The knock-on effects of the Covid pandemic have forced company culture to develop faster than ever before. In order to operate during lockdowns and uncertainty, offices had to embrace the new workplace culture of ‘Hybrid Working’. Hybrid working is a flexible approach to modern employment where workers are given the choice between working from the office or at home remotely.
In practice, employees will choose to split their time between both the office and at home in order to get the best of both worlds. So apart from the novelty of trying something new, why are employees and employers alike considering sticking with the hybrid remote work model?
The most noticeable difference for employees between working from the office or working from home is the lack of commuting required on the days they choose to work remotely. Commute times vary greatly from person to person, but no matter who you are it adds up over the year. According to a 2019 survey published by the TUC, the average UK worker will save nearly an hour every time they get to work remotely.
The UK is not an exception either with the US also nearing the 1hr mark, and even mainland European countries that typically have a greater focus on public transport were struggling in the mid-20s for one-way commute times.
Employees who don’t have to travel to work get to sleep in that little bit more and don’t have to spend as much time getting ready, allowing them to pace out their mornings better - enjoying breakfast and having longer showers before making their way to their home office to load up their favourite virtual meeting software.
Commuting takes time, and time is money, and commuting also costs money, a lot of it. The most common modes of commuting are by car, train or bus (for some unlucky people a mixture of all three), and these can be very expensive depending on where you work. An annual train ticket into a city like London can be in the thousands (£4236 in my case) and it’s not much cheaper traveling by car either when you factor in fuel costs, insurance, road tax, and depreciation. Cutting down how much you have to travel, therefore, can effectively increase your take-home income by a sizable chunk.
Cash isn’t the only real cost of commuting either. The transport industry is the largest emitter of pollutants and commuters are a large portion of that. If you're an average commuter switching to hybrid working, you'll be reducing your carbon footprint by around 3.2 tonnes of CO2 a year, that’s the equivalent of two hippos!
This is important in our collective fight against global warming and making our world an overall better, fresher, place to live and breathe in.
Increased job flexibility is always welcome and adds extra value to a role if you are looking to attract potential skilled workers. The ability to switch between in-person working and online working allows employees to work around their existing schedules more efficiently, maximizing their time. It doesn’t matter if they use hybrid working simply to break up their week or because they need to be at home certain days of the week, giving your employees the agency to make these decisions themselves benefits everyone.
Child care is recognized as a significant barrier for people trying to join the workforce, finding cheap and reliable childcare can be extremely difficult and can lead to skilled workers having to take time off when they shouldn’t have to. Jobs with flexible schedules may allow employees to stay at home looking after their children whilst still being able to join their coworkers through virtual collaboration.
The option to work remotely should also give some peace of mind to employers. We’ve learned the hard way that there are real costs to forcing workers to come into the office when they’re sick. By setting up the infrastructure and allowing the office culture to include those joining via virtual office workspace you are able to maintain better team engagement even when you have members who aren’t able to come in, you no longer have to sacrifice your workers' health for productivity.
Another reason so many employees want to see some form of hybrid work from home continue is simply because many of us have made our homes our favourite places to be. A large part of people's sense of individuality and well-being comes from how they dress and get to present themselves. The hybrid work environment allows you to wear whatever you desire, baggy clothes for the ultimate comfort, or trendy streetwear so you can go straight out to see friends after finishing.
However it’s not just clothes that people working from anywhere can customize, we also like to set up our rooms exactly how we want them - with no company restrictions. When in total control of your surroundings you no longer have to worry about the battle for the thermostat and can set the room to the temperature that you are most productive. If you struggle with the office air being too stuffy you can refresh your nose with candles and other smellies when you’re virtual coworking.
When working alone workers are entrusted with the responsibility to take care of themselves and take breaks as they feel necessary. Time management for home workers is even more key than usual and maintaining focus is paramount. Effective breaks whilst working at home utilise all the advantages of remote working, workers are able to quickly get fresh air by going outside and exercising if they are adventurous enough, but simply stretching their legs is great for refreshing the brain. The variety of things that employees can do on their breaks is many magnitudes higher than for the usual office worker, allowing them to mix up the monotony that little bit more.
Lunch is typically the longest break an employee will take in their day. Switching to hybrid working and therefore eating at home is an easy way for employees to save a surprisingly high amount of cash every week - as well as letting them lead a more healthy lifestyle by avoiding quick hot easy foods. Surveys revealed that the average office worker's lunch costs £6.08, if an employee works from home just 2 days a week they might be saving north of £600 a year (and a lot of needless calories).
Cost of Hybrid Work Technology
So how much does it all actually cost to set up? Hybrid working is very technology-dependent, with integration needing to be seamless and consistent for every employee to provide optimal productivity whilst working remotely.
Most employers suggest that employees use personal equipment such as laptops however it is common for businesses to provide work standard laptops if the use of a personal device would have productivity. Larger companies will be more willing to provide business equipment as the investment is relatively negligible and will benefit relatively more from the additional privacy and security that it can provide. If you do choose to go this route, individual work laptops can be expensive ranging widely from $500 all the way to $2000 for high-end computers designed for demanding tasks such as video rendering.
While most laptops have webcams and microphones built-in, their quality of them is more dubious and might not be up to par for professional virtual meetings. Providing high-quality meeting equipment is much more doable for companies of all sizes with high-quality microphones and webcams sitting around the $100 price range, with there being enough variety to find suitably cheaper equipment around the $30 mark.
It is also worthwhile checking whether your employees can benefit from tax write-offs from remote working. In the UK those remote working are allowed to claim back up to £125 a year in tax rebates – this Times article clearly outlines the steps and explains if you are eligible. Equipment and software costs will also be considered as expenses for the company and can be seen as tax-deductible.
It is not just tangible technology that you may have to provide. Software may be required depending on your line of work, both the normal software that you may use in the day-to-day in the office (Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Accounting Software) and also any additional software required to support the hybrid working. Software required for hybrid working might be extra antivirus to secure company property or various virtual collaboration tools which could then be a meeting platform subscription or even a virtual office service. Cheap virtual offices can start at $0 if you’re a smaller company and don’t require all the premium bonuses that most virtual working environments offer, e.g. Wurkr’s Lite Plan, Skypes Free download, Microsoft team’s basic package. When choosing your proffered software do not get confused with ‘virtual office spaces’ which might solely be used for registering virtual business addresses – as extra confusingly they are often in a similar price range as these meeting platforms $20 per month per ‘registered’ user. As is obvious, make sure to double-check before making any financial decisions, and note that better offers may be available if you contact the company directly as tailored deals to your company are often the best way to make your money stretch.
One of the main critiques of hybrid working is the idea that it segments your employees and that with some at home and some in the office team engagement may not be as high as when it is fully in person. With the high likelihood that at least one worker is going to be working remotely, it results in those in the office still having to use virtual meeting software even though they are in person in order to not leave those out of the office. While this may seem like a big issue, it can be diminished if planned around properly and the ability to hybrid work is not a rushed decision.
Ensuring that this opportunity is available to all the workers that might be affected will help your employees get at least a taste of the hybrid working lifestyle so that they can empathize with workers that have chosen this option. Your workforce will better know the ins and outs of remote working if they have all experienced it and will be able to support each other at a higher level than if they had just been briefed on company procedure. This company procedure is also an important step to making hybrid working employees seamlessly integrate into your company culture.
Researching and selecting the best virtual office for your company is the first step, and properly training your employees on how to use any accompanying software will help prevent technical problems during the first few weeks of its introduction. Keeping things consistent between your employees, not discriminating, and giving preferential treatment to either workforce is vital to keep group work productive and reduce conflict in the new hybrid work environment.