Employers and employees around the country are debating the future of the office. In workplaces across the country, hybrid-work arrangements, where workers split their time between the office and independent workspaces, are quickly becoming mainstream.
White-collar workers forced away from the office and into remote work during the pandemic are now demanding a permanent shift to flexible scheduling: a recent report from Accenture revealed 83% of employees prefer hybrid working models with weekly hours split between the office and independent workspace.
However, the issue isn’t without debate: as the country begins to reopen, employers across industries are compelling and in some cases forcing employees to return to the office. James Gorman, CEO, of Morgan Stanley has warned employees to be back in the office by Labor Day, or “we’ll have a different kind of conversation.”
David Solomon, CEO, of Goldman Sachs, echoed Stanley’s sentiments, calling working from home an “aberration.” “I do think for a business like ours, which is an innovative, collaborative apprenticeship culture, this is not ideal for us and it’s not a new normal,” Solomon said.
Still, many employers (particularly at tech companies) are leaning into various iterations of hybrid work models. Music streaming service Spotify announced that employees will be able to work from anywhere after the pandemic, while Twitter and Square are letting employees work from home “forever.”
Employers are now faced with the task of reimagining the workplace and introducing work models that address the wants and needs of their employees as well as the limitations of purely remote or purely in-person approaches.
Here are three hybrid work models you can expect to see more of in the coming months:
The remote-first model
Remote work is the default mode of operation for employees working within a remote-first model. In this model, employees are spread out across regions and time zones, working from home or co-working spaces, and using online tools to collaborate and communicate. Unlike fully remote organizations, remote-first organizations will typically have a physical workspace or office available to employees who want or need it.
Dropbox, Coinbase, and Shopify are all leading the way in the shift to remote-first work models. At Dropbox, virtual work will be the “primary experience” for all employees, but in-person collaboration and team gatherings will be facilitated at certain dedicated spaces when it’s safe to do so.
“While there may be some exceptions based on team and role, employees will also have the flexibility to relocate outside of locations where we currently have offices,” Dropbox said in a statement. “We hope this Virtual First approach will give us the best of remote and in-person work, balancing flexibility with human connection, and creating a more level playing field for everyone.”
The office-occasional model
In this model, employees are encouraged or required to work from an office for a portion of the week. Workers in this arrangement will typically live near an office location but may work from home for a majority of the week.
Employers might require that employees spend certain days of the week in the office. Workers at AmEx, for example, will work in the office Tuesday through Thursday and will have the choice to work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
“We believe that being in the office together is an important part of what makes our culture special,” CEO, Steve Squeri, said in the memo. “We also want to keep aspects of the virtual environment that have been working well for us, such as greater inclusivity across our global colleague base, increased work-life balance, enhanced digital mindset, and cutting through bureaucracy to get things done.”
The office-first, remote allowed model
Organizations using an office-first work model will typically allow a small percentage of employees to work remotely, while the majority of their staff report to a shared office space.
In September 2020, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced a hybrid return-to-work plan where the majority of employees report to an office while a smaller percentage work entirely remotely. Google employees will also have the option to temporarily work remotely from locations away from the main office for a period of up to four weeks per year, with consent from their managers.
“We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don’t see that changing. However, we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models,” said Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.
About the author
Lia Tabackman is a freelance journalist, copywriter, and social media strategist based in Richmond, Virginia. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, CBS 6 News, the Los Angeles Times, and Arlington Magazine, among others.