Is the Future of Remote Work Actually Hybrid?

Emily Lombardo - Oct 05 2022
Published in: Global Workforce
Flexibility is key for both companies and employees.

Two and a half years ago, work life changed forever as many workers around the globe began working from home indefinitely. With the COVID-19 pandemic now waning, companies must decide how to move forward, whether that means bringing reluctant employees back to the office or making permanent changes to their work culture and employees’ daily schedules.

Company policies have been all over the in-person vs. remote spectrum. While tech companies like Meta and Dropbox now promise their employees permanent remote work, other companies such as Goldman Sachs have called employees back into the office for good. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that not being able to work together in person was a “pure negative.”

But when we talk about the future of remote work, should we be looking at a hybrid work life more than anything else? While strong opinions resolutely for or against remote work make headlines, the hybrid work model has been the favored approach by companies from a wide array of industries, including Google, Apple, British Petroleum, and JP Morgan.

The culture around working from home is changing quickly, so much so that predictions from just last year have varied drastically. Worldwide ERC® research on remote work in 2021 found that senior HR leaders believed 96% of their workforce would be somewhat remote. However, this year’s data is vastly different: Senior HR leaders now believe that between 50% and 54% of their workforce will be somewhat remote.

In the 2022 Worldwide ERC report of over 500 CHROs and senior HR leaders, 45% of respondents said their workforce was working hybrid, with the most common arrangement being working from the office two days per week and working from home three days per week. Thirty-nine percent of workers come into the office everyday, and just 5% of respondents’ workforce are working entirely remotely.

So, what do employees think about this? It appears that it is not just companies that prefer hybrid; 60% of “remote-capable” workers—those who say they can fulfill their job’s requirements from home rather than the office—surveyed in Gallup’s “Returning to the Office: The Current, Preferred and Future State of Remote Work” report prefer a hybrid work model, while 34% and 6% preferred full-time remote work and working from the office, respectively.

When employees are not granted their favored work model, there are negative  consequences. Gallup’s report found that these employees have much lower rates of engagement, higher rates of burnout, and a stronger desire to quit their jobs because “they simply do not feel well-positioned to do their best work or live their best life.”

The risk of turnover increases, too. Eighty-nine percent of employees who were exclusively remote or hybrid workers said that they were “extremely likely” to look for jobs at other organizations if their current employer would not offer them the flexibility of working remotely either some of the time or full time in the long term.

A flexible work schedule has become paramount for a successful work culture. On top of that, work flexibility, one of the biggest advantages of the hybrid work model, is a large incentive for both attracting and retaining a talented workforce. McKinsey’s 2022 American Opportunity Report found that after “greater pay or more hours” and “more career opportunities,” a flexible working environment was the greatest motivator for finding a new job. The report of over 25,000 workers across demographics, industries, and locations found that when people have the opportunity to flexible work schedules, 87% of them will choose that.

A company with a strong work culture can find positives to the hybrid model of work by creating a balance of in-person connection and collaboration and work schedule flexibility. Working remotely appears to contribute little impact on worker’s productivity levels. A flexible work schedule is also a great way to retain talent without spending money or contributing to larger overhead costs such as commercial real estate.  

While the full impact of remote work over the last two years can not yet be measured fully, flexible work schedules are here to stay. To today’s workforce, a hybrid work model offers a valuable incentive for companies looking to hire and retain talent as well as keep current employees engaged with their work and the larger work culture.