Remote vs hybrid work

Fully remote, hybrid or in-person? The jury’s out on which is the best way to work. We weigh up the pros and cons.

REMOTE WORKING | 9 MINUTE READ

Gone are the days when being in the office from 9-5, 5 days a week was mandatory. As of 2020, remote and hybrid options are the sought-after work models, with fully remote allowing employees to work exclusively from home or another remote location, and hybrid allowing employees to split their time between the office and home.

But although employees may have a preference for how they work, their choice may not be the right one, both in terms of productivity and culture. So, when deciding which way of working is best, it’s important to bear in mind the interests of the business. It may suit employees better to work from home full-time, but is it doing your company any good?

Every organization is different, and at different times and in different contexts the gains of working from home may be worth the losses, and vice versa. Although there may not be one best way to work, there may, however, be one best way to work your company – and for you.

To get some clarity, let’s unpack the advantages and disadvantages of remote and hybrid working, from both an employer and employee point of view.

Advantages of remote working

Advantages of remote working

Advantages of remote working include:

  • Flexibility

    Remote working gives employees the freedom to work from wherever they choose, and might also come with flexibility over hours worked. Having full control over their working environment makes some people more productive. And being able to ‘change the scenery’ can help employees be more creative too, and more able to adapt to different types of work.

  • Cost saving

    Organizations may consider downsizing their space or even question whether they really need an office at all if there’s no one to work in it. A fully remote working team removes the need for a physical workspace, which means businesses can benefit from massive savings on rent.

    From an employee’s point of view, remote working removes the cost of commuting, which can be eye-wateringly expensive: it’s estimated that, on average, Americans spend more than $4,500 a year on commuting to work.

  • Bigger talent pool and choice of places to work

    Not having to physically be in a workplace broadens a company’s access to new talent and may even allow it to recruit from abroad. Geography is no longer a barrier for people looking for new roles or companies searching for the best talent, leading to more diverse organizations.

  • Staff retention

    Employees who are satisfied with their work are more likely to stay. So, if working remotely makes employees happier, it may reduce staff turnover and the considerable costs that come with replacing staff who have left.

Disadvantages of remote working

Disadvantages of remote working

Remote working can come with its downsides too. These include:

  • Isolation and disconnection

    One of the biggest disadvantages of working from home is that employees miss out on the social aspect of office life. Sharing lunchtimes and chatting with colleagues can be a fulfilling and creative part of the working day, which is sometimes lost when working remotely. People may feel lonely working by themselves and miss the buzz that comes with a busy office environment.

  • Weakened culture

    Office culture is important for morale, and a positive workplace culture can motivate employees to bring their best to work each day. When people are separated geographically, there’s the risk of the personality and very essence of an organization fading, which can demoralize current employees and deter prospective recruits.

  • Impact on wellbeing

    We all need social connection and interaction, and working alone may not be in the interests of employees’ health. Remote workers might miss out on the feeling of belonging and camaraderie that comes with working on-site. After a while, they may even start to feel estranged from their colleagues.

    Employees might also find it difficult to switch off from work when their home is their office too. Boundary blur between personal time and work hours begs the question: at what point do you shut the laptop and call it a day?

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Advantages of hybrid working

Advantages of hybrid working

So, is hybrid work better than remote work? Here are some of the advantages:

  • Better work-life balance

    With some days spent in the office and some at home, hybrid workers can potentially achieve a better work-life balance than their remote and on-site counterparts. They gain from less commuting time, without being as prone to boundary blur as their fully remote colleagues.

  • Opportunities for in-person collaboration

    One of the main benefits of working on-site is in-person collaboration, which is something hybrid workers can take advantage of. These employees can use going into the office as an opportunity for teamwork, and really make the most of it.

  • More efficient use of time

    When quiet time for concentration is needed, the hybrid worker can stay home. When discussions and brainstorming sessions are scheduled, they can go to the office.

    Hybrid workers have the opportunity to maximize efficiency depending on the tasks they need to do, with the option to work distraction-free from home or collaboratively in the office. Not only can this help them achieve more in a day, it benefits the business in terms of output.

Disadvantages of hybrid working

Disadvantages of hybrid working

Downsides of hybrid working include:

  • Less team collaboration

    The flipside of hybrid working is that team collaboration is reduced, regardless of which days employees work from the office. A lot of unplanned discussion and idea generation happens when you’re interacting with colleagues, and you never know when a moment of inspiration may strike. Being home half the time means you miss out on half of these opportunities. (Which also means the company does too).

  • Disrupted flow

    It can be hard to get in the zone when working days are inconsistent. The constant disruption of moving workstations can be unsettling and the absence of a daily routine isn’t for everyone. Productivity can suffer as a result, and even more so if employees rigidly restrict certain tasks to when they’re in the office or at home.

  • Difficulties in coordinating schedules

    Some hybrid workers find it difficult to get in sync with their colleagues’ schedules, as they may not overlap in terms of office days. This can be challenging for teamwork or when arranging face-to-face meetings.

Are remote workers happier?

Are remote workers happier?

Research suggests that at least having the option to work remotely can make a big difference to employee happiness. In fact, only 3% of employees in professional services whose jobs can be done remotely want to work fully on-site.

According to a study by Tracking Happiness, people who spend 100% of their time working remotely are 20% happier than people who work 100% on-site. This is particularly true for Millennials whose happiness increases by 4% on average when given the chance to work an extra full day remotely.

But fully remote and even hybrid working might not be right for everyone. According to one US analysis, fully remote and hybrid workers are slightly more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression symptoms compared to their in-office colleagues. And isolation is a common complaint, especially in the case of fully remote workers.

Another aspect of employee happiness to consider is company culture, which plays a strong role in individual and overall morale.

Unlike remote working, hybrid working doesn’t seem to have an adverse effect on company culture. In fact, studies show it could even improve it.

A survey from Future Forum reveals that hybrid workers are equally or more likely to feel connected to their immediate teams than fully in-office workers. And they’re more likely to feel connected to their direct manager and their company’s values.

Interestingly, the employees also cited flexible work policies as the number one factor that had improved their company culture over the past two years.

Is working from home more productive?

Is working from home more productive?

Research suggests that remote working is more productive than working in an office. According to a survey of UK workers by RingCentral, 59% of respondents said they were more productive when working from home. This is echoed by an Owl Labs report which found that 62% of workers feel more productive when working remotely.

Hybrid working too is associated with greater output: 51% of people questioned in a Gallup survey said hybrid working made them more productive.

But this view isn’t necessarily shared by business leaders, half of whom believe that when employees are ‘out of sight’ of colleagues and management they don’t work as hard, according to a survey by Citrix.

And if remote and hybrid working are indeed more productive, what is the cost? According to Ergotron, 40% of remote and hybrid workers report working longer hours. This inability to switch off can lead to burnout – which can damage culture and productivity, as well as the individual themselves.

So, when deciding which is best for your organization – remote, hybrid or in-person working – there are a number of factors to take into account. The personality and lifestyle of employees, the career stage they’re at and your workplace culture will all come into play.

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