Remote vs Hybrid Work: Which Way Should Your Business Go?

Image credit: Pixabay

Right now more than 1 in 7 global companies are 100% remote, so is it time to ditch the commute altogether and join the remote revolution? Or should you buck the trend and fully embrace to the traditional office structure for your business, requiring all your employees to share a space in an effort to foster collaboration and productivity?

That’s assuming that you need to focus wholly on one other, of course. If you want to be progressive, the true answer may lie in the middle. The fast-rising hybrid approach is drawing companies away from extremes, leading home and office working to blur together.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of the two thriving approaches to modern working, delve into the benefits and challenges that come with them. Let’s start with remote working, proceed to hybrid working, and see where we end up.

What is Remote Working?

While remote working is by no means a new concept (yes, it did exist before 2020), its prevalence in recent years has ballooned more rapidly than could’ve been anticipated, driven not just by COVID-19 but also by an advance in cloud-based computing technologies.

Put simply, remote working removes the need for the average office worker to commute to a central place of work, allowing them to perform their duties from anywhere in the world (theoretically at least) and offering them full flexibility over their work environment.

The Benefits of Remote Working

From an employee’s perspective, remote working invariably leads to an improved work/life balance, largely because the time and exertion consumed by commuting to/from work is removed from their day. In fact, 74% of employees think that working remotely has reduced their stress. The elasticity of a remote model also allows a worker to mold their working days around non-work commitments like childcare, plus the removal of their commute reduces their outgoings as well as their impact on the environment.

For businesses, an office space means regular outlay on rent, utility bills, maintenance and the rest, so a shift to a fully-remote model can lead to significant cost savings. Not only that, but we’ve also seen the old-fashioned stigma that working from home encourages work-shyness firmly disproven, with 83% of employees saying they are at least as productive (if not more so) when ‘WFH’. Plus, the benefits to wellbeing mean they’re less likely to take sick days and you’re likely to retain them for longer.

How To Implement a Remote Working Model

Firstly, shifting to a remote model is going to require an army of new technologies that enable locationless collaboration. A cloud-based hosting platform will allow seamless access to essential resources from any network, for example, while video conferencing tools facilitate instant face-to-face connections for employees not sharing a physical space.

You also need to ensure each employee has the tools necessary to do their job effectively from home. Laptops, keyboards etc. are a given, but is their Wi-Fi up to the task? Consider investing in a 4G-LTE Wireless Hotspot to ensure they have the best available access. Do they need a desk chair? A second monitor? Creating that “at the office” feel will maximize their productivity and ensure they’re not let down by poor equipment.

In a remote working model, you need to prioritize your employees’ emotional and physical needs. Your employees need to feel involved, valued and listened to even though they may never meet you (or any of their colleagues) in person. Regular communication and on-the-spot support (from one-to-one catch ups to designated ‘wellness’ days) will ensure they stay focused, fulfilled and (above all) happy in their roles.

If you’re more ambitious and interested in establishing and maintaining an international workforce with no qualitative delineation between employees, you’ll also need to use an Employer of Record service (such as the one offered by Remote) to take care of aspects including payroll, taxes, employment contracts and more, ensuring your business is legally compliant when onboarding overseas talent.

What is Hybrid Working?

As the world opened up again following the first lockdowns, employees tentatively began to return to physical places of work. But with social distancing measures still in place and a sense of collective unease in the air, most were only visiting their offices for part of the working week, spending the remaining days at home.

For the average professional, this was their first experience of a “hybrid” working model, making physical attendance is encouraged but optional. The flexibility afforded by a hybrid arrangement means that many businesses have continued to embrace this blended way of working, giving their employees the freedom to choose where to work and when.

The Benefits of Hybrid Working

In a hybrid working environment, employees enjoy all the benefits of remote working (such as the reduction in costs and stress) without missing out on the social interaction they get from the office. The increased freedom of a hybrid approach (compared to a fully remote or fully office-based one) means employees are empowered (and trusted) to make their own choices, significantly boosting their overall satisfaction.

And since having the flexibility to tailor their working patterns to suit their needs leads employees to be more efficient and productive, their employers get to benefit too. Days packed with meetings requiring optimal collaboration can be handled in the office, while those with arduous backlogs piling up can be handled remotely for minimal distractions.

Giving up office space altogether makes it tough to handle client meetings, while retaining a conventional office in the era of remote working wastes resources. Taking the route of using a reduced space can resolve both of these issues.

How To Implement a Hybrid Working Model

When switching to a hybrid model, you first need to consider what approach you’ll take: will you opt for an ‘office-first’ arrangement where physical attendance is preferred but days at home are permitted, or the opposite where home-based working is the norm but occasional visits to the office are encouraged? In many cases, businesses are now offering complete freedom to their employees to make that choice.

While flexibility is the primary goal of hybrid working, it’s vitally important to set out your policies and procedures so that everyone in the business knows what’s expected. You don’t want your employees to feel that others are taking advantage of ambiguous guidelines and not pulling their weight, so make sure everyone is 100% clear on their responsibilities, requirements and allowances. This will avert any unwanted tension in the long run.

When visits to the office are occasional, make sure you’re using them to full effect. If an employee who usually works at home has traveled a considerable distance to spend a day in the office, it’s important their time is spent valuably. Use the opportunity to optimize collaboration (maybe encourage entire teams to come in on the same day) and don’t miss a chance to have open, one-on-one discussions with your employees.

Of course, when operating in a hybrid setting, many of the considerations we’ve covered for remote workers will be equally applicable. Ensuring employees have the physical tools they need to perform their roles is just as important here, as is keeping a close eye on their emotional wellbeing.

In summary, if your business is still tethered to the office and you’re looking to embrace a more contemporary approach, remote and hybrid working models each offer a multitude of benefits for employers and employees alike. But before committing to one of these modern ways of working there are a number of factors you’ll need to consider, from the technology you use to the wellbeing of your workforce.