Twenty years ago, most work contracts had relatively similar terms and conditions when it came to working hours, work location, and taking vacation. But today, work contracts can be very different depending on whether you can do your job remotely and the company’s policy on remote working. While variety is the spice of life, it is making it more challenging to know what you can and can’t do based on your contract.

Today we are going to take a closer look at what it means to be on a hybrid contract, especially in terms of travel and workations.


How We Became Hybrid Workers

During the pandemic, lots of us became accustomed to working from home. Many of us were also excited about the opportunities this might present after the pandemic. Remote first was working well, so there seemed no good reason why remote work shouldn’t continue. Now we could potentially move, or even become a digital nomad.

But a lot of people had the rug pulled out from under them by their employers. Some companies recognized that remote work was a success and the company culture had changed. Companies like Dropbox responded by going virtual first. Other companies demanded that everyone come back into the office, believing that it is better for company culture and collaboration.

But then there is also a huge number of companies that couldn’t commit either way. They adopted a hybrid model that allowed staff to work from home, as long as they were in the office a certain number of days each week or month for in-person contact.

Obviously, the decision-makers in these companies thought that they would be getting the best of both worlds. Talent could have the flexibility of working from home, which arguably makes them more productive and certainly reduces the commute, but teams could still have dynamic in-person interactions that are often the source of innovation and progress.

But in some ways, these companies also got the worst of both worlds. They still have to manage and pay for expenses office premises that may only be used a fraction of the time, while also having to maintain the digital infrastructure needed to enable remote collaboration.

While some employees are very happy to split their time between the home and the office, they also miss out on some of the benefits of fully remote work. They still have to maintain their home in potentially expensive areas near the office for when they do have to go in. They also have partial rather than full flexibility when it comes to where, when, and how they work.


What do Hybrid Work Contracts Look Like?

We’ve seen hybrid work contracts defined as fully flexible contracts that allow employees to choose where they work, whether that be from home or in the office. This description suggests that hybrid contracts could be even better than remote contracts, where you don’t have the option to work from the office. This is because it implies that you can still choose to work fully remotely if that is what you want. But while that sounds amazing in theory, that is not what most hybrid contracts look like.

Most hybrid contracts give you the freedom to work from where you feel best but also have the requirement that you spend at least some time in the office. This may be a minimum number of days per week or month or something that is negotiated with your manager based on your specific team. But the assumption is that you can come into the physical office when needed. So, unlike remote contracts, hybrid contracts do tether a person to a specific location.

To give that more context, Owl Labs has recently released a report that gives insight into what hybrid work looks like in the United States. According to their findings, 16% of US workers are fully remote, 22% are fully from the office, and 62% are now in a hybrid work situation.

According to the survey, 69% of respondents believed that their company required them to spend some time in the office due to traditional work expectations rather than business needs. Around 58% of hybrid employees admit that they turn up to the office only to earn their “coffee badge”, which means showing their face to tick a box and then leaving.

One in four respondents said that they would be willing to sacrifice up to 15% of their salary for more flexibility in their work. That doesn’t just apply to when, but also working hours. If unable to work remotely, 29% of respondents said that they would expect a pay increase to make up for the additional costs.

Respondents also did not necessarily believe that businesses were adapting well to the new work environment. 68% of managers believe that remote and hybrid workers are missing out on impromptu and informal feedback. 80% of workers said that they lose time regularly due to technical difficulties during online interactions. 64% said that their companies are using too many communication platforms.

The stats collected by Gallup suggest that most hybrid workers are in the office two or three days a week. It was a more-or-less 50/50 split between those who had set days that had to be in the office and those who were allowed to choose as long as they were present the minimum number of required days.


Traveling as a Hybrid Worker

Hybrid workers on the types of contracts discussed above often have questions about how they can work and travel. They often want to work and travel like some of their fully remote colleagues who choose to do that, but the requirement to be in the office makes that very challenging. Does that mean that they are limited to traveling on long weekends when they don’t have to be in the office on Friday or Monday, or only when they take holidays?

The answer to this question is hopefully not. Offering hybrid contracts, even restrictive ones, suggests that a company is open to offering more flexible working arrangements. It suggests that while in the long-term they want to maintain contact in the office, flexibility exists.

This suggests that if you asked your manager to take a workation, there is a good chance that it could be accepted, as long as it isn’t as clashing with anything essential at the office.

A workation is basically when you travel and work at the same time. But rather than digital nomads who do this continuously, it is usually for a fixed period agreed with your management. You can read our full guide to workations here.

Most businesses will place some restrictions on workations based on business needs and tax implications. For example, you will usually not be able to travel for more than 183 days before returning. This is because at 183 days you risk changing your tax status, which can be a headache for you and your company.

While some people take workations without telling anyone, taking the “ask for forgiveness rather than permission” approach if they get caught, this is hard for hybrid workers who need to show their face in the office. It can also erode trust and damage your career in the long term.

But if, as a hybrid worker, you want to take a workation, this is something that you should be able to negotiate with your team.

According to SEO Travel looking at work trends in the UK, 46% of office workers took a workation in the last 12 months. The average workation lasted two and a half months.


Pros and Cons of Hybrid Working

Overall, there seems to be a range of benefits and drawbacks for companies who have decided on hybrid work contracts that require teams to be in the office a certain number of days each week.

For companies, in general, it makes them more competitive employers and helps them maintain talent. They also maintain the opportunity to build company culture and cohesion through in-person contact. But they can be paying for large office premises that are empty most of the time while simultaneously investing in systems that facilitate remote working.

For employees, working remotely for a portion of their time allows them to save time and money, and boost productivity while being in the office helps build team bonds and creativity. But these hybrid workers are still required to live close to their place of work and absorb those expenses, and build much of their lives around the question of when they need to be in the office.

But how successful a company’s hybrid work policy is often depends on their level of flexibility. While it is reasonable to have generally applicable policies in place, few things in life are truly one-size-fits-all. Having individual flexibility within the hybrid model is essential for success.