The world of work is drastically changing as more companies shift towards more flexible work arrangements. Over a few decades ago, getting staff to work without physically being together seemed like an unthinkable scenario. But the power of technology and digitization has now made that, not only possible but even a commonality for more forward-thinking organizations.
Today, only 44% of companies today don’t allow remote work setups, and that number continues to shrink. Even as the world returns to a sense of normalcy post-COVID-19, some teams have expressed plans to keep work from home arrangements. Where the path diverges, however, is whether they will take on a fully remote or hybrid remote work policy.
Differentiating Hybrid and Remote Work
Hybrid work is becoming a more common term nowadays, but not all people have heard of it yet. For those who are hearing about hybrid workplace policy for the first time, it’s essentially a mix of on-site and remote work setups.
One famous company that is adopting this work model is Apple, which announced that it would be embracing a hybrid work setup that allows teams to work from home, or wherever they please, on certain days and ask them to work from the office on other days. Tim Cook sent out an email to all Apple staff saying that everyone would start coming into the office again on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays starting in the fall.
The main difference between hybrid and remote work is the presence of an on-site work requirement. But that one difference stems out to other branching variations as well in the two models:
- Hybrid work will still require an office. Another clear demarcation between hybrid and full remote work arrangements is the necessity for an office space. Obviously, a hybrid work setup will still require an office, which means that a business will still have to pay for physical real estate. Currently, realty practices don’t allow for price drops just because office spaces are empty three out of five working days. So the cost is very much still the same.
- No staff from other countries. Hybrid arrangements have the office as something present in its setup that fully virtual teams don’t. But one thing that remote teams have that hybrid teams don’t is offshore staff. The virtual revolution has widened the employee pool for companies, allowing for businesses to hire the best staff for available roles regardless of location. A team member can be in a different city or even a different time zone and still work in the company.
- Virus exposure. COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out faster, but infections are still a stark possibility. And so with hybrid setups, there are still chances of catching COVID-19 or any other illness from work. Although, the risks are much lower than more traditional fully on-site work arrangements.
Similarities Between Hybrid and Remote Work
While there are major differences between remote vs hybrid work, there are also some significant similarities as well.
- Still needs online systems – Both a hybrid and remote work setup will still require digital systems and dashboards to run operations. Activities like communication, file sharing, collaboration, project management, document management, finance, and others will all happen on virtual setups so that operations continue on virtual days.
- Staff will have the chance to work where they very well please – Hybrid workers won’t have as much flexibility as fully virtual staff who can now relocate to another city or country if they wanted to and still maintain employment. But there will be some level of flexibility when it comes to where they will work. They can obviously choose to work from home or even more around if they wanted to while bringing a laptop with them. The only necessity for work would be a stable internet connection.
- It welcomes the future of work – The future of work seems to look a whole lot less centralized, at least for most industries. There are, of course, essential work sectors that will require physical presence. But for the industries that can support virtual work, hybrid and fully remote work setups are very much in that playing field now.
- Productivity increases – There are many case studies and research findings that point to an increase in productivity for people who have work flexibility. A chance of pace, environment, and atmosphere could be what people need to boost motivation. Remote work also cuts time spent outside significantly as it minimizes commutes. Moreover, time working from home can allow for distraction-free heads-down work moments if the employees have a conducive work area at home.
Pros and Cons
If your company is on the verge of deciding to adopt either remote or hybrid working, what you should be aware of is the various pros and cons for each. Let’s look at the advantages of each and see how one stacks up against the other.
- Access to a global talent pool — There’s a lot of stigmas when it comes to offshore outsourcing. Most people think it’s just a way to get cheaper labor. But many companies hire offshore staff because they find a better candidate who isn’t in the same place as the company’s headquarters. Remote work makes this possible.
- More flexibility for workers — Remote work awards workers more flexibility, which can greatly increase employee morale. And when morale goes up, productivity can go up along with it.
- Lesser operational costs — Because full virtual teams have no use for a physical office, that’s a major fixed cost that gets written off the budget. Other costs that disappear are utility costs for electricity, water, internet, and so on.
- Lack of human touch — It’s safe to say that nothing beats face-to-face interaction, and for virtual teams, this is virtually non-existent and can also affect work dynamics and culture. Here is how to motivate employees even without face-to-face exchanges.
- Time differences — Having set work hours to work for 33% of teleworkers, who say it helps boost their productivity. But with staff from different time zones, this can be more challenging.
- Greater learning curve — Managing a remote team has its own set of skills that managers have to learn and going fully remote will require a steeper learning curve.
- Still have an opportunity to connect physically — Because staff members in a hybrid work community still see each other frequently in a week, the physical touch of the workplace is still present.
- On-site meetings and collaborations — Online meetings can be more tiring and mentally and physically taxing. Meeting on-site allows for more free-flow collaborations for longer periods of time.
- More team-building opportunities — Because hybrid teams are from the same time zone and ZIP code, coming together for non-work get-togethers and team-building activities is a lot easier.
- Rental and utilities are still a cost — Hybrid teams will still have to pay for a physical office and related utilities. Some companies have actually turned to shared office spaces as a way to lower costs like co-working spaces.
- The commute challenge — Hybrid teams will still have to get out of the house, meaning they’ll still have to commute or travel to work, which can be a significant time consumer, especially in cities with high traffic.
- Can’t hire international experts — Let’s say you heard about this amazing developer in Germany that has the right skills and experience you need and your office is in France. If he doesn’t agree to relocate, even a hybrid setup wouldn’t work.
Deciding What Works for Your Context
Looking at all the virtual team challenges and differences between remote and hybrid setups, which then is a better arrangement? Truth is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. So you’ll need to make that decision based on your company’s context.
Still, 74% of professionals expect remote work arrangements to become the norm. So, if you go for a hybrid or fully remote setup, having some form of off-site work will benefit your team and company immensely.