You’re probably like Jim. Jim’s been avoiding this conversation for months, despite his direct reports sliding into his inbox with links, resources, and memes—with the occasional passive aggressive comment floating through his office doors from behind cubicle walls—all pointing to one thing: a hybrid work model.
And now the board is getting together.
It’s time to talk.
It’s not that Jim isn’t interested in exploring the idea of transitioning to a hybrid model at work… it’s that having the conversation with his board of directors, a real conversation about the current state of the world, isn’t his idea of a fun day at the office. Especially considering he already knows where most of the over-50-years-old group stands.
Jim sits down in the painfully plain conference room with the shades drawn because Cory is “allergic” to the sun. When offered, he refuses a cup of reheated coffee he knows is leftover from yesterday.
“We’ve heard the complaints,” Richard, the chairman, says from the head of the table. “But we want to know what all of you think. Jim?” The man raises a silver bushy brown at him. “You lead a team of the most—uh… younger folk. What’s your take?”
Jim’s take? He glances at the clock. He should have time to get through it all…
The Nitty Gritty of a Hybrid Work Model
The hybrid working model is one where employees split their time between in-office and remote work. The exact blend of work environments is either dictated by management or left to the employee’s discretion. Thanks to the increasing capabilities in technology, project management tools, and even video conferencing software, it’s become easier and easier for businesses to create a hybrid work schedule.
Some would say (us included) that hybrid work is just an uncommitted version of remote work. Others will say that it’s truly beneficial to both employees and businesses. Standing in front of the few board members, Jim decides to uncover the facts and let the board decide which of those versions feels right to them.
You can think of the function of a hybrid work model this way:
- In-office work = collaboration with coworkers.
- At-home work = deep individual work.
It seems cut-and-dry, but does this model actually work as intended, or are too many businesses trying to keep up with a dying fad and will eventually have to choose?
Jim’s suddenly reminded of a Backstreet Boys meme that found his inbox last week, the lyrics of I Want It That Way popping up in his mind uninvited.
Hybrid Work & The Remote Work Boom That Started It All
A few years ago, if you’d said people would spend half their time at a physical location for work and the other half working from home, you would have been labeled as crazy. The board thought as much, at least.
“What a distraction that would be!” Cory grunted.
“But what if you need a coworker’s input and they’re not there? That will disrupt business and tank productivity,” Richard insisted.
“How do we even know they’d actually do the work?” Cheyanne said.
In 2019, only 22% of businesses allowed some type of hybrid work—with their definition of “hybrid” up for question. The hybrid work schedule at this time could vary from spending a few days a month working from home (if you have a sick child or other emergency) to a couple days a week at home or in-office.
But as a result of the pandemic, many companies allowed their employees to work remotely, with 34.5% increasing remote work in some way. When people were allowed to return to work, however, 60.2% of those businesses decided to keep the remote and hybrid work guidelines permanent. Jim’s company wasn’t one of those.
Remote and hybrid work have proven desirable to enough employers and employees to maintain it. But who is guiding the decision and how does that impact you and your business?
The Effect of Hybrid Work on Employee Satisfaction & Retention
At this point, there is no agreement in the conference room. Arjin is listing off the benefits for introverted employees. Richard maintains that the business will definitely go under because of labor costs and the certainty that all employees would take advantage of not having accountability to perform their work. Cheyanne is mostly concerned about peer relationships and a lack of watercooler bonding. Cory is scooting farther from the shaded windows.
People were all over the map about remote and hybrid work when it was first introduced to the public. Some loved it, others hated it. The fact remains that if your employees are unhappy at work (including the work model itself), it will impact your business negatively.
Making the decision to introduce a hybrid working model impacts your entire company because the people who work there are your company.
“Why don’t we just… ask other people who have done it already?” Jim mumbles from where he’s slouching in a surprisingly uncomfortable chair.
“Like who?” Richard says.
Jim gestures lazily. “Anyone. Everyone. The employees, the employers. We’re just playing a guessing game.”
“We need data,” Arjin agrees.
Richard purses his lips and crosses his arms. Then nods.
Hybrid Work By Age
Jim stands up, giving the room a rundown of what his team has been feeling as of late—save for the memes he’s not sure they’d understand anyway, considering he hardly does.
So how does hybrid work shake out in the real world? He mirrors his computer screen to the conference room TV and pulls up Reddit.
In a Reddit thread relating to whether or not hybrid work was doomed, one user wrote:
- “My company went to solely voluntary in-office work because they cannot get younger people willing to relocate. My devs are 100% remote and 75% of them aren’t in the same state or city as our building anyway and we have zero issues. The company my SO works for went back to in-office three days a week and immediately started hemorrhaging younger talent. I’m convinced in-office demands are coming from shitty managers who can’t track productivity any better way than butts in seats, or who hate their families.”
On the note of the differences between older-versus-younger employees and losing younger talent, another user also wrote:
- “All of a sudden we are now seeing article after article about how working in the office is amazing and productive. At our company they tried bringing employees back and stopped because so many people started quitting and going to companies that had already declared 100% remote work.”
This isn’t just the experience of a couple of people on Reddit, either. Many companies have experienced what has become known as The Great Resignation, where millions of employees up and quit their jobs between 2020-2022, with a significant portion of those people citing “inflexible remote-work policies” as their reason.
But it’s not just the younger people who want to work from home, either. There is a growing segment of an experienced, “been there, done that” workforce who are just over in-office life.
“Fully remote. While younger, having coworkers be drinking buddies and possible meeting of romantic partners is much higher. But im older now and i like fully remote. I save gas and the environment by not sitting in god awful traffic and paying bridge tolls. I can eat better and cheaper at home and spend more time with my pets. I actually get more work done and i can work longer hours if needed because i dont have that 2 hour commute. So i can do ealier or later meetings now. If i have distractions during the day i just work later.”
“Totally agree. Even though company pays the transportation costs. I still prefer stay at home. The most uncomfortable thing for me is having lunch with colleagues. I don’t know how to start a conversation and I don’t want to socialize.”
Work From Home & Pandora’s Box
One of Jim’s biggest challenges over the past few months has been this very idea. Once you open Pandora’s Box, there is no putting anything back inside, no matter how much you restrict, squeeze, and push for it to happen—as his primarily Gen Z and Millennial team loves to remind him.
This Reddit user said it best:
- “Laughs in WFH. Yeah, no. It’s doomed for those who are stuck in the past. Good luck putting the genie back in the bottle, it isn’t going to happen. If you force people, they will walk.”
If your company has tested hybrid—or even fully remote—work and you’re struggling to decide how to proceed, it’s important to understand that you’ve created a “new normal” for people who work there. Nobody likes big change, especially if it goes against what they’re already happy with.
Asking your team is important. Get their input and see how they feel about the current model and if they’d be excited about changing things up.
A big concern of creating a hybrid work schedule is the fear that it will be too much of a distraction. Can your team really balance the flip-flop of remote work one day and in-office the next?
“My company just transitioned to hybrid work. It sucks. We can do everything remotely, and we can do it well. This should be optional but not a requirement. I am not productive at all in the office. It’s too loud and too many distractions. I am uncomfortable and can’t get in the zone to work. I also work best in the evenings, not during the 9-5 work day. Anyway, I told my boss all of this. And he said I still had to come in to the office. Why? Just… cuz. Literally no reason. Other than he has some personal belief that its “better”. Gosh I really miss the pandemic right now. Life was so great working from home every day.”
“Fully remote. I can handle a day once in a while in the office but I feel like when I had a hybrid arrangement, I had so many distractions in the office. Being remote, I save on gas, time commuting, childcare (kids are in school during the day) & I can work in comfortable clothes. It’s easier to plan around appointments when at home as well.”
On the other side of this coin sits Cheyanne (and many others) with the argument that people are too distracted by remote work and are unable to work effectively without the accountability of an in-office environment.
- “Working from home has created some bad habits for me, and while I hate commuting, I miss being around co-workers and away from the distractions of home. Not sure how to feel more productive, maybe a change of office space or getting my desk out of my bedroom.”
It seems that the type of work is really dependent on the type of person performing that work. With many echoing the notion that at the end of the day, an individual’s work will be consistent in or out of the office, with one user adding:
- “WFH has nothing to do with a team member not pulling their weight. They will still be the same even if they work full time from office. I think you need to hold them accountable.”
There are many people who love to work remotely and can do so without the challenge of distractions, but taking stock of your team and seeing how they’d work best is a vital consideration.
Employers Who Went Hybrid
It’s understood that employees can’t solely make the decisions. The people in charge are in those seats for a reason, which means it’s necessary to understand why some workplaces have adopted the hybrid model, and why.
One employer took to Reddit to hear how the shift to a hybrid schedule worked for their organization, writing:
- “There’s been a mass exodus across multiple departments since our office reopened with a hybrid option similar to the one you outlined. People know they can find fully remote work and have no desire to return to the office when all that’s getting them is a commute. Most meetings still need to be done via Teams or Zoom because someone isn’t in on that particular day and employees say they’ve been collaborating just fine over the 2 years the office was shut down. Can’t say I disagree. If the point of a hybrid schedule is for collaboration, it may be beneficial for the company so require certain teams/departments to all be in on the same days. Otherwise there really is no point and people will leave.”
Another employer talked about the challenges they’re facing when it comes to getting their teams to return to work after previously working remote during the pandemic:
- “High transportation costs and lack of access to family care have been mentioned as reasons why some employees are resisting returning to the office where I work. The flexibility of ’work from anywhere and at anytime’ has really stuck. Many believe there isn’t evidence of a loss in productivity or innovation by working remote so why return to the office at all. Just some things that are being mentioned.”
Ultimately, the consensus on the Reddit side of the internet is that once you go remote, reeling in the reins to a hybrid model creates friction amongst the staff who have become accustomed to—and enjoy—their new normal.
What to Remember About The Hybrid Work Schedule: Pros and Cons
“So what I’m seeing is,” Richard juts a finger to the TV still displaying Reddit, “it depends. How helpful.”
“That was the data,” Jim says slowly. “Now we analyze it.”
Before making the decision to go with hybrid work, be aware of a few things up front. While it’s definitely possible to successfully operate as a fully remote company—even for decades—it’s important to recognize that it’s not for everyone and it’s not for every type of business.
Here are some other pros and cons to keep in mind when it comes to hybrid work.
Pros of Hybrid Work
1. Transitioning with the times
We can’t look at the data and say the world is not shifting toward the digital. It has rapidly been moving in this direction and by not at least considering hybrid work and putting systems in place to make it possible for your teams to work online, you’ll be behind.
Not only that, but should another pandemic-type tragedy strike, your business will be better set up react quickly, freeing up your time to solve the other challenges presented.
2. Happier employees = better work
There is no denying this. Study after study have confirmed that when your employees are happier, they perform better, their work is of higher quality, they’re more engaged in what they do, and they’re able to operate more creatively, leading to innovation and increasing company growth.
“Who’s unhappy? Is anybody unhappy?” Richard says.
Jim narrows his eyes, but holds his tongue. For now.
Hybrid work can have a positive effect on your teams simply because of the time and freedom gained, with so many citing a commute and in-office hardships as reasons they’re unhappy with work. By giving the option and flexibility of hybrid work, you’ll reap the benefits as an employer.
3. Environmental saves
There are entire segments of the world who want a more environmentally-friendly work structure, citing hybrid work as a step toward getting there. Forget the luxuries of your home office… the food, the coffee, and of course, having your pet right with you all day. This group is solely concerned about the lack of a commute, and how fewer cars on the road will impact the environment in a positive way.
4. Learning new tools
There are plenty of people who may look at this as a con, but optimists will see this as an opportunity to address an important concern:
What are we doing now just because we’ve always done it that way?
Transitioning to a hybrid or fully remote company gives you the opportunity to look at your business as a whole, and ask how you might change or improve systems and tools to make sure they’re most effective.
Cons of Hybrid Work
1. You can’t hire from anywhere
A hybrid work model requires at least some in-person work, which means your recruiting is limited to those within commuting distance of your office. This limits the pool of people you can hire, which in turn limits the quality of people available for the job.
“So if we want to hire the best of the best, like you always ask for,” Jim looks at Arjin, “right now, we have to draw a radius around this building and then choose the best from within that.”
Arjin scrunches his face.
2. Overhead in real estate costs
With a hybrid model, your company will have to maintain some sort of office space. Even if it’s smaller than what you’d need if you were in-person five days a week, the cost of operating a physical location can be quite expensive depending on location and size. Money spent here is money not available to invest in other areas of your business.
3. Less organization with personnel
“I’m telling you, it will be more chaotic,” Cheyanne says. “This type of work requires real-time collaboration.”
“Agreed,” Richard huffs.
They have a point. Hybrid work, especially when the in-office hours are voluntary, typically means that people will adopt varying work schedules. Some will work earlier, others later, and if in-office is voluntary, there’s no saying if your team will cross paths at all. It may make it more difficult to coordinate any in-person meetings if everyone has different ideas of when and how they’ll be working.
4. Learning new tools
Surprised? This is also a con to learning how to use new tools and software, especially if you’re fully transitioning from 100% in-office to hybrid work. This is largely due to many people not knowing where to start or which tools they actually need.
“I don’t think I can handle another online digital messaging thing,” Cory says.
Fair point. What could start as a single tool to manage everything you need all in one can quickly become two, or three, or six, until your employees are juggling more notifications and apps than they can handle, stealing their attention and robbing them of deep work.
Arjin shrugs. “So we’d just need to find a tool that accomplishes what we need and nothing excessive.”
Should Your Company Adopt a Hybrid Work Model?
It depends. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to building a successful company or having happy employees.
Anything can work if you put in the time and effort to understand:
- If it’s worth making it work, and
- Why this is the best model for your business in the first place
“Richard?” Cheyanne asks. “What do you think?”
Richard’s mouth disappears behind his silver beard as he purses his lips. Then he turns to Jim.
“You think it’s worth a try?”
Jim shrugs, then nods. “Let’s at least ask our team what they want.”
But he knows their answer, and is already daydreaming of a meme-free inbox and freshly brewed Arabica coffee.
Thinking about going hybrid or remote? We can help. Check out why we view remote work as a platform, and see why countless remote and hybrid businesses rely on Basecamp to keep their teams together, even when they’re miles apart.
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