Concepts like flex office, coworking, nomadism, smart office or the digital workplace will define the hybrid future way of working
Companies are reevaluating their labor strategies for the future. The pandemic has overturned long-established routines, ushering in a global remote work experience. Given the new circumstances, the model that many companies adopt these days is a mix of telecommuting and traditional office hours called the hybrid workplace, that is now establishing itself as the future way of working.
Today, each organization or business enterprise tends to implement its own version of a hybrid working model. In some companies, remote work – from home or anywhere else outside the home – is limited to one day per week, while in others, the share of teleworking and face-to-face work is more balanced. Sometimes the employees can even choose the pace they want to adopt.
What started as a mass experiment in alternative working arrangements is becoming a more permanent option. Giants such as Microsoft now offer their employees the possibility to work remotely for at least half of the workweek, while others have proclaimed the end of the “9-5” era. PayPal, Shopify, Viacom and so on have all introduced flexible working patterns into their corporate culture.
One of the many advantages of hybrid work is that it matches other working methods, such as flex office, coworking, nomadism, smart office, or the increasingly appealing digital workplace. Therefore, the “hybrid employee” does not necessarily have an office of their own on their company’s premises. The space and working hours are more flexible than that of an employee working only on-site, which results in productivity gains. It is an excellent time for companies to improve the employee experience to attract and retain more talents.
All this doesn’t mean that the office is or will be abandoned entirely. The reinvented hybrid desktop is more valuable and necessary than ever, evolving to play a more significant role in the enterprise as a space for collaboration, learning, and socialization.
Dropbox adopted a “mostly virtual” workplace model in 2020 and transformed its existing offices into what it calls Dropbox studios (i.e., shared coworking spaces designed around collaboration and entrepreneurship development). And in cities where it did not already have workspaces, Dropbox offers its hybrid workplace model using workspaces on demand. The implications are clear: hybrid working not only changes where and when you work, but it also changes the physical layout of the office to meet new needs.
However, many voices in the business world have expressed serious concerns regarding the pitfalls and risks associated with the hybrid-work model. To decouple a business from its physical premises is an enormous challenge, but the advantages can be huge. A real hybrid workplace must function independently of the site. For instance, the IT department of a hybrid office needs to manage a whole host of different personal devices connecting from random locations to ensure equal treatment of all employees and the company’s data security.
To complete the transition to a hybrid workplace, employers will need to redesign the existing workspace to meet the needs of flexible employees. For employees to be more productive, it is necessary to provide them with various spaces, such as common areas for small group meetings, quiet places to promote concentration, and adaptable meeting rooms that can be quickly reassigned for group activity.
Learning still needs to be drawn from what is called the disparity in the employee experience. Many HR managers have realized that such disparity can get even more pronounced when some employees continue to work from the office because it creates groups that appear exclusive, giving telecommuters feelings of exclusion, helplessness, and loneliness. Some employees might see less and less meaning in their activity outside the company’s walls, directing them to question their jobs. The fuzzy thin line between private and professional life has become another factor of stress and extended working hours.
Indeed the hybrid work model is the new canon and can certainly benefit from a series of well-intended adjustments. Working in hybrid mode involves connecting the physical workspace with the digital workspace. What companies like Dropbox are looking for these days is, in effect, a better version of “phygital” work.