The COVID-19 pandemic has shattered so many of our preconceived notions about business, but perhaps the biggest impact may stem from the massive adoption of remote work. As we begin 2021, many people have now been working from home for nearly an entire year. While the abrupt transition to work-from-home (WFH) was difficult, many organizations adapted and even thrived. This successful outcome has caused many leaders to reevaluate their perceptions of remote work.
After the vaccines are rolled out and we return to some semblance of normalcy, we don’t expect everything to return to “business as usual.” Instead, the future of work will most likely take on the form of a hybrid workforce model. A hybrid workforce is one that combines remote work with in-person collaboration. It represents the best of both worlds.
But can a hybrid model really work? Here are some of the reasons we think that a hybrid workforce may represent the future of business.
Remote work has proven that it can be productive.
One of the biggest criticisms against remote work has been the assumption that remote work simply isn’t as productive as in-person work at the office. The thinking is that individual employees would have a difficult time managing their own work activities, staying on task, and being available during regular work hours. It is this fear that prevented many organizations from rolling out remote work options prior to the pandemic.
However, COVID-19 essentially forced organizations to undergo the great remote work experiment. The result? Remote work has proven to be a resounding success. In a survey we conducted in August of 2020, 69% of organizations had to transition to remote work at some point during the pandemic. As a result of their experiences, a majority (54%) of respondents developed a more positive view of remote work. Just 4% felt more negatively, while 42% said their opinion stayed the same.
In that same survey, we also saw that 64% of respondents said that they felt even more productive in a remote work setting than an in-person environment. This statistic is perhaps most powerful of all. Businesses by their very design seek to maximize productivity. If remote work can enhance productivity beyond the previous norms of in-office work, then it only makes sense to provide more opportunities for remote work to continue.
Remote work is more than just a way to conduct business. It’s also a perk.
A 2020 Buffer report found that 98% of remote workers would like to continue to work remotely at least sometime during their career. As a result, organizations that offer flexible work options are likely to gain a competitive advantage when hiring. Flexible work is especially popular among millennials, with 84% saying they want better work-life balance, and 54% expressing a desire to have a flexible schedule. (76% of millennials even said they would accept a pay cut in order to take a job with more flexible hours.)
With remote and hybrid workforces likely to become the norm in the coming year, NOT offering flexible work could even be detrimental to an organization’s recruiting efforts. Flexible work enables employees to reduce their commutes, make time for their families and social activities, and work the hours that make them feel the most productive. The result is higher employee retention and better employee engagement across the board.
A hybrid workforce invites a much wider talent pool.
One of the most beneficial byproducts of a hybrid workforce is that it opens your organization up to a much, much larger talent pool. No longer do you have to target job seekers within commuting range of the physical office location. While a hybrid workforce means that remote work will also happen alongside in-person work, it’s unlikely that we’ll suddenly see organizations hire from anywhere across the globe. But if the organization offers a hybrid model, it leaves open the possibility to hire that perfect candidate, even if they aren’t in the local area. This can be especially useful when hiring for in-demand roles that are hard to source.
Technology can support a hybrid workforce.
Another major reason that organizations may have been reluctant to operate a remote or hybrid workforce in the past is that, operationally and technologically, they were not prepared to support it. However, COVID-19 forced organizations to quickly adapt to a largely remote workforce. For many, this meant relying on video meeting software to meet with team members, interview candidates, and conduct onboarding. From 2019 to 2020 alone, we saw the use of video interviewing software increase by 159% according to our Benchmark Survey.
Processes of communication and collaboration had to change when shifting to remote work, and so too did the technology that companies are using to achieve these goals. While a lot of work needs to be done to ensure that businesses can operate smoothly under a hybrid model, the technological capacity is ready and able to meet those needs.
The hybrid workforce model may be the model of work that we’ve always wanted and needed. It just took a global pandemic to galvanize organizations to make it happen.