The workplace has always been a hub of evolution, adapting to technological advances, cultural shifts, and economic changes. However, the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic catalyzed a transformation like no other, turning remote work from a rarity into a norm overnight. Now, as we navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the concept of a fully remote workforce is a polarizing subject, fraught with debate and predictions. Let’s explore the nuances of this evolution and examine the factors shaping the future of work.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Return-to-workplace vs. hybrid vs. remote: exploring work models
- Transformational workplaces and benefits
- Defining “hybrid” in the workplace
- Provide equitable benefits, available everywhere
Return-to-workplace vs. hybrid vs. remote: exploring work models
Remote is here to stay. Hybrid models after the pandemic have become a beacon of continuity amidst massive business disruption. As we continue to discover the new normal, the idea of a workplace disconnected from physical offices remains uncertain.
Embracing remote work
Despite tech layoffs and corporate giants enforcing in-office mandates, there is a compelling case to be made for the persistence of remote work—even if that’s a hybrid model.
Hybrid work is the middle ground of this tug-of-war. Blending remote and in-person work is gaining traction as a sustainable long-term solution.
Preparing for the future
Before jumping to conclusions, we need to sift through the noise and gain in-depth insight into the continuously evolving work landscape. While this last pandemic is currently at bay, innovative and future-thinking leaders have learned to prepare for what’s next.
Readiness doesn’t necessarily mean maintaining large office spaces that demand people populations. Also, it limits talent pools to single offices and campuses rather than a broader population of talented employees.
Unlocking talent diversity
“If a company allows working from anywhere, then you can hire from anywhere,” Harvard Business School’s associate professor Prithwiraj Choudhury said in a HBS interview. “You’re no longer constrained to hire from the local labor market of the city or town where you have an office. And, because of that, you can hire a more diverse workforce.”
Return-to-office mandates vs. employee preferences
Resume Builder reported a study of around one thousand companies that indicated they are mandating return-to-office policies by the end of 2024, with 30 percent of leaders saying they would intentionally let go of employees who did not comply. In conflict, a study performed by the Integrated Benefits Institute Analysis stated that 47% of employees surveyed would quit if their employer delivered a full-time return-to-office mandate.
Hybrid work is the middle ground of this tug-of-war. Blending remote and in-person work is gaining traction as a sustainable long-term solution. Industry experts, such as HBS’s Choudhury, affirm that many workdays remain remote, suggesting that the workforce is not charging headlong back into the office. To further support the theory, a Gartner study indicated a post-pandemic transition of professionals working remotely increasing from 30% to 48%.
There is also a contingency of workers who are die-hard remote workers. Those include younger generations of workers who started their first jobs in the pandemic, never setting foot in a physical office. This is where human resource and people operations run into the greatest challenges. However, this is where HR technology comes into play. The future of work and benefits can be fluid, meet all demographics and populations, and be exactly where people are.
This is where human resource and people operations run into the greatest challenges. However, this is where HR technology comes into play. The future of work and benefits can be fluid, meet all demographics and populations, and be exactly where people are.
Transformational workplaces and benefits
While the press narrative may spotlight companies tightening remote work policies, there’s more beneath the surface. Organizations are restructuring their office environments, with Meta (Formerly Facebook, including Instagram) and others adapting their spaces to suit a more flexible work style. Colin Yasukochi of CBRE’s Tech Insights Center points out the changing nature of office leases, indicating a transformation towards spaces designed for collaboration over individual workstations.
Employee-led workplace evolution
Employees play a crucial role in driving workplace transformation. While bottom-line revenue results for business continuity require answers to investors, board members, and executives, the people’s voice delivering those results helps drive the success they need to see from the bottom up.
Employees are finding their voice in navigating the new and next normal. Finding flexible benefits for employees in all environments is key. If the new future of work is flexible, the future of now benefits need to support all, regardless of location and demographic, while being immediately prepared for any eventualities, such as another pandemic.
This is where human resource and people operations run into the greatest challenges. However, this is where HR technology comes into play. The future of work and benefits can be fluid, meet all demographics and populations, and be exactly where people are. The seismic shift brought on by COVID-19 is irreversible, setting the stage for a work environment that is not only more adaptive but also more inclusive and diverse.
The seismic shift brought on by COVID-19 is irreversible, setting the stage for a work environment that is not only more adaptive but also more inclusive and diverse.
Defining “hybrid” in the workplace
The term “hybrid” has become a corporate buzzword, but its implementation is far from uniform. For some, it means set days in the office each week, while for others, it could signify less frequent but more intensive in-person collaborations.
The Future Forum’s Brian Elliott argues for a nuanced application of hybrid work tailored to the unique needs of different teams, along with individual talent. And no team works exactly the same or on a set collaborative schedule.
“Right now, we’re seeing a microcosm of the larger shift. Companies are transitioning from fixed “anchor days” to more flexible arrangements, underscoring the growing demand for adaptability in scheduling and the need for the intentionality of in-person gatherings. And not just for the sake of taking on a physical presence in the office.”
Alex Shubat, CEO, Espresa
Flexibility is the cornerstone of the future workplace. The pandemic has irrevocably altered the employment landscape, and companies must balance the retention of talent with the evolving expectations of their workforce. The seismic shift brought on by COVID-19 is irreversible, setting the stage for a work environment that is not only more adaptive but also more inclusive and diverse.
The workplace continues its renaissance, shaped by the lessons of the pandemic and the imperatives of an ever-changing world. While the likelihood of a wholly remote workforce dims, the promise of a more elastic and human-centric office shines bright. The workplace trajectory of hybrid work is not a regression but an advance toward a more resilient and responsive corporate ecosystem.
Entering the era of flexibility
Flexibility is the cornerstone of the future workplace. The pandemic has irrevocably altered the employment landscape, and companies must balance attracting top talent with the evolving and multifaceted expectations of a diverse workforce. And as the corporate landscape navigates this new paradigm, one thing remains clear: while the pendulum might swing between in-person and remote work, adaptability will be key.
The post-pandemic world may not herald a fully remote workforce, but it certainly promises a more flexible, inclusive, and evolved work environment.
Provide equitable benefits available everywhere
Create the from-anywhere opportunity for all of your people to thrive as they geographically redistribute while we navigate the new normal of the professional landscape. Give your people exactly the flexible benefits they’re looking for to fit their current life stage or location.
Take the first step toward boosting employee well-being with a Lifestyle Spending Account from Espresa. Reach out to our team for a free demo!