The changes in the way we work over the past two years have been significant. Many people believe that work will never be the same again, given the tectonic changes in where work happens and how it is done. And many would say that’s a good thing — with a new appreciation for the challenges and rewards of work, it’s possible to be more intentional about how work works best.
Hybrid work certainly has its pros and cons. You love being at home in your fuzzy slippers, but you may feel disconnected from your co-workers. Or you like to avoid your travels, but work has interfered in your personal life because it is always present in your home. Overall, however, hybrid working offers the best of both worlds: the flexibility to work from home, in remote locations, or in the office depending on what you need to accomplish and your logistics for the day or week. .
So what are the best aspects of hybrid working and remote working? And what might be worth protecting, as work continues to adapt to future conditions? Here are the biggest job benefits that are best kept:
In the work-life equation, life is an important element. Hybrid working – which by definition has included more time working remotely – has allowed people to embrace life more fully. Avoiding the commute means people can potentially get more sleep by setting the alarm a little later in the morning, or they can engage more immediately with family when the last meeting ends for the day. Plus, being home means they can eat healthier by having access to their own pantry rather than depending on food trucks outside their office.
Working remotely has also allowed many people to access nature more efficiently, to join a meeting by taking a walk around the neighborhood or to a nearby park, or to improve their fitness by hopping on their bikes. or their treadmill during a break in their daily schedule. Remote working has offered efficiencies – and these are translating into greater flexibility to do more of what means most to people – whether it’s related to health, family, etc. Overall, the benefit is that people can use their time for what matters most to them.
Hybrid working has driven many employers to upgrade their offices because they know they need to attract people away from home. The office should “earn the ride” by providing enough benefits that people are willing to make the trip. The most successful employers invest in workplaces that work better for people than before.
Multiple work locations (home, remote locations, or offices) also offer the benefit of greater choice. And increased choice and control is good for people’s sense of autonomy, empowerment and engagement. With more choices, people can do more focused work. In the past, it may have been difficult to find places to reflect deeply. But hybrid working allows people with quiet places at home to dig in, or people with no quiet time at home to choose a conference room in an office or even a nearby park to do some contemplative work. Likewise, people generally have a wider range of choices for collaborating, learning, socializing, or recharging.
For many, hybrid work has also been the driving force behind better technology. Companies had to provide more laptops, second monitors, or even more technology training, making the tools more available and more accessible to more people.
Learning has also been improved as it is easier to take advantage of more remote growth opportunities. Instead of going to the conference or going to the training session, employees can tune in to webinars or roundtables and feed their curiosity on new topics. Or they can develop their skills with less investment of time or energy associated with the logistics of in-person attendance.
Difficult times created the need for more creativity, which made people better problem solvers and innovators. People had to figure out how to conduct a remote workshop or solve a sticky customer issue by working with colleagues in multiple locations, inside and outside the office. All of this required new ways of collaborating, new technologies of connecting, new standards of communication, and new ways of thinking about potential solutions.
People also had to think more independently. When working remotely, it’s impossible to lean in and rely on a colleague for guidance. Of course, it is still possible to instant message or contact remotely, but the immediacy of help has been reduced, which has encouraged greater independence in terms of thinking about the right approach, finding best information and problem solving individually.
Sociologically, bonds are strengthened when people go through tough times, and the last two years certainly qualify. For many, remote work has created distance, but it has also created the opportunity to connect and empathize and share experiences and advice.
Also, when you can’t interact with people as easily, such as in the elevator lobby or in your coffee line at work, it causes you to be more intentional in your relationships. People are arranging one-on-one meetings in order to maintain ties, and they are more determined in their communication, knowing how important it is to maintain their friendships and networks. All of this makes people appreciate each other more and invest in the most important relationships.
Hybrid working and remote working have offered benefits and many opportunities for learning and growth. The aspects that have been the most positive will be key to moving forward. In the worst case, people will return to their usual activities and leave behind the new ways of working that have gained momentum. But if we are aware of what has worked and what hasn’t worked, we can instead retain the benefits of hybrid working and move forward with work that works better than ever.
Tracy Brower, Ph.D., is a sociologist focused on work-life happiness and fulfillment. She works for Steelcase, and is the author of two books, Secrets to Happiness at Work and Bringing Life to Work by Bringing Life to Work.