Are you team WFH or WFO?
I worked from home long before it was considered fashionable, much to the jealousy of my friends and family. Little did they realize that they would join me quickly and abruptly. In just two years the pandemic has expedited WFH, with 70% of the U.S. workforce working remotely in mid-2020, compared to only 2% prior. Everyone remembers stories of corporate CEOs packing up their desks as they paved the way to a new era, without any plan in place. It was a sudden cold turkey move, with the reality and regulations of the time leading the decision making. As time progressed and everyone caught their bearings, new working models, technologies, and support systems evolved. The benefits of these new working models were quickly noted, and included a combination of expected and unexpected advantages. Now, even with the lifting of all social distancing and Covid regulations, companies are not quick to rustle their troops back into the office and are now adapting to find the model that works best for them.
The concept of WFH is being promoted top down and bottom up in organizations. On the one hand companies are noting a reduction in overhead due to releasing office space, and on the other hand employees needs and motivations around work have changed, and they are demanding continued flexibility post-pandemic. According to Accenture’s Future of Work Study 2021, 83% of employees prefer a hybrid work model. And as companies want to attract and retain the best talent, the WFH policies are now becoming part of the competitive job market.
While there used to be two clear camps – WFO or WFH, a new player has entered: Hybrid. So first thing first – let’s make some order amongst the different types of working models. Like you can’t walk into a Starbucks and just ask for coffee, saying hybrid nowadays isn’t clear enough with all the options. The Pumble blog has identified different types of working models, that run the gamut from full WFO to full WFH:
- Fully in office – Everyone is in the office full time, no remote option.
- Office-first (remote-friendly) hybrid model – Employees come to the office most of the time and with an option to work remotely a fraction of their working time (usually 1-2 days).
- Partly remote hybrid model – Some teams are fully remote (e.g. content team), whereas others are office-bound (e.g. the HR department).
- Flexible hybrid model – Employees have the flexibility to choose when they want to work from the office and when from home or elsewhere.
- Choose-your-own-adventure hybrid model – The company provides multiple work models and employees decide on one of the offered work arrangement options and stick to it.
- Remote-first hybrid model – Remote work is the default, yet the company still maintains some office space so that people can occasionally go to the office. (All operations and policies are in alignment with remote work)
- Fully remote model – The organization doesn’t have any office spaces or headquarters and everyone works remotely.
Believe me, there’s for sure even more sub-models. So with so many options, what’s the best way to choose what’s right for your company?
I suggest considering four factors:
- Employer preference: What management style do you have in your company and what type of working model can it support? What do you feel would contribute more to the productivity and culture of your company? Is one model more cost effective for the company? Where are your employees located geographically and does one model support them better than another
- Employee preference: How do people feel they work better and more efficiently? Is there a consensus amongst employees’ desires? Remember, people who live in closer proximity to the company location may feel differently than people with a larger commute. People who live alone may prefer the quiet set up of their homes, whereas people with large families or roommates may favor the solitude provided at the office.
- Types of projects: Think of the types of projects people work on in your company. Do they require equipment that can only be found in the office or can it be available at home? Do they require collaboration in real-time and space or not? (And if so, can technology help overcome?) Are there different roles/projects that have different requirements?
- Flexibility: Are you looking for a one size fits all model? Or are you willing to offer flexibility on choosing a model based on a personal or department level? Do managers have any leeway in making their own decisions for their team?
Once you’ve worked out the model for your company, remember to treat this as you would any “startup” in your company. Create an official policy so everyone will be aligned, and KPIs to monitor and measure the model’s success. There will probably be a need to pivot from time to time as you learn. But if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things can change in an instant.