The hybrid and remote worker; is it all positive?

Virtual meetings, hybrid workers and remote workers are becoming the new normal. But are the positives of flexibility and productivity of this new style of worker and virtual meetings being outweighed by over working employees with back-to-back meetings? There is also conflicting discourse around remote/hybrid workers and the effect they have on workplace culture; are they improving culture or damaging it? Over the coming months and years, will this new normal of hybrid and remote working see more positives than negatives?

A study conducted on remote workers found that 27% of employees found virtual meetings to be a communication barrier, as employees were three times more likely to deliver on actions agreed in writing than on video, as they miss key information and therefore leave tasks incomplete. Do we assume virtual meetings are a direct substitute of in-person meetings, when they require more direction and follow ups to generate better productivity? It has been suggested that written communication before and after virtual meetings can encourage employees to think independently by asking questions on a regular schedule and communicating essential updates.

The remote and hybrid worker is attractive to many due to having more flexibility as they do not have a daily commute to the office. Some perceive the work-life balance to be much healthier through this new style of work, but are businesses counteracting the positives by beginning to over-work employees with back-to-back meetings virtually, leading to brain stress activity? A study done by Microsoft found that by having a 10-minute break between each meeting, you experience a reset in brain stress activity. Scientists explained this as humans needing time to transition between the brain ‘closing’ on one topic before advancing to another topic. If businesses schedule back-to-back virtual meetings, are we becoming detached from one another making it easier to ignore the human requirements and well-being of colleagues? By doing this are we treating employees more like a machine than a human with emotions?

One of the most widely acknowledged positives of the hybrid and remote worker is them being more satisfied, through having more control over their work making them happier and more engaged than the traditional employee. Naturally, having more autonomy over their schedule boosts motivation levels – happier employees increase business performance and profitability. But are happier employees the only positive of hybrid/remote working – or does it boost workplace culture?

With culture being shaped by teams’ collective mindsets and behaviour and the strength of it determined by how aligned and connected people feel to their organisation – surely, some individuals may feel less connected to colleagues and the organisation if not based in the office? This is the argument of some critics, as they believe the hybrid and remote worker could damage workplace culture, as the culture breeds and is reinforced through the office; are you too isolated and removed to feel bound?

The argument for this new style of work improving company culture is that culture doesn’t somehow disappear in a remote or hybrid context as norms and beliefs are still being created and reinforced, but they’re not guided by systems and routines that were previously established in the office. On the flip side, does this mean company culture is more open to change and subject to new, non-work factors present in employee’s day-to-day lives?

A study conducted by Gallup found that 3% more of hybrid workers feel more connected than the traditional employees. However, in a different study by ADP research found that 70% of in-office workers say they feel a strong connection to their organisation compared with 64% of remote workers. Obviously, this is not a straightforward issue as we are witnessing a contradiction in research for both for and against remote and hybrid workers. It will be an interesting challenge for employers in the years to come and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Naturally the critics of hybrid/remote work may be hesitant and uncomfortable with the idea due to them feeling like they cannot oversee and manage them in person, checking they are completing required tasks. However, at the same time the hybrid and remote worker also gives businesses a great opportunity and possibility to see trust reach an all-time high between managers/leaders and employees.

With the conflicting research, there is no doubt there are both positives and negatives of this new style of work, and as it is what an increasing number of people are looking for – it will undoubtedly become more commonplace. With the emergence of hybrid/remote workers there is a great opportunity for businesses to welcome and harness this change, to create stronger, more trusting relations with happier employees causing a direct positive effect on revenue.

Written by Izzy McHattie, EP business in hospitality