Before the COVID pandemic, the world of business did not consider hybrid work as a possibility for work to get done and business results to be generated. When the pandemic disrupted the rhythm, new habits took birth, especially for millions of jobs across the world. However, as we stand today, the memories of the pandemic are no more in the centre stage and business owners are wondering if the hybrid system is working.
Where is the problem?
In 2023, many business leaders feel that we should get back to our old habits because they feel that the productivity hasn’t been what it should be; they think that their employees are not cohering adequately; potential benefits of keeping the flock together are absent; some employees might be moonlighting or working fewer hours or more distracted than what they should be at the office. They need the employees back in the office.
And at the same time, a large number of employees have been of the view that their productivity is high when they are allowed flexibility. They save commuting time, can focus better and can engage with colleagues freely across the organisation rather than being limited to the boundaries of an office in the traditional method of working. They do not think that they are disconnected from the company’s mission and colleagues at work.
We are in a paradoxical situation.
Why are leaders asking for a change?
The reality is, various kinds of work have moved away from the physical workplace to the Internet or a digital workspace. Employees need a computer or a smartphone connected to the internet to carry out what they do to create value for their employer. One might be answering queries of customers, preparing proposals to sell products or services, marketing products digitally, designing stuff, writing content, developing software or searching for information. All these actions do not require an office provided by the employer to be done properly. These can be done as effectively from an office as from home.
However, many leaders look for an altar to perform and find it easy to function when they are among the members of their team. Hybrid work competes with this method and creates a challenge for such leaders to get better organised and function seamlessly in a hybrid work environment. They need to be extremely savvy with the digital tools that can enable them to function. They often undervalue the positives of hybrid work such as gathering members of their team who are spread across multiple offices and engaging with all of them using the tools such as chats, polls and emojis which are not practical for physical work settings.
There have been instances of moonlighting, impersonation and compromises on information security as employees are working in a hybrid or remote fashion. We need to consider the fact that employees violated integrity even when our workplace was limited to the physical infrastructure of company-approved offices. It is hard to say if those instances have increased and the damage potential is higher now if we let remote work be recognised as a legitimate component in our world of work. Even if it is higher, aren’t the benefits significant hence, the solution should be to innovate methods which will either prevent or minimise the misuse? We cannot throw the baby along with the bathwater.
We have to embrace the new reality
We need checks and balances.
All roles in the world of work cannot be performed remotely; we have to choose them pragmatically. Moreover, employees at all levels of expertise cannot work independently and hence, remote work is not a possibility for those employees.
And at the same time, we cannot be impractical to ask every employee to work out of our offices each day of the year. Work which can happen by operating from anywhere need not come to a company-provided workplace. This will not only reduce the company’s costs on infrastructure and utilities but also allow more time and freedom to the employee other than saving them the cost of commuting. Technology has evolved and we must leverage it rather than obstructing it from touching our lives. We have to embrace the new reality!