Why a Hybrid Approach to Remote Work Will Fail, and What You Should Do Instead

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Jun 12, 2020
This article is part of a series called Remote Work.

At the beginning of the year, most technical jobs had some established work from home procedures that could be implemented on an as-needed basis. As companies navigate the next iteration of what (and where) their employees will work, some businesses are considering a hybrid model where a number of employees will continue working remotely, while others will return to the office. In the short term, this hybrid model is a viable solution as the world adapts to the new post-pandemic reality, but longer-term, it will fail.

How the pandemic is speeding up the tipping point

U.S. Census data indicates that 5.2% of workers completely worked at home in 2017, and more than three times that number work from home at least once a week. A recent survey by LinkedIn also found that 82% of workers want to work from home at least one day per week, and 57% want to work from home at least three days per week.

Add these sentiments to the recent adjustments most jobs had to make in order to keep running during the widespread shelter-in-place orders, and it is clear that managers and business owners are bracing for a big shift in how employees work. Most businesses, however, will delay jumping to 100% percent remote because the unknown is scary, but this is a big mistake.

A hybrid workforce is inequitable by default

Establishing a strong company culture and ensuring high job satisfaction is a challenging task at any company. However, it is an even more complicated task for hybrid workplaces where a substantial percentage works remotely. Each subgroup has its own unique perks and benefits – and if you’re not consistent in how you treat remote vs. office-bound employees, this can lead to confusion, resentment, and even cultivate a negative or toxic company culture.

In-office employees can enjoy that physical connection with teams, watercooler moments, impromptu face time with managers, office parties, and are less likely to be scrutinized about how they spend their time from being at the office. Remote employees are also left out of impromptu desk-side meetings where plans can shift quickly, and even when dialed in to a conference line, off-site employees can suffer from the shortcomings of poor audio equipment and insufficient prompts to include their thoughts into the conversation.

Remote workers, on the other hand, aren’t spending hours commuting, often have more flexible schedules, can control the look and feel of their office, and may be able to live in a more affordable city, town, or country, far from the office they would have otherwise been working in. More than half of in-office employees wish they could work from home, according to a global survey of a global organizational consulting firm. In fact, 78% say their “non-virtual working colleagues resent them for working virtually.”

Clearly, such imbalances left unchecked can cause dissension within a company over time. Working to build a cohesive, equitable experience for all employees, while not impossible in a hybrid model, is rarely ever addressed in a meaningful way.

How going 100% remote can be a boon your company as well

Going to a distributed workforce not only cuts down overhead by removing the costly recurring expenses that come with office leases and utilities, but it also comes with competitive advantages.

Hiring is the number one competitive advantage of being remote. It allows you to pull from a nationwide talent pool at a fraction of the cost if your business was located in areas with a high concentration of talents such as San Francisco or New York City. This will continue to become more and more competitive over time; however, employers who know how to “do remote well” will continue to have a competitive advantage over those who are hesitant to early adopt this method. Employees want to be given challenging work, development opportunities, and a healthy work/life balance; companies that know how to embrace this and do it well will continue to excel in bringing on great talent at a reasonable cost.

The pressure for remote work will change how employment is structured

The shelter-in-place edict has produced a very valuable side-by-side data set. Many companies now have the ability to observe and compare output from a ‘remote versus non-remote’ basis. Most will discover what many of us have long known: When you remove the cognitive distraction that comes with the bustle of an office environment, the cost of a daily commute, and the nontrivial overhead costs of paying for a physical office, you produce wins for all.

Many employees even say they would take an 8% pay cut for the option to work from home. Several studies have also confirmed that remote employees work 1.4 more days per month more than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of productivity.

Even after factoring in work-from-home stipends, shipping costs for necessary equipment, productivity management software, and other incidentals, employers can positively impact their bottom line if they commit to 100% remote. Employees get time back. Companies get more performance for less money.


As attractive as a flexible hybrid approach may seem, now is the time to pick the best way forward for how you, your team and your future employees will work in the future. If your company has been able to continue working effectively during a pandemic, then start mapping out what it might mean to go 100% remote in the next year. It isn’t the perfect solution for every company, but many of the most resilient businesses will likely find that a dispersed workforce will net you more opportunities than one that is struggling to find the right balance with a dual model.

This article is part of a series called Remote Work.