he pandemic has heavily influenced the way we’re leading our businesses. Is the new world of work here to stay?

A significant number of companies have changed course on their vision for the future of work. One of the most popular beliefs has been that we will all move to a remote work setting. Most of us, at least. It wouldn’t be such a bad idea since working cross-border would become much easier, enabling countries that lack experts to tap into a global talent pool.

Then again, who would’ve thought that this shift won’t take years but will happen almost overnight? It took a mere few months for firms all over the world to switch to a hybrid model without much preparation. That way, for the time being, the employees are getting the best out of both worlds—flexibility of work from home office, and the social aspect of the actual office.

What Is a Hybrid Workforce Model?

The hybrid workforce model is a new way of how the teams are working together. It is a broader term that contains working stationary, entirely remotely, or anything in between. Businesses have shifted towards hybrid models during the pandemic lockdown period. Some simply couldn’t go fully remote—which is why they incorporated more flexible working schedules.

The hybrid model has been also introduced to reduce the number of employees that are present in the office at any given time. The goal, obviously, is to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading amongst the workforce. Over the last couple of months, we’ve also seen a “hot seat” collaboration model that created additional operational overhead: you just had to create and maintain a schedule of who, where, and when will be working on-site.

Employers, managers, and employees will share ownership of hybrid work decisions, with a common expectation that employees can switch locations dynamically and without a fixed or rigid pattern. Where, and when, work gets done will be determined by what makes the most sense to drive the highest levels of productivity and engagement.

George Penn, VP, Gartner

This is the way to move forward in the new world of work. Business leaders had to learn that productivity is not necessarily linked to a physical place in which the work is done. It can be executed anywhere—and anytime. To ensure that the output is of the highest possible quality, a sense of ownership needs to be shared amongst the relevant stakeholders.

What About Industries That Have to Remain Stationary?

Remote work has been popular among the IT industry for decades. For example, Basecamp, a task management software company, has been working fully remotely since its early beginnings in 2005. They even wrote a book about it

It comes at no surprise that Harvard Business School’s research report states that companies working in an information industry have suffered as little as 1% loss in productivity during the COVID-19 crisis. This has a minimal-to-none influence on the workforce. What’s also worth pointing out is that the study has been injected with data from almost 1,800 business leaders. Scientific and technical services also weren’t affected from the productivity standpoint. Real estate, on the other hand, experienced an estimated 11-12% loss in productivity.

Administrative support, art, entertainment, and recreation have grown respectively by 43%, 39%, and 38% after switching to a hybrid workforce model.

The aforementioned study also points out that:

  • While overall levels of remote work are high, there is considerable variation across industries.
  • Remote work is much more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers.
  • Respondents in better educated and higher paid industries have also observed less productivity loss from the transition to remote work.
  • More than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that it will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

Unfortunately, when there are gains, the losses are also bound to happen. That’s accommodations and food services, transportation, and warehousing. Any business that requires to be done in person couldn’t jump the hurdle. Neither it is possible for them to move online—a meal isn’t going to cook itself. People and goods won’t be transported without a driver. At least for now.

The Shift Continues

The situation is still new and requires both the employees and employers to adapt. Some business do it more efficiently, whereas others require significant effort to transform. It’s safe to assume though that whenever the model fits, it is likely to boost the productivity of the company. And that has an eye-opening effect on employers—because if something works, then why give up on it?

In a survey by Gartner most of the respondents from HR, legal and compliance, finance, and real estate, said that they were not worried about maintaining productivity under the hybrid workforce model. 82% of company leaders say they plan to allow employees to work remotely, at least partially.

We can already see the biggest businesses leading by example. Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook might have even 50% of the workforce working remotely within the next 5 to 10 years. Google has extended its work-from-home policies by an entire additional year when compared with their original estimates from the beginning of the year. Uber, American Express, and Airbnb done the same, as reported by the Business Insider.

They all have found that hybrid workforce models can increase agility and resilience, save a lot of the operational overhead, and drive competitive differentiation, to name just a few of the benefits linked to this new approach.

This is why, in the previously mentioned research by Harvard Business School, at least 40% of new remote employees are expected to remain in these settings. But then again—around 60% of the people plan to get back to normal as soon as it’s possible.

Even with the majority of the businesses seeking to get back to the conventional way of doing business, the hybrid workforce model is here to stay. Not in every industry, not in every kind of business, but definitely in some of them.

Oct 9, 2020
Future of Work

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