Hybrid work -- splitting the work week between time in the office and time working remotely – is the new normal that many enterprises have settled on as the world coasts into a new era after the crisis of the pandemic forced remote work 2.5 years ago.
That move to hybrid work is the focus of a new report from Omdia that examines how work styles have evolved over the last few years and offers some guidance on best practices for organizations looking for the way forward.
Many questions remain as organizations budget and prepare for 2023, a year that portends both a recession and a continuing talent crisis. Will economic headwinds tip the balance of power back to business leaders who are advocating a full return to the office? Will highly skilled technology pros resist that demand and insist on continuing with remote work? Will those workers who have returned to the office a few days a week and grumbled that they could do the same video conferences and work tasks remotely, without the commute, get used to the inconvenience or will they look to make a change?
These are among the questions that IT leaders and other business management may find themselves asking about the future of work as we head into 2023.
Among the key findings of the Omdia report:
- Over the next 2 years, 48% of the total workforce will work in a mobile or hybrid fashion.
- More than half -- 54% -- of organizations believe employee productivity has improved with the move to more mobile and hybrid work styles.
- Yet only 22% of organizations have metrics in place to quantify those productivity improvements.
- Most businesses -- 58% -- are encouraging a hybrid return to office.
- However, 36% are adopting a position where leadership is mandating a return to office in line with pre-pandemic patterns.
- A full 41% say budgets for digital workplace capabilities have increased since the previous year.
There’s certainly a disconnect between those organizations who believe workers are more productive when they are remote and the business leaders who are mandating a return to the office at pre-pandemic levels. Given that only 22% of organizations are working to quantify productivity levels when it comes to hybrid or remote work, there are unanswered questions.
Report author and Omdia analyst Adam Holtby tells InformationWeek that last year business leaders were asking questions about workplace culture and how it is changing. This year executives have shifted, and a top question is about learning about how to measure productivity in this new era of work.
Holtby cautions executives on the use of some of these metrics, however. For instance, if productivity is measured strictly in terms of output numbers, the metrics will not capture other important components. Holtby says organizations must take a more human-centric approach.
“If my outputs increased dramatically, but I was up until 3 a.m. every morning to work on them and worked all weekend, the traditional productivity metrics may be up, but I am not in a good place personally, and my performance is suffering,” Holtby says.
That’s a lesson for IT leaders to keep in mind as they look to setting productivity metrics for 2023.
In terms of hybrid work going forward, Omdia says that it is just one of several models that businesses should be aiming to better enable. There are three main types of workers. The first is those who are tethered and constantly work in a single location, such as a hospital, retail store, or manufacturing facility. These workers make up 52% of the workforce. The second type is nomad. These employees, who make up 21% of the workforce, must frequently work on the move and include delivery drivers and field service workers. Hybrid employees are those who spread their time between remote locations and a dedicated work location, either home or the office. This group makes up 27% of the workforce.
Optimizing Work Everywhere
Because nomad and hybrid workers add up to 48% of the workforce, it’s important for organizations to plan and deliver technology to help these workers be productive from wherever they are.
The full report provides more detail about work styles, workplace transformations, and the need for focuses on people, places, and technology.
“I think hybrid work is often misunderstood as being this work style that we all had to embrace out of necessity during the pandemic, and that’s just not true. That was just purely work from home for most people,” Holtby says. “Hybrid is different. Hybrid is that mix between home working, working in an office, and working in a coffee shop or remote location sometimes.”
Meanwhile, IT leaders and other business management must consider how to evolve their physical workspaces for this new era when employees are returning to the office part of the time.
“They will be looking to better augment those physical places with technology to make the experience better and different from what you can do at home,” Holtby says. “Nobody wants to commute for an hour and a half just to go sit in an office and do the exact same thing that they can do from home.”