New Normal: The Rise of Hybrid Work

January 24, 2022 3 Minute Read

Future Workplace: The long-term implications of COVID-19 on the workplace

After nearly two years of working from home, many people have grown accustomed to their newfound setup and enjoy the flexibility that it affords. Eighty-five percent of respondents to a CBRE Workforce Sentiment Survey said they’d prefer to work virtually at least two to three days per week going forward.

But the office is still an integral part of the workplace, affording a space for collaboration and social connection that just can’t be replicated over Zoom.

This push and pull between the home office and the traditional office has led to the rise of hybrid work. The phoenix emerging from the ashes of the pandemic, nearly 90% of large companies see a hybrid work policy as the new normal, according to a CBRE Research Occupier Sentiment Survey.

“Under a hybrid work model, employees are given greater flexibility to choose where they work, often within a set of guardrails established by leadership,” explains Lenny Beaudoin, CBRE’s Executive Managing Director and Global Head of Workplace & Design. “This hybrid arrangement balances the benefit of time together in the office with employee expectations for greater convenience.”

Hybrid work is by no means new, but it has become increasingly popular since March 2020. Before the pandemic, just 44% of companies were receptive to the concept; by June 2020 that number had jumped to 65%. And in April 2021 it sat at 87%.

That popularity has not been uniform, though. CBRE research shows that both a company’s size and industry play a factor in its support of hybrid work.

There is a major focus right now among leaders on how to make flex work as seamless a process as possible for their organizations

“Hybrid with Guardrails”

Eighty per cent of large companies (over 10,000 employees) and 66% of medium-sized companies (100 to 9,999 employees) that responded to the CBRE’s Occupier Sentiment Survey said they’d adopted a “hybrid with guardrails” policy. Just 40% of small companies (fewer than 100 employees) had done the same. In fact, they were more inclined to head back to the office full-time—45% of respondents opted for such a model.

Fewer than 15% of all companies surveyed had chosen a hybrid work policy that didn’t include guardrails. Fewer still supported virtual-first and fully remote work.

On an industry level, support for hybrid work was strong amongst tech, media, and telecom companies, with 93% choosing to offer flexibility to employees. Financial services companies were more evenly split: 64% of respondents opted for hybrid work, and the remaining 36% settled on an office-based model.

Despite these emerging standards, major companies have not found alignment on what their post-pandemic workplace policies will entail. Microsoft, Amazon, and Google have all publicly expressed their support for hybrid work, while Netflix and Apple are leaning towards the office. The CEO of Goldman Sachs told Forbes that working away from the office is an “aberration.” The CEOs of HSBC, Citibank, and Vanguard have all indicated a hybrid model is in their future.

Regardless of where they fall on the flexible spectrum, Lisa Fulford-Roy, CBRE’s Senior Vice President, Client Strategy, says that most organizations will need some form of change management to help their workforce understand what hybrid work will mean for them and what to expect on the road ahead. “We have so many people in these organizations who have never had flex work before,” she says. “So there is a major focus right now among leaders on how to make that as seamless a process as possible for their organizations.”

Flexibility is everything

Whether large or small, tech or finance, the companies that do opt for hybrid work are putting themselves in a better position.

According to CBRE research, employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers them some form of flexibility—the ability to work virtually was the most sought-after job benefit, even pre-COVID. In uncertain times, a forced return to the office could spur resignations as employees leave for jobs with more freedom.

As companies continue to refine their return to the office plans, it is clear that how they go back will be just as important as when. With benefits for employee and employer alike, hybrid work is shaping up to be the new normal.

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