Hybrid workplace arrangements are seen as the future of work.
The success of remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic led many to rethink how, when, and where they worked. Even after government restrictions had passed, many employees were keen to stick with remote work, and in the past year, workplace flexibility was one of the top considerations of Singapore employees when looking to join a company.
With lack of flexibility by companies when workplaces reopened being cited as a reason for ‘The Great Resignation’, the compromise by many companies has been to implement a hybrid approach to working environments.
Longer term however, many workers are changing their minds on the hybrid workplace set-up. Time has shown that hybrid doesn’t work for everyone.
Why a hybrid workplace doesn’t work for everyone:
Incompatible remote work environments
Home office environments vary greatly across the workforce. While some may have luxurious home office setups, others are still sitting at the kitchen table, or in their bedrooms, often side by side with other household members. Some of these remote work environments are incompatible with productive work.
And while seen as a temporary inconvenience for business continuity at the start of the pandemic, longer term, the lack of divide between work and the home is becoming harder to accept.
Loss of productivity
At the start of the pandemic when people moved from the office en masse, many experienced long working hours, as they struggled to keep on top of projects and keep in touch with colleagues, often leading to burn out. Two years on, workers have learnt how to take back control of their working hours, to ensure better work-life-balance. This includes blocking lunch time hours, and shutting down the computer at the end of the day.
However, the work style established during the pandemic has not kept up. Still, companies are filling calendars with online meetings in order to facilitate communication and collaboration on projects. But often, these meetings are at the detriment of the work. As workers become conscious of the hours they are working while remote, adding more meeting time into their days takes away the hours when they can get their work done.
Employees with hybrid work arrangements now have more meetings, more emails, and more chats to answer, giving them less time to focus on making an impact with work.
Loss of social interaction
Another reason for the over-scheduling of meetings affecting worker productivity is to counter the lack of casual social interaction we get within a workplace.
The uptake of tools and technologies have enabled the shift to remote work with relative ease. While it’s become clear that many jobs do not need to be tied to an office to be completed, we’ve lost social ties to the workplaces, weakening at-work friendships, and aspects of our jobs that brought us joy.
When coworkers socialise outside of work, it makes working together more enjoyable and keeps co-workers motivated. In office environments, employees get together for lunches, or evenings after work, and celebrate company and team achievements, festive holidays, and important personal milestones (birthdays, marriages, babies etc.).
These activities can not only lead to stronger working relationships, effective communication, and increased job satisfaction, but also lead to employees developing real friendships with teammates. Research has repeatedly shown a concrete link between having a friend at work and the amount of effort employees expend in their job. People with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to be fully engaged and productive, and 54% of employers believe strong work relationships improve company culture.
The need for social interaction, and the desire for social gatherings and events may see employees wanting to return to office environments faster than expected.
Learning/growth can be hindered
While this is true for employees at all levels of their careers wanting to learn and grow within roles, younger workers or especially those entering the workforce for the first time can be at a disadvantage with remote work and hybrid offices. In the formative years of employment, it’s important to absorb as much information on processes, and ways of working as possible, to be exposed to new ideas and new people. When they can’t interact freely with senior members of the business it’s harder to pick up information or build relationships within the workplace.
"When you work remotely, mentorship is stifled because there is no learning via osmosis. You can't model your behaviour on your successful teammates because you only see them on Zoom and in Slack. Whatever process they are using to achieve their results is opaque to you"
Networking is one of the most important aspects of work life when entering the workforce, to find mentors, advocates, and future opportunities. Building relationships is easier in physical presence, where casual conversation occurs and the use of body language aids our communication. Insights and ideas can be generated through casual encounters that don’t happen over video calls.
While remote and hybrid work arrangements are the preferred choice for many workers, they don’t work for everyone. Companies should carefully consider the impact that hybrid offices will have on employee engagement and growth opportunities, to ensure that the many positive aspects of office environments are held onto as they shift to new ways of working.
Swingvy’s HR platform helps to support hybrid workplaces by allowing employees and administrators access to HR information from anywhere. The shared company calendar allows employees to see who is in the office and who is working remotely, to simplify collaboration efforts.