Hybrid work is probably more difficult to implement than people think, with the risks of a badly run hybrid program including burnout, presenteeism and “a two-tiered system” that could prove discriminatory, say MIT lecturer Robert Pozen and other experts. “Ensuring that biases are avoided, presenteeism is not rewarded and projects and promotions are awarded fairly will take some learning — and data,” says Michael Smets, professor of management at University of Oxford.
It’s the model that’s being hailed as ‘the future of the work’. Hybrid is being viewed as a happy medium, combining working from home and going to the office – and it’s rapidly coming down the pike for industries worldwide.
But just how viable is it? We know it’s supposed to bring benefits, like more flexibility and autonomy for workers. We also know that it’s a working model that many employees want – some studies show that up to 83% of workers want to go hybrid after the pandemic. Yet, is it really something that we can pull off successfully ?
Just how numerous are the downsides – and what can we do to avoid them if we’re going to pull of the hybrid model successfully?
Fair for everyone ?
First, the potentially unwelcome truth is that not everyone can work a hybrid model – something that could lead to resentment across workforces.
“I am baffled by the extent to which hybrid working is presented as the ‘new normal’,” says Michael Smets, professor of management at University of Oxford. “For many, hybrid working will remain an elusive dream. It may become the new normal for a select, even privileged, group of jobs. This is more than a little reminiscent of the old division of ‘white collar’ and ‘blue collar’ work.”
According to Anu Madgavkar, a partner with the McKinsey Global Institute, who’s been researching the future of work, “around 50% to 60% of work across different occupations need to be done in a site-specific way”, where you have to be present at a certain place to do it. And even within the same office, some teams may have duties – like IT – that demand they come to the office full-time.