Is Hybrid Working Really the Future?

Is Hybrid Working Really the Future?

December 2021 | Digital Transformation

It's widely believed that hybrid workplaces are the future. But is this really true, and what does hybrid working look like in practice?

It's been a long time coming. The shift to remote working was accelerated by the pandemic. The new normal requires different management styles, different applications and different working patterns from the old ways. Various businesses are adapting at different rates.

Some firms have already gone back to working in person, much to the dissatisfaction of their employees. The ability to work remotely is now a competitive advantage for recruiters. After two years of remote working, many candidates now prioritise flexibility before more traditional considerations when choosing their next job.


Over the summer, there was much talk about the great resignation. A surge in people changing jobs was overdue. The pandemic recession led to many workers staying in their existing jobs longer than intended. White collar workers typically move jobs every few years. That churn slowed markedly in 2020.

Accompanying the return to business as usual was a wave of career changes. Lockdowns gave many people the opportunity to re-evaluate their lives. The hospitality sector has spent the last six months complaining about skills shortages. That's because many chefs and waiters took jobs doing home delivery during lockdown, with substantial benefits in terms of pay and work-life balance.

The same trend is true for knowledge workers. The ongoing story of Big technology's attempts to return to the office turned into a long running saga, which still hasn't reached a conclusion. Fully remote start-ups are finding it far easier to poach talent from the likes of Apple or Facebook than in previous years.


There has been plenty of talk about hybrid working over the past 12 months, but patchy evidence of it actually happening. It is still widely assumed that everyone will eventually go back to working in the office for at least a few days per week. The majority of businesses have announced plans to this effect. Not many companies actually implemented them.

Some firms did go back to the office part time over the summer. They quickly discovered that there was a balance to be struck between on-site working and retention. They were hit by the great resignation as much as everyone else, but the impact varied according to their approach.


Flexibility is essential. For many employees, the threat of hybrid working is worse than the reality. So long as people can plan around their days in the office, then hybrid working can be successful. This requires individuals and teams to choose the best schedule for them.

Frequently, personal commitments and childcare needs dictate which days individuals can work on-site and which days they can't. Then there are the vagueries of the work schedule. Some tasks are better done face to face, such as brainstorming or group collaboration. Other tasks are much easier done at home away from the distraction of colleagues. Both types of working need to be planned according to the individual.


That need for flexibility has its limitations. Over recent months, one of the big debating points has been the exact amount of time each employee should be expected to spend in the office. Surveys consistently show that bosses want more time in the office than more junior staff. Office working only makes sense if you have sufficient members of your team with you in order to justify the time and cost of commuting.

When launching hybrid working in the summer, some companies gave their staff total flexibility in how often they come into the office. There was an expectation that people would occasionally, but with no guidance around how frequently. This helped with recruitment and retention, but not with actually getting people into the office on a more regular basis.

For many employers, the net result was that offices remained empty for the majority of the week. Even those people who wanted hybrid working stayed at home because the alternative was coming into the office on their own. Better coordination and communication can resolve this problem.


For hybrid working to happen, it needs to be a routine. People need to start with the assumption that they'll be in the office on a particular day each week or every two weeks. That ensures a sufficient number of people will come in each day to make remote working worthwhile. People can still change their days in the office depending on circumstances, but it does create a habit that becomes self-perpetuating.

I've seen this approach work successfully for individuals before the pandemic. There is no reason why it can't work for anyone who wants hybrid working. However, employers need to be sensitive to the concerns of those teams who want full time remote working. Plenty of businesses manage that successfully too. Every organisation is different, and that diversity is a strength for the broader economy.

Banner Photo by Nathan Dumlao / Unsplash

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.