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Hybrid Work Model Is "Happy Medium" for Employees & Employers

By Joanna Fragopoulos

Robert Half's recent research has revealed that the hybrid workplace model is the most popular choice for both U.S. managers and employees; the hybrid model is exactly what it sounds like, a balance between remote work and in-office connection. For managers and employees, it's a compromise between both extremes and can enable people to find balance and thrive as it can offer flexible hours, remote days, and team development.

According to Robert Half's research, which was gathered by asking respondents "your ideal team's working location," 53 percent of U.S. managers prefer a hybrid team (with remote and in-office days), 41 percent want a fully onsite team, and 7 percent want a fully remote team. When it comes to employees, 44 percent want a hybrid team, 34 percent prefer being fully in-office, and 22 percent would prefer to be fully remote. While there are more employees that prefer remote work than managers, the largest share of people meet in the middle.

Three days, according to their research, is the "sweet spot." Workplace expert Amy Mangan, a market director at Robert Half, stated that the company is seeing three days as the average hybrid schedule, stating:

Seeing three days as being the typical thing we're hearing from clients. The expectation for most teams we're working with, and most jobs we're placing for, is usually around three days a week with a high level of flexibility. We do this internally at Robert Half for most of the staff. However, there is an intense amount of flexibility allowed. On either end, we're seeing a lot of teams creating core working hours, where for the onsite days, they just need people there from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. And that gives caregivers the opportunity to deal with whatever they need to, and lets people lessen their commutes, take care of their pets, [etc.]. And so, companies are, I think, trying to not be as hard lined with onsite 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Mangan explained that when companies strictly track and monitor their employees' ins and outs, resignations increase, stating, "people do not like being clock-watched. They do not respond well when they're told to get back to the office four days a week, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. People have just become so accustomed to having work-life integration and the flexibility to do it all that they're not willing to go backwards. So, even if they've been with a company, it's a great company, when those hardline rules come down, there's absolutely attrition and repercussions down the road that eventually will hit that company."

Companies that choose a hybrid approach are broadening their talent opportunities, as 61 percent of workers are more likely to apply to a role that says hybrid or remote. Moreover, 43 percent of hiring managers claimed that having a hybrid or remote listing helped attract better talent to the job. Many respondents also believe hybrid is better for collaboration, as people feel much more comfortable collaborating with people that they've met in person. For others, the flow of conversation and collaboration can be challenging virtually. Mangan stated that "companies that require people to be on onsite four or five days a week, full-time hours, have a very difficult time hiring."

Mentorship is easier in a hybrid setting. Mangan stated that 58 percent of gen Z workers "fear that too much remote work would negatively impact their career growth opportunities." Mangan went on to say that gen Z may not have "the soft skills baked in to functioning in an office environment. They haven't learned that by osmosis in their early years in employment because they were also remote. And so, we've got a generation of employees who haven't been able to learn the same ins and outs of working in that office environment that many of us had the opportunity to do."

Hybrid settings allow people to improve and learn easier. Mangan explained that hybrid can be an equalizer for people being able to learn and improve, stating that when people were on "performance improvement plans and started going on-site, they did improve in many cases. And it's not because they're under the watchful eye of the man, it's because they're getting real-time help. And they're able to collaborate with their teams to help move them forward in a way that they weren't doing when they were sitting home alone basking in solitude."

Hybrid work schedules, therefore, aren't just about the days in office, but the flexibility afforded to employees to be able to balance work and life without stress as well as create inclusivity. This proposition is especially true for caretakers and people with disabilities and illnesses; however, flexibility also allows people to save time and money. Mangan explained that for caretakers (especially those with children whose school hours don't align with work hours) there is a "a level of comfort in knowing that you can come and go as needed for work and deal with whatever they might need to there."

Further, employees can save on commuting costs and time, such as avoiding traffic, gas expenses, and public transportation fees. Robert Half also found that 80 percent of workers say they would be willing to come into the office full-time if offered a salary premium. While the salary premium depends on the individual and the industry, Mangan stated that it's "usually between 11 and 17 percent."

When it comes to creating equitable policies for employees, setting expectations upfront is key to success. Businesses need to be transparent about policies, as ambiguity is "where people get in trouble," whether in regard to flex hours, paid time off, or fully remote workers. For instance, some companies implement overarching policies and core business hours to help provide structure without being too rigid. Proximity bias can be a risk for companies that don't set clear expectations; as such, it's important to see the team holistically and not just delegate tasks to people who are in the office.

An effective way for companies to foster equity is to conduct inclusive team-building sessions regularly. Mangan also suggested these sessions, and/or any team building activity, should be held during the workday as it allows all employees to come, not just those who aren't caretakers, for instance.

Joanna Fragopoulos is a director of editorial and content development at ANA.

The views and opinions expressed in Industry Insights are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.