Hybrid working – Is the office still relevant?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the role of the office, with many employees switching to hybrid work or working permanently from home.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the role of the office, with many employees switching to either working permanently from home or doing hybrid work. Remote Work – Pros and Cons. With such a dramatic change in the working environment, businesses are being forced to reconsider when and how to best use their offices, which begs the question: What’s the purpose of the office, and do we still need it?

The office is more than just a building – it’s a place where people come together to build connections, collaborate and innovate. Workers are provided with desks, chairs, computers and other equipment they may need to perform their jobs. It is an environment where people are surrounded by co-workers and managers. This encourages and nurtures greater teamwork, cooperation, communication and personal development.

The office is the control centre where management:

    • plans operations and implements new strategies
    • organises and monitors progress towards defined goals
    • determines staff levels and develops employee career paths
    • evaluates employee and company performance, and finally
    • controls and coordinates all the activities of the business.
purpose of the office in a hybrid work environment
hybrid office work

While the purpose of an office has remained the same for a long time, there are ongoing debates about the need for physical office space in the world of hybrid work.

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More and more companies are allowing remote workers to perform their jobs in a fully virtual environment, thereby eliminating the need to be physically present in the office building. In some instances, companies like Yelp are preparing to go fully-remote.

The future of work is remote
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, June 2022.

What is Hybrid Work?

A hybrid work model incorporates a combination of in-office and remote work in an employee's schedule. Employees can typically choose when they work from home and when they come into the office. There is no "standard" hybrid model as each company will establish a working arrangement with its employees based on the needs of both the company and the employees. As detailed below, hybrid work has both advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Hybrid Working

a) Increased flexibility.
This applies to both the employer and the employees. Companies can adapt their organisational structure and source skills to best meet the needs of their customers and their employees. 

b) Reduced company costs.
Companies are able to reduce their office space requirements and costs, specifically in larger cities. Hybrid employees tend to be more engaged, which leads to less turnover which also reduces costs.

c) Improved employee work-life balance.
Greater flexibility and autonomy can result in greater job satisfaction and better mental health at work. This in turn can increase happiness, while also improving job performance and employee work-life balance.

d) Less commuting.
The decrease in commuting reduces employee costs and has a beneficial impact on the environment. 

e) Improved hygiene safety and social distancing.
In a hybrid working environment, employees that are ill or isolating, are often able to work from home, thereby protecting their colleagues at the office.

f) Improved productivity.
Depending on the circumstances, productivity can improve through a combination of the above factors.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Working

a) Increased stress.
Working in a hybrid mixed environment can increase stress levels and lead to burnout as employees have no "fixed place of work".

b) Reduced productivity.
There is a flip-side to improved productivity. Workers who are constantly moving back and forth between different types of work systems can be less productive than those who stick to one system.

c) Reduced physical activity.
With a reduction in commuting, there is greater tendency for employees to do less physical activity. Unless people are intentionally keeping up their exercise, they tend to move less. Research has shown that a decrease in physical activity can lead to an increase in musculoskeletal pain, such as neck, shoulder and lower back pain. The ultimate ‘how to’ video guide of exercises and stretches for office workers

d) Workplace setup.
Hybrid working demands that you have an ergonomic workplace setup at the office AND at home. Swivel Chairs for Home and Office. Failure to do so can impact your wellbeing and lead to musculoskeletal pain, such as neck, shoulder and lower back pain. How do I choose the right ergonomic desk chair for me?

e) Increased workload and "not switching off".
In some cases, when people work from home they "cannot switch off" as there is always "than little task that needs to be done". This can also result in burnout and even quiet quitting.

Benefits of working in the office

a) Time Management

The office can be a place with fewer distractions that also allows people to leave their work behind when they have completed their tasks for the day. Hybrid office work and people who work from home, are often unable to "switch off" and continue to work until all hours. 

“Some people can work from home, and they’re good and really disciplined. Others do fare much better in an office,” says Mark Dixon, founder and CEO of IWG. “Maybe at home there are too many interruptions. Personally, I like to go to an office because if I don’t, I’ll work day and night. Being able to leave the office is an important mental break.”

The office provides employees with a clear structure and a time schedule, with defined working hours and breaks. 

b) Building Professional Relationships with Colleagues

This is one of the most significant pain points people have expressed after switching to remote and hybrid office work. In an office environment, employees can easily assert themselves and get to know each other better. Moreover, building interpersonal skills, office friendships, and collaborating are all assets that make the team more effective, robust and efficient in the long run.

According to Charles Towers-Clark of Forbes, employees require physical offices for three key reasons, all of which combine to form a unique experience that only office-based working can provide.
The first is around problem solving, which will be facilitated by younger generations coming into the workplace and learning to overcome certain challenges as a team.
Secondly, innovation goes hand in hand with problem-solving, as shared learning experiences, plus collaboration, collectively drive innovation.
Finally, there’s community, which is beyond just coexistence and instead is how you socially interact with others. This can all be packaged up into one single unifying experience.

c) Hybrid working and Company Culture

Every company has its own unique culture. In some cases, the company culture can actually be a selling point in the recruitment process and also play a role in employee retention. Maintaining a strong company culture and nourishing the company spirit is difficult with remote and hybrid office work. Digital collaboration and virtual socialising doesn’t work for everyone. Less face-to-face communication may result in a lack of camaraderie and the erosion of company culture.

It’s difficult to maintain a company culture through remote work and keep it alive, engaging, and genuine.

d) Recognition and Face-to-Face Time decreases with Hybrid Work

While this issue can be unimportant to some people, having the chance to get to know managers and peers personally and work with them closely, is priceless for recognition. It gives people the opportunity to shine and show their unique skills and personality traits that may sometimes be buried during virtual meetings.

Recognition can be quickly gained through face-to-face contact and by having a presence in the office. The lack of interaction with managers and colleagues due to hybrid working, can have a negative impact on those employees that want to "climb the corporate ladder". As a result, these employees may be "forced" to spend more time in the office, so that they are visible to the powers that be. Why workers might eventually reject hybrid work.

Hybrid work means improving your working area at home and at the office

Whether you are doing hybrid work or are permanently in the office or at home, working in an attractive, clean space can have a positive impact on productivity. Home office ideas.

Because you spend so much time at work, improving the setup of your work area is critical to avoid back pain and other ailments caused by a poor office setup. A safe and healthy work environment is a productive work environment. Poor ergonomic practices can lead to lower productivity and in extreme cases, physical injury, which is obviously bad for both the individual, and the business. Best practices for ergonomics in the workplace

Working in a hybrid state dictates that you need a proper work area at home AND at the office.

hybrid office work
Hybrid work is a combination of working from home and the office
hybrid office work requires an ergonomic setup at home and at the office
An ergonomic office chair is a "must-have" item at home AND at the office

With hybrid work, people often end up working on their couch, bed or at the dining table with a typical dining-room chair. Doing so for extended periods has a direct impact on your health and wellbeing. Creating an ergonomic home office setup is essential. Office pods - the pros and cons.

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Conclusion

YES....the office is still relevant and plays an important role in building teamwork, innovation and maintaining the company culture.

While many employers make great efforts to create a positive and productive work environment, not all offices are the same. When considering a new workplace, it's helpful to assess the quality of the working area and the overall atmosphere. A spacious, pleasant office with plenty of natural light can make a big difference to your personal wellbeing and productivity. If you are doing hybrid work, make sure that your home office is setup in an ergonomically correct way. Contact us for advice on setting up you work or home office.

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