You may not have heard the term ‘shybrid’ before, but with the slow but certain return to office for many companies, you can be certain you’ll be hearing it a lot more. Essentially, it is a term to describe those employers who are hesitant to embrace the home working style adopted by companies during the previous two years which have been dominated by Covid-19.
On one hand, there are a multitude of employers embracing the flexible working that began during the pandemic and which has only become more popular with many people, particularly millennials and Gen Z.
On the other hand, many big companies and corporations are headed by individuals who have spent most of their working lives in an office environment and believe this is the best way of working, regardless of the blip that was Covid.
As they say, the proof is in the pudding (or virus, if you want to get specific) but let’s look at some arguments for and against the ‘hybrid’ working model we have gotten so used to.
Why shybrid bosses might be right
One of the main arguments for returning to the office is that there are far more in-person opportunities for socialising and networking. Many workers say that they miss the potential spark of ideas that only happens when you meet someone in the kitchen or at the water cooler, leading to new connections and projects. It is clear that working from home has made socialising incredibly difficult, with employers and teams resorting to online quizzes and games through the rise of Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Likewise, online networking events have seen a huge boom over the past two years but it is difficult to convince people that meeting people via video conferencing can replace face-to-face connections, particularly when you are trying to build relationships within your industry.
Another compelling reason to return to the office, or at the very least an office-like space, is that working from home has led to many people working more hours than necessary and finding it difficult to separate work from personal life – it is far easier to respond to out of hours messages when your laptop is already set up at home. In an office environment, your 8-hour day is extremely focused on work and goals, and when you shut your computer down at the end of the day it is a lot like switching off and you are able to fully focus on yourself and your family when you arrive home. This argument is quickly being nullified by places such as WeWork and other co-working spaces which allow you a dedicated office environment from wherever you are in the world.
Leaving shybrid in the past
While those argument are all valid, the previous two years have disproven most arguments for why people can’t work at home. Any role that involves a computer will have spent most of the Covid era working from a home office with few issues. In terms of social gatherings, many remote-first employers are already leading the way, with companies organising meet-ups once a quarter for all employees in beautiful locations. As mentioned, co-working spaces mean that no matter where in the world you decide to base yourself, an office environment is always within reach so that you are able to retain your work-life balance and switch off at the end of the day.
Then we have the multitude of reasons that have come to light as to why remote working is better, and preferred, by most employees. It has been proven that flexibility of working, whether providing an entirely remote option or hybrid working leads to greater employee satisfaction and retention in the long term. Commuting and living costs for a start are greatly reduced when you can work from anywhere and no longer need to purchase a season ticket to visit the office every day. Personal life has become much easier to balance, particularly for employees with children, meaning they don’t need to worry about childcare or can pick their kids up on time during the working day.
From company’s perspectives, employing remote workers actually saves money by reducing rental costs on expensive office blocks and allows them to cherry-pick the best talent from across the world, without being limited to people within an hour’s radius of their offices.
So, what is the solution?
Unfortunately, much of the reasoning behind ‘shybrid’ employers appears to prioritise the company rather than the employee’s needs.
Reasons for this include the leases that have already been paid on office spaces now going to waste should employees not want to return to the office, and also the rise of micromanagement which has come to the forefront during the pandemic far more than expected.
Lack of trust between employers and employees when working remotely has meant bosses prefer having their teams in the office at all times to ensure productivity is at its highest and no one slacks off. As workers have begun to realise their lives have been far better off working remotely, we have seen what is being referred to as ‘The Great Resignation’ – within the last year there has been an unprecedented number of people leaving their jobs, whether to pursue their own interests, freelance work or (the majority) to join companies who promote remote or hybrid working policies.
‘Shybrid’ employers will have to consider this as return to office policies are put into place over the next few months, and remember that remote and hybrid teams can be just as strong and productive, if not more so, than those who work in an office full time.
There is currently no shortage of vacancies for people looking for more flexibility, from unlimited annual leave policies, work from anywhere companies and dog-friendly offices.
Based on this, it looks like employers are going to have no choice but to incorporate more flexibility into the workplace, including hybrid working, without being asked to, otherwise employees are likely to move onto companies who prioritise a work-life balance.