Many expected 2021 to be the year of the great return to the office, but we didn’t really see a great return; instead, we saw organizations experiment with remote work and hybrid work models.
Now we’re starting 2022, and some have started arguing that we are looking at the death of the hybrid work format, while others state that hybrid work is the future.
But from my perspective, both sides are wrong.
The hybrid work model isn’t the future. The hybrid work model is the present and it’s affecting the labor market in a big way. If you don’t believe me, just look at some of the findings from last year’s surveys into hybrid and remote work.
While we often hear that the reason to go hybrid is that employees have gotten used to a certain amount of remote work but looking at the findings from the many surveys carried out about remote and hybrid work in 2021, shows that there is so much more to the story than that.
So, before I continue with my predictions for the state of the workplace in 2022, let’s look at some of the findings about hybrid that will help you going into 2022.
Whether you like working from home or loathe it, there’s no denying that it’s here to stay. According to a survey carried out by Gallup, 91% would prefer to retain at least some degree of remote work after the pandemic, and 54% specifically prefer a hybrid work model. *
The impact on productivity is one of the things often discussed when talking about the hybrid work model but in a survey carried out by the University of Chicago, 30% answered that they were in fact more productive and engaged when working from home. *
One of the challenges many cite, when talking about hybrid work, is the loss of the ability to “just pop your head in and ask your colleague a question” however, that may not be such a huge loss. In a survey by the economist 34% said face-to-face interruptions from colleagues are the main reason they lose focus while working. *
A study published by Accenture in October 2021 showed that the organizations who were able to adopt a hybrid work model during the covid-19 pandemic saw less burn out in their employees than organizations forced to go fully remote. *
According to a survey by Gartner, 75% of executive leaders believe that they already have a flexible work culture, however a significantly lower percentage think that their organizational culture embraces flexible work.
It’s clear that the hybrid work model isn’t just about employees wanting to be remote, but more about having the ability to fit their schedules around their lives.
However, it is also clear that with the way the job market is moving, organizations that prefer a fully on-site workforce, will be forced in another direction, if they want the ability to attract and retain top talent. Especially when multiple surveys find that not only does the vast number of employees prefer hybrid and remote work, but many are also willing to find another job, should they be forced to return to the office full time. *
A lot has been written about the great resignation and most of it has revolved around the same argument. Namely that employees will quit if they’re forced to come back to the office full time. *
Those statements are, however, ignoring the big picture.
The pandemic and ensuing work from home situation, has created a shift in the labor market, true, but it is not the first time in history this happens. Just think about the post-war economic boom, the Great Depression (1929-1933), and the Great Recession (2007-2009). It won’t be the last time in history it happens either.
But there’s a difference in the current shift when compared to past shifts. This time it’s the employees who have a choice.
Unlike the Great Depression and the Great Recession, the current workforce is skilled enough that they can move into better and higher paid positions.
Adding to that, the possibility of remote work has opened positions which were previously geographically off limits. Now a worker in Copenhagen can fill a position in London, and that makes for a more competitive labor market which favors of the employee over the employer.
An employee’s market (to adapt a term from real estate) is not necessarily the bad thing many would make it out to be.
The shift in the labor market has changed the dynamic between employer and employee, and this does give employees a certain amount of power in choosing where they want to work.
However, going into 2022, there’s a lot to be gained for organizations who are able to attract and retain employees in this new market, and they will end up with a workforce who is more invested in the organizations – because they didn’t choose the organizations out of need, but because it’s where they wanted to work.
To me it looks like the labor market is headed to a better place, and a more productive place. It all starts with putting people first, and that is essentially what hybrid work does.
The hybrid work model, when it adapts to the individual employee, is very much about the people that make up an organization. It’s about making sure they have the best possible conditions for carrying out their functions both professionally and privately. And to me, that can only be beneficial.