of employment are consistently higher in countries where hybrid working has been widely adopted.
A healthier society
To close out this post, it’s worth returning to the first point we made, about the improved well-being of hybrid workers.Society is, by definition, a collection of individuals. If these individuals are happier and healthier as a consequence of hybrid working, then the society to which they belong is also likely to be happier and healthier. The benefits of hybrid working may start with hybrid workers themselves, but they are likely to ripple out to the families and friends of hybrid workers, before finally impacting every aspect of modern life.Hybrid working alone may not be a cure-all for society’s ills, but it is, as this great experiment has shown, an important piece of the puzzle.
The benefits of hybrid working are extensive, and it’s time organisations consider their workplace strategy.