The world of work has been turned on its head. There is proof that the relentless, five-days-a-week grind in the office is the worst option for knowledge-work schedules, according to a recent meta-analysis by Nick Bloom at Stanford University, the top academic expert on flexible work models.

In the past, full-time in-office work was the unchallenged norm. However, the COVID-19 pandemic became a game-changer, forcing organizations to experiment with work-from-home and hybrid-work models. To everyone’s surprise, these alternatives not only worked but also outperformed the traditional model in many ways.

Research indicates that work from home is stabilizing at about 25% of days, a fivefold jump compared to 2019. The question now is: should a business be hybrid or fully-remote? 

The hybrid advantage

Hybrid work models thrive in environments that benefit from both in-person collaboration and quiet, individual work. These environments often involve professionals and managers, who are mostly college graduates and higher paid. Businesses in tech and finance sectors, where employees can execute their tasks from virtually anywhere but also gain from face-to-face brainstorming sessions, are ideal candidates for the hybrid model.

Four key factors give hybrid work an edge over in-office work: productivity, happiness, rent, and talent.

  • Productivity –  Research indicates that an organized, flexible hybrid model is 1% to 3% more productive than a fully in-person model.
  • Happiness – No one enjoys a monotonous five-day-a-week office routine. In contrast, hybrid work is like a breath of fresh air and Bloom’s meta-analysis shows that it’s equivalent to an 8% pay raise in terms of employee happiness. 
  • Rent – By allowing employees to work from home for a part of the week, businesses can significantly reduce their space costs, which are typically about 10% to 20% of labor costs.
  • Talent – Employees, the lifeblood of any organization, have expressed a strong preference for hybrid work, making it a powerful tool for attracting and retaining talent. 

Remote work’s edge

Fully remote work is the undisputed champion when it comes to cost-effectiveness. It’s the business equivalent of a well-oiled, fuel-efficient machine that delivers maximum output for minimal input.

Fully remote work models are the holy grail for businesses looking to maximize cost savings. They’re particularly beneficial for roles that can be performed entirely online and don’t require frequent in-person interactions. Think of roles like IT support, payroll, and other specialized roles that are often outsourced or contracted.

  • Real estate overheads – Compared to the 10% to 20% decrease in office space for hybrid work, this is a 100% decrease on the budget line that’s typically the second most expensive for service-oriented companies: office rent.
  • Lower wages – You’re no longer restricted to hiring talent in high-cost areas. You can recruit from across the country, or even globally, where the cost of living­—and wage expectations­—are lower. It’s like sourcing your products from a low-cost manufacturer without compromising on quality.
  • Flexibility and scalability – Fully remote work offers incredible flexibility. You can scale up or down without worrying about physical office space. This flexibility also extends to employees, which can lead to higher job satisfaction and improved work-life balance. 

The tradeoff: Productivity

Research shows that while fully remote work is more cost-effective, it lags behind the hybrid model in terms of productivity. There are benefits to face-to-face interactions that can’t be replicated in a fully remote environment. 

The ideal fit: Hybrid vs. remote work

The decision between hybrid and fully remote work largely depends on the nature of your business and the specific roles within your team. It’s all about finding the right fit.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Whether a hybrid or fully remote model will be most beneficial depends on various factors, including the nature of your business, the roles within your team, and the specific needs and circumstances of your employees. It’s about understanding your unique needs and making a choice that best supports your business goals and your employees’ well-being.

Full-time in-office work, once the reigning champion, is now the weakest link. The future belongs to hybrid and remote work. Hybrid is the rising star that combines better productivity and cost-effectiveness than in-person work. Fully remote work, on the other hand, while less productive than hybrid or in-office work, offers the best return on investment with its cost advantages for companies that don’t require intense collaboration.

The message is clear: Adapt or perish. It’s time to definitively say goodbye to the traditional full-time in-office model­­­­ and embrace the flexible work revolution.

Source: Fortune