When the Global Pandemic forced a nearly remote workforce over a year ago, employers and employees were scrambling and had to find a way to make it work on the fly. Seemingly overnight, basements and bedrooms turned into daily workspaces. Home office supplies and webcams were nowhere to be found in stores. And video meetings transformed the way we interacted with coworkers that we used to pass several times a day in the office.
Talking to job seekers on a daily basis, we’ve had the chance to see how the current norm has affected individuals in many different ways. Those who had never worked remotely, others who thought they would never like remote work—some who still don’t—and others that have been remote for years.
And while most people are loving the idea of working from home for the foreseeable future, employers should do their due diligence before making a fully remote workforce their permanent reality. In fact, a recent survey found that 55% of workers want a mixture of home and office working. A hybrid model allows employees this type of flexibility plus the benefits of in-person work.
These are three considerations for employers who are deciding how to model their workforce after the pandemic and why a hybrid model should be top of the list rather than a completely remote workforce.
1. Employees’ Mental Health
A completely remote work model blurs the lines between work and home. And while employers are seeing increased output, this is potentially coming at a cost to their most valuable asset: their team.
“I work now, more than I ever did.” We’ve heard this sentiment more than ever this year from candidates, coworkers, and peers alike. Now that most people’s “offices” are upstairs, downstairs, or the next room over, employees are having trouble separating their work life from their home life. Prior to Covid-19, people would routinely switch jobs or careers for a better work-life balance. Now those same individuals are having trouble telling the difference between where work ends and life begins.
We’re no longer able to unplug at the end of the day or tap into the daily routines that used to provide mental barriers between work and home. Of course, no more commuting certainly comes with its advantages from both a cost and stress standpoint (hello Massachusetts traffic). But there is something to be said about flipping that proverbial switch at the end of the day when you pack up and head home from the office. Shutting down your email, closing that notebook, and getting in your car or hopping on public transit allows for a more finite end to the work day—that mental wind down that is hard to replicate otherwise.
2. Office Relationships
Let’s face it, changing jobs is not easy. Know what’s even harder? Changing jobs while never having met your leaders and coworkers in person. Impromptu conversations across cubicles, having lunch together, or chatting at the water cooler are the crucial small moments that work relationships are built upon. It’s much harder to form a strong bond when most interactions are over email or a planned video chat.
A bonded team is productive and happy. That’s partly because, for many people, coworkers are more than just people they work with—they are teammates, friends, confidants, and mentors. Building those relationships without an in-person component simply falls short. The most impactful work relationships flourish when you are able to share those in-person interactions on a semi-consistent basis.
Have you ever tried having a really productive roundtable discussion by phone or video? Sure, companies do it all the time. When you are a national or global organization, it is necessary. But individual offices and local teams often have meetings or creative sessions of their own, which rely on those dedicated to that particular office. From a creative standpoint, there is something to be said for physically sitting around that conference table and bouncing ideas off each other to reach a common goal. Feeding off the energy of those situated around the same table, learning from others, and cultivating ideas is hard to replicate from sitting in your home office.
When it comes to the path forward for work, the answer is and has always been: balance. Empower your employees to work from home when it is convenient for them but also encourage them to make frequent visits to the office as well. Your employees will appreciate the flexibility and will see the value in working from the convenience of their home office while also understanding that bringing them onsite every so often is for their benefit.
Photo credit: Vadym Pastukh for 123rf