Going hybrid or remaining remote? These are the two work models employers and employees have jostled with each other and among themselves to figure out what works best in the post-pandemic environment. The discourse has resonated worldwide, becoming a major point of friction, even among the biggest tech companies.
Elon Musk, the new owner of Twitter, has issued a mandate that all its employees cease remote work immediately unless he approves otherwise. It’s the opposite of Twitter’s previous policy where employees were allowed to work remotely “forever”.
At Apple, employees have joined forces and petitioned against the organization’s hybrid work policy where they are expected to return to the office three times a week. A similar dissatisfactory response was also echoed by Google employees when the tech giant announced its hybrid work policy in April 2022.
On the other hand, Airbnb has chosen the latter and stuck to a remote work model, allowing their employees to work remotely from 170 countries.
The main point is – employers have differing ideas on how employees can remain productive at work. Meanwhile, most employees have opinions on what works best for them. So how can both employers and employees agree on a work arrangement that is mutually beneficial?
There are benefits for employers who adopt hybrid work arrangements. A major one is when employees are able to work in the same physical space. It helps with collaboration and productivity through synchronous communication with their teammates.
A study by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) in Singapore revealed that one of the top reasons to opt for hybrid work arrangements (78%) was the ability to collaborate with colleagues on projects easily.
“With full remote, employers have grown to love the flexibility on multiple fronts such as saving time on the commute,” said Glints co-founder Wong Yong Jie. ”However, there’s the loss of creative energy and personal connection you get by collaborating in person.”
Some organizations, such as Airbnb, have chosen to stick to their remote working arrangements. This allows them to attract skilled talent from anywhere in the world. Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky pointed out that the best talent is not concentrated in just one area. His sentiments echo well with employers in Singapore who are experiencing a tech talent shortage.
Park N Parcel, one of Singapore’s fastest-growing logistics networks, has already leveraged remote work arrangements to its advantage by hiring skilled tech talent beyond borders. This has greatly diversified its talent pool and solved its manpower issues.
Despite the perks of remote work arrangements, it still comes with a set of challenges. A major one would be the onboarding process of new remote hires. Employers will need to have more robust remote onboarding procedures to ensure new hires adapt well to the organization.
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The years during the pandemic have prevented both new and existing employees from face-to-face contact. As we move to a post-pandemic world, many of them would prefer hybrid work arrangements because it prevents isolation and enables them to interact with colleagues in the office. This is especially true for new employees who are still easing into the job and are still adapting to the new work culture.
When we spoke to several employees at Glints to understand their work preferences, many shared the same sentiments. Ryan Yip, a mobile engineer, revealed that he prefers a hybrid work arrangement instead of going remote.
Previously, when working remotely, he felt reluctant to approach his team members since he doesn’t have visibility of his colleagues’ workload. In the office, he can simply approach them at their desk and ask if they have time for a chat. Eileen Tan, a product marketing manager, is also a fan of this setup.
Although hybrid work seems to be the preferred option, both Yip and Tan agreed that flexibility is key. Their sentiments echo the results from the IPS study where 45% of employees prefer to choose the days to return to the office.
Ronson Zhang, a recruitment team manager, observed that a lot of organizations in Singapore’s tech industry are open to hybrid work arrangements. However, for those not in tech, he observed that they prefer employees to work full-time on-site, especially enterprises. There is currently low demand for roles that are fully remote.
Some functions such as support roles will require employees to be in the office. It will depend on an organization’s nature of work and how they make their work arrangements such that it will deliver the best possible outcome for the business.
“In 2023, more companies, mostly enterprises, are expecting their employees to return to the office full-time. This is understandable since they’ve rented expensive spaces and want their offices filled,” added Zhang. “However the middle ground is actually to go hybrid.”
Zhang emphasized that the best hybrid work arrangement is to let their employees decide on the days they would like to come back to the office. Their decision must also account for how their preferred arrangement still fulfills their organization’s business needs.
When it comes to working arrangements, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to please all sides of the camp. However, what can serve as the building blocks for a win-win situation is for both employees and employers to listen to and internalize each other’s needs.
While hybrid work certainly seems to offer the best of both worlds, what matters at the end of the day is driving business outcomes. Understanding what leads to the “most effective” outcome for your customers will enable a more seamless transition toward the right work arrangements.
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