Home is where the work is – Should you continue to invest in hybrid working?

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Hybrid Working

Working from home (WFH) has probably been the cause of more discussion and policy decisions than any other change in the workplace in recent times. Some businesses are now backing away from remote working and asking employees to return to the office, and a few are taking the bull by the horns and moving to full WFH processes.

The Hybrid working backlash

There seems to be a general, rather slow-burn rebellion when it comes to hybrid work patterns. The workers, HR, and top-level management teams, dealing with part attendance working patterns appear to be less enthusiastic than was initially the case. It seems that the ideals of hybrid may not be matching to reality. In theory, less office time, less commuting, more autonomy and the option to choose their working hours should provide employees with the perfect working environment. However, there is building evidence that some teams are reporting feeling isolated, confused by the constant change, unsettled by the irregular working patterns and, once the novelty has worn off, actually missing the office. This is in direct contradiction to the results of a Gallup poll in late 2021 in the US, when 9 out of 10 workers (I think we can safely assume the same in the UK) were hoping to maintain an aspect of home working. Has something changed then in the attitude of our colleagues when it comes to home working?

The case for fully remote or traditional working

While we humans are fickle creatures at times, it is probably a mistake to dismiss the growing dissatisfaction with hybrid working as a simple case of the grass on the other side not being quite as green as expected. One thing I think all employees, from experienced senior management to those new to the world of work, recognise is that structure, and good working practices encourage productivity. The successful completion of tasks is also a major contributor to job satisfaction. As, of course, are other factors such as feeling valued and a balance of an appropriate level of autonomy and accountability. Hybrid working, while seemingly lending itself to these goals, may actually be inhibiting them. The issue with hybrid may not be with either the WFH or the traditional office-based approach, but the fact that it contains both of them and not enough of either.

Hybrid working also requires a great deal of human resource management compared to the other two working options. Let’s take development and review, for example. This kind of support for employees is usually going to be more easily delivered during office-based time from a practical perspective. However, there is no guarantee that this coincides with the needs of the employee. Similarly, the disruption to daily routines caused by hybrid working may not facilitate the needs of the individual compared to the needs of the business or co-workers. In short, the difficulty with implementing a working hybrid system may render it from the utopia it initially appeared to be.

Certainly, this is the view of Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, who has publicly challenged the idea of hybrid working. In response to a New York Times article, he went as far as stating that he felt ‘… the concept of hybrid work was a seductive and psychologically “safe” idea, but it’s actually the worst of all worlds. Yelp has now affirmed its stance on hybrid by going to a fully remote employment model.

Remote is gradually becoming more of an acceptable option, and well-known names such as Deutsche Bank, Dropbox, and several other major brands are currently offering a remote first or fully remote option. Yelp, however, is committed to fully remote working wherever possible and has now closed several office locations in preparation for the implementation of WFH as standard. Stoppelman cites the very issues being raised around hybrid, that of job satisfaction, as a prime motivator for the decision. To paraphrase Yelp’s stated position, they say their employees have told them that they want to be at home and, to increase job satisfaction by allowing them the precious family time they crave, Yelp hope to create a more engaged, committed, and satisfied team.

Time will tell whether hybrid continues to fall from grace with teams and C-Suite decision-makers. If it does, it could create a binary approach to employee locations. Losing the halfway option could result in a single choice between fully at home or fully in the workplace teams. It must be said that the approach of embracing full WFH potentially offers work-life balance and job satisfaction benefits that could revolutionise the way we work. However, that is what we said about hybrid. I suspect many boardrooms will be discussing events at Yelp and others in the coming months.

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