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01.09.2021 Organisation

Remote work vs. hybrid work

Remote work vs. hybrid work

Being able to work remotely from anywhere at any time is a trend that appeals to more and more companies and their employees. However, many companies still find it rather difficult to let their staff work completely from home or on the road …

… and therefore strive for a mixture of face-to-face and remote work, i.e., a hybrid working model. In this article, we explain how both models work and what advantages and disadvantages they include.

What does remote work mean?

What does remote work actually mean? “Remote” means working decentralised and thus spatially divided in a place that is not the company office. Quite often, companies that are completely remote work oriented do not even own a central office. The work, however, does not necessarily take place in the home office, but for example in a workspace, on the train, in the park, on the beach or anywhere else in the world.

Requirements for remote work

What are the requirements to enable remote working? Below, we give you a brief overview of the essential requirements for working remotely:

Tasks can be completed entirely online

Whether the remote model is an option for a company primarily depends on the possibility of completing the tasks completely online and from anywhere in the world. For pure office work, this is possible in most cases. Remote work is therefore particularly widespread and sought after in the areas of administration, marketing, design, consulting, finance and IT.

Connection to the World Wide Web

Since remote work takes place online, a fast and stable, but also secure connection to the internet is required. If workers are not in the home office, a cellular connection to the internet is necessary.

Compliance to data protection requirements

While many tasks can at least theoretically be processed online, data protection (GDPR) must also be taken into account. In some cases, data must be processed strictly offline due to internal company or legal regulations on data protection. In this case, it is possible to work remotely, but only via VPN (Virtual Private Network — usually bound to the home office).

Outstandingly effective corporate communication

The fact that anyone can work from anywhere and at any time creates various obstacles – such as time differences — and makes corporate and team communication much more difficult. For this reason, a very well organised communication structure and fixed guidelines for employees are indispensable for effective remote work.

Pros and cons of remote working

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of remote working. Even though the remote model offers numerous advantages at first glance, there is also a shadow side that should not be overseen.

Advantages

Remote working is one of the most sought-after employee benefits these days, and those who offer this modern type of workplace are scoring points in regard to their employer branding. Companies with remote jobs can also look forward to these advantages:

  • International talent pool
    Vacancies are no longer location-based, so talent can be recruited from all over the world to join and be integrated into the team without the stress of relocation and complex integration programmes.
  • Less stress, higher productivity
    The daily commute alone costs many employees several hours and leads to additional stress and reduced performance. With remote workstations, the commute is usually eliminated completely and allows for a much more relaxed approach to daily business. Those who are more relaxed can also achieve more, so productivity increases considerably.
  • Better work-life-balance, better staff retention
    The travel and commuting time saved also means additional time that employees can invest in family, friends, and hobbies and thus better reconcile work and private life. This optimised work-life balance provides additional satisfaction and strengthens employees’ loyalty to their employers.
  • Resource savings
    If you don’t have to maintain office space, you naturally save a lot of money on rent, electricity, heating and up-keeping. Instead, you can invest in other essential areas of the company — for example, in the health of the employees and the ergonomic equipment of their remote workplaces.
  • Sustainable
    Maintaining a central corporate location not only consumes resources, it also contributes to increasing CO2 emissions in many ways – whether through high electricity consumption, waste generated or travel between home and office. Since remote working completely eliminates all of this, it is currently probably one of the most environment-friendly working models of our time and also scores points with environmentally conscious employees as a result.
  • Infection control
    Another practical advantage of remote work: If easily transmissible viruses (e.g., influenza or corona) or bacteria (e.g., enterococci or staphylococci) are circulating, remote work provides excellent services in the area of infection control. Because if your employees don’t meet, they can’t infect one another.

Disadvantages

And now for the disadvantages of remote working. Before mobile working takes its course, it is essential to find and implement solutions to the following problems:

  • Not suitable for each and every job
    Whichever way you look at it: remote work is not universal. What works for office jobs rarely works for production and maintenance areas where the work is done with machinery or requires special equipment.
  • Difficult onboarding
    It is well known that the best way for new team members to grow into new jobs and roles is for them to be thoroughly instructed and trained in the typical processes — and this is best done on site and in direct contact with their new team colleagues. Unfortunately, this is not possible with remote onboarding, so the important social component is missing. This can have a negative impact on working morale.
  • Complicated team building
    Decentralised remote work can be carried out from anywhere in the world. However, the resulting (sometimes extensive) physical separation of team members can also have a serious impact on team spirit. However, regular meetings are difficult to implement with international team members.
  • Sense of isolation among employees
    Working far away from team colleagues also creates a sense of isolation for many remote workers. The Corona pandemic has made it very clear that home offices can make people lonely and ill. The consequences of the lack of social contact between remote workers should never be underestimated.
  • Complex communication
    Remote work is usually accompanied by a wide variety of working time models. Especially when different working hours cover different time zones, it is never possible for all employees to be online at the same time. Of course, this can make communication extremely difficult and slow down productivity.
  • Distraction due to external factors
    Those who have children or pets around them during working hours or work in particularly exotic locations run a greater risk of being distracted by them. The separation of work and leisure time also becomes much more difficult and can drag down concentration and productivity quite a bit … Without a high degree of discipline and regular performance reports, profitable remote work is hardly achievable. However, this again clashes with the employees’ desire for trust from their employers.

Remote working is consequently not ideal for everyone. Even if young talents in particular long for self-determined work and employees of all ages want much more flexibility in their working day: very many employees have had the painful experience of poorly organised remote work during the Corona pandemic and are constantly struggling with the consequences.

Hybrid work: the win-win solution?

You don’t want to send your employees to full-time home offices, but you still want to offer them the option of remote working? Then “hybrid work” is a great option, because here your employees can decide for themselves when, how and from where they want to work. Employees who prefer the concentrated office atmosphere, don’t want to miss out on the social component or need to discuss project-related matters can thus come to the office at any time. To prevent permanent remote absence and enforce regular attendance, the granted remote days per week can be limited.

Sub-types of hybrid work

In fact, there are several subtypes of the hybrid work model. A distinction is made between six variants that give you a rough orientation of what this modern workplace arrangement could look like in your company:

  • Fully decentralised:
    Strictly speaking, this variant does not represent a hybrid model, but merely another name for “completely remote” — i.e., all outside the office.
  • Remote first:
    In this form, work is mainly done from home office/outside the office and there are no requirements regarding presence in the office. Of course, occasional work in the company office is still possible.
  • Static hybrid working:
    Here, your employees decide once whether they want to set up their workplace in their home office or in the corporate office – and then stay there permanently. In this way, usually only some employees opt for remote work, while others prefer to come to the office every day.
  • Dynamic hybrid working:
    In the dynamic version of hybrid work, team members decide for themselves on which days and times of day they work in the office or at home. This means that there is a constant fluctuation within the office staff, but it is of course also possible to make specific appointments for meetings and the like.
  • Synchronous hybrid working:
    The second last type of hybrid work refers to a system in which teams work synchronously according to the same, often predefined schedule in the corporate or home office, i.e., either the whole team is present or no one is.
  • Office first:
    This variation is the counterpart to the remote-first arrangement: here the office is the principal workplace, but work may occasionally be done from home.

Pros and cons of hybrid work

Hybrid working also brings both advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at these now:

Advantages

  • Maximum flexibility meets self-determination
    There are days when a visit to the office is more convenient (example: project kick-off, hot phases of a project) and days that are better handled from the home office – for example, when craftsmen or eagerly awaited parcels are expected. However, no one wants to be forced into a working model that does not suit them. Your employees will therefore greatly appreciate the flexibility and self-determination options.
  • Higher productivity
    While some can only really get things done in the office, others are much more concentrated and productive at home. With a hybrid work model, you cover both groups and thus increase/maintain the productivity of all employees without having to send them to an unfamiliar working environment.
  • Lower office expenses
    If the office is only occupied intermittently and on a rotating basis, this reduces the number of workstations required within the company office — and thus also the cost of maintaining and servicing the office space.
  • Office onboarding possible
    New team members need to be trained? With the hybrid work model, this is also possible on site without any problems. Newcomers can thus settle into the corporate culture and the new work processes much more quickly, and will feel better integrated as a result.
  • Reduced risk of infection
    Another view from the field of infection control. After all, if not all team members are present at all times, only parts of the team can come into contact with viruses and bacteria, but never the entire workforce.
  • Reduced travel costs for staff
    Employees who travel by car benefit from hybrid working through lower travel costs, as they do not have to make the journey to work every day. This leaves some with a few euros left over each month that can instead be invested in hobbies, leisure time or fulfilling smaller wishes.

Disadvantages

  • Sense of isolation among remote workers
    In a hybrid team, especially with static hybrid work, a feeling of exclusion can quickly arise if sufficient connection to the in-house team is not ensured.
  • Commuters still have to commute
    Even though this may not be the case on a daily basis, commuting to work is still a regular occurrence. Especially in cities with high traffic volumes, this consumes a lot of time, causes stress and can negatively affect the performance of those concerned.
  • Higher risk of burnout
    Remote workers are often under pressure in hybrid working, or worried about being considered lazy in comparison to the in-house team. This can lead them to work more overtime and take fewer breaks than their office colleagues – ultimately putting themselves at greater risk of burnout.
  • Changed requirements for office space
    Hybrid employees use offices in a multifunctional way: as a place for relaxed encounters, for concentrated work, or also for important team and project meetings. In order to provide a focal point for all usage purposes, the premises should be divided into flexibly usable meeting rooms, focus areas and communal areas.

Conclusion

Are you still looking for a suitable working model for your company? Remote working allows you to work from anywhere in the world. If you opt for the remote model, you save on office costs, but have to invest a lot in team building and communication. In addition, you risk health consequences for all those who are simply not suited to work in a home office and cannot perform efficiently there. Hybrid working is much less complicated and more flexible, because here everyone gets what they are best at.

However, which form of work is right for your company depends on the type and industry as well as the individual needs of your company and your employees. Together, reasonable compromises between your interests and the wishes of your employees can usually be found here.

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