Hybrid working model: The new normal or a passing fad?

After the normalisation of hybrid working came about post-covid, Tim Woods looks at the data to establish whether or not it’s here to stay.


Hybrid working model: The new normal or a passing fad?

After the normalisation of hybrid working came about post-covid, Tim Woods looks at the data to establish whether or not it’s here to stay.


Meet the author

Tim Woods

Senior Consultant

In 2021, as the world transitioned from remote working to a hybrid working model, I wrote about three key things leaders needed to consider to help pioneer a more sustainable working world. Two years later, I wanted to revisit whether the hybrid working model has been a home run, or if we are on a slow commute back to in-office collaboration.

Hybrid working model: Reflections

When reviewing the commentary around hybrid working in 2021, it was clear that nobody yet had all the answers. But this is often true when we navigate towards an uncertain future. In 2021, as we and others peered through our looking glass, the land ahead appeared hazy. The best we could do was help plot a course, read the sentiment of the crew, and advocate putting one oar in front of the other to iteratively test the water ahead. The consensus held that by adopting an agile approach, being willing to experiment with hybrid models, and wrapping these experiments in a carefully articulated change management strategy, leaders could help pave the way for the next generation of employee experiences. A couple of years later, and with a lot more data to review, what do we now know about the state of hybrid working in 2023?

Hybrid working model: The new normal

In partnership with the research company Statista in 2023, Okta conducted a comprehensive survey of over 500 digital workplace decision makers across the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden. The results of this survey affirm that hybrid work has become the new standard for most European companies. Approximately 71% of European companies have now implemented policies that permit their employees to work remotely for up to three days per week, signalling a significant shift towards flexible work arrangements across the continent. The report indicates that this shift is being driven by business leaders and boards who are seeking to enhance efficiency, promote sustainability, and attract top tier talent in a fiercely competitive landscape.

Hybrid adoption is playing a significant role in many areas of strategic decision making. Companies are re-evaluating their real estate investments and emphasising cybersecurity approaches that are effective for both remote and in-office employees. These initiatives are projected to remain a top priority in the coming year, reflecting the continued trend towards flexible work arrangements and the need to maintain productivity and security in a rapidly evolving business environment.

However, the data also shows that we can’t, as of yet, consider hybrid working to be a home run. 60% of respondents who have adopted hybrid working stated they would be reassessing their strategies within the next 12 months, with 18% saying they are constantly assessing. 

Over the last year, we have seen many leaders express favour for in-person working. Perhaps most surprisingly, even big tech companies such as Facebook and Amazon have recently made the headlines due to their shift in sentiment.

Hybrid working model: A passing fad

A recent letter to employees by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg advocates the benefits of in-person working, detailing how “in-person time helps build relationships and get more done”. While this letter does not mandate a return to work for employees, it has left many wondering whether this is an early sign of what will become a return-to-office directive. According to an internal investigation, engineers who started working in-person at the company and later transitioned to remote work or continued working in-person exclusively outperformed their peers who have solely worked remotely.

As reported by Techradar, in February 2023 Amazon CEO Andy Jassy announced plans for a more permanent return to the office following a three-year hybrid working trial. Jassy cited productivity and knock-on effects within the broader community as several of the expected benefits. This mandate was met with much backlash, especially from employees who joined with the expectation of remote work and who had not based themselves near the office as a result.

Big Tech is not the only group advocating for more in-person work. In March 2022, the Economist wrote that as Covid-19 restrictions were winding down, major financial services firms such as Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley began urging people back to the office. Many executives supposedly shared Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman’s sentiment that: if you can eat out, you can come to the office.

The importance of a change management strategy

According to Business Insider, an informal survey of the 14,000-member Slack channel at Amazon revealed around 80% of those affected would consider finding alternative employment if they were forced to return to the office. Whatever your organisation’s future may hold, whether a pivot towards more in-person or more remote work, the same mandate we put forward in 2021 holds in 2023. When you begin to steer your ship in a different direction, this transition can be jarring for people, especially if expectations are now shifting. You must develop a well-articulated change management and accompanying communications strategy if you wish to mitigate the impact such a transition can have on your employee experience, well-being, and productivity.

To find out how we can help with your hybrid working and employee experience strategy, please get in touch.

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