The past several months have proven how resilient and adaptable to change most people are. When public health events forced employees out of the workplace and caused businesses to slow or halt their operations, human innovations made for a reasonably smooth transition, given the situation’s gravity.
Since remote work is expected to last for two years now, the idea of hybrid offices and workforces is becoming more commonplace. They are set up to accommodate in-house and remote employees, and some companies may adopt this concept permanently.
There are pros and cons to this trend. Let’s discuss some of each.
The Pros of Hybrid Work
Making a workplace friendly to both in-office and telecommuting employees requires a mixture of cultural adaptation and investments in technologies. Here’s how a hybrid work setup might provide some advantages. (Read also: Post-Pandemic Life in the Tech World Looks Pretty Good.)
1. Improves the Economies of Rural Towns and Small Cities
One of the most widely beneficial ways remote work has impacted communities is through the influx of new bodies and revenue streams to rural areas and small cities and towns.
This boost to the fortunes of smaller, less-developed, and typically inland regions may come at the expense of larger, better-developed metro areas. However, the fact remains: Areas in need of economic development have been finding it amid the pivot to hybrid and remote work.
2. Easy to Implement Thanks to Modern Tech and Apps
The relative ease of transitioning to a remote or hybrid working environment is another of its chief benefits. Anybody with a personal computer, like a desktop, laptop or even tablet in some cases, can telecommute part time or full time.
Additionally, modern time-tracking and productivity apps tend to be multiplatform and cloud-based, meaning anybody can use them for work purposes no matter where in the world they happen to be. Other high-stakes workflows, like exchanging signatures on contracts and invoices, have also gotten a digital overhaul in recent months and years, meaning most work can now happen remotely.
3. Allows for Family-Oriented Flexibility
Survey after survey confirms that the modern worker would spend more time with their family if they could. One research project polled people from eight countries and concluded that 71% of employees say work interferes with their personal lives.
Some countries and even school districts in the U.S. are experimenting with shorter weeks. For the time being, remote and hybrid work environments have provided a glimpse into a world where family life doesn’t have to come at the expense of professional obligations. Even one or two days working from home per week can go a long way for gainfully employed mothers and fathers whose families thrive when they’re near. (Read also: How the Pandemic is Affecting Women in Tech.)
4. Allows Employers to Access Larger Talent Pools
Millennials catch flak for it, but they’re often likely to jump from job to job if making a change suits their lifestyle or circumstances. The tendency of the modern employee to be less anchored to one position or company, the impact of the recent and ongoing global pandemic, and the “great resignation” combined means lots of companies across industries have jobs open.
Shifting to remote and hybrid offices and workplaces means companies, whether or not they’re hard-pressed for qualified candidates in their local area, have access to a larger talent pool. When talented individuals can work from any place on earth, companies can cast an extremely wide net when they need people with specific or hard-to-find skill sets.
The Cons of Hybrid Work
Hybrid work isn’t all upside, of course. It’s important to remember that not every workplace is the same, and not every productivity solution, modern or not, will be a perfect fit. Here are some of the potential downsides of a hybrid working environment.
1. Pulls Work Away From Inner-City Hubs
There has been a pronounced migration of skilled laborers from larger and coastal cities to smaller, more rural and inland regions that often have a lower cost of living. This shift is so pronounced that some of the major cities left behind by these professionals are now struggling economically and to fill available positions.
Smaller and less-developed communities benefit from remote work, but the long-term impact on industrial centers isn’t yet adequately understood.
2. Poses Concerns for Cybersecurity
Before hybrid work became a mainstream workplace trend, there was BYOD, or “bring your own device.” In both cases, it’s often up to the employee to:
Provide their own computer or device for company work.
Ensure said device is equipped with satisfactory antivirus, anti-malware and general cybersecurity products.
Some companies meet modern cybersecurity needs amid this shift to remote and hybrid work by issuing company laptops or workstations. Others outline strict requirements for protective programs to install. In either case, during remote and hybrid work, these cybersecurity standards become harder to enforce. (Read also: The Cyberattacks Pandemic: Cybercrime in the COVID-19 Era.)
3. Could Cause Women to Be Passed Over for Career Opportunities
A recent survey showed that two-thirds of millennial women today prioritize remote work opportunities. This interest is tempered by worry that working remotely will cause them to be passed over for promotions, additional responsibilities and other options.
These fears are not unfounded. The wage and opportunity gap between men and women is real, and there’s not a lot of data yet on the effect hybrid work might have on that ongoing. We know that during 2020 – what many will remember as the banner year for hybrid and remote work – the pay gap between the sexes didn’t budge.
Results May Vary
There is no clear answer here, other than “results may vary” depending on the workplace, the work done there and employee expectations. Technology can boost productivity even in places not ordinarily conducive to it, like the home. During intermittent periods of remote and hybrid employment throughout 2020, using technology to work from home lessened carbon emissions in certain places and sectors, making it doubly appealing.
Technology can also have a downside on the environment, just as it can on worker morale, productivity and employee opportunities to grow. In time, we may learn that it isn’t the technology but the culture that springs up around it that determines success.