Navigating Remote, Hybrid, and In-office Work Models


March 15, 2024

Taryn Hart

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X min

6 min

Discover the evolution of work models and the pros and cons between remote, hybrid, and in-office work.

Happy woman working from home on a laptop.

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In the last decade we’ve witnessed a seismic shift in the workplace, catapulting organizations into a new era of work. Adopting remote, hybrid, and in-office work models has reshaped not only where but how we work, interact, and balance our professional and personal lives.  

Many organizations may still be struggling with how to move forward in this new world of work, which work model is best suited for their organization and how to navigate through the challenges that come with each one. There’s one thing we can be absolutely certain about though; employee flexibility is a top trend in 2024 when it comes to fostering a healthy workplace culture.

Why Employee Flexibility Matters

Flexibility is no longer a perk but a necessity in the modern workplace. It plays a crucial role in:

  • Attracting and retaining talent: flexible work options are a top priority for many job seekers. In a study by Global Workplace Analytics, 59% of workers said they would choose an employer who offered flexible work options over those who didn’t.
  • Supporting diversity and inclusion: flexibility accommodates diverse life circumstances, supporting a more inclusive work environment.
  • Enhancing employee wellbeing: providing control over work arrangements leads to reduced stress, higher job satisfaction, and improved overall wellbeing.
“Employees want flexibility—flexible work hours and locations. When I think about the Great Resignation, for example, I don’t think it was a resignation. People didn’t resign. It was the “Age of Recalibration.” People were recalibrating where they wanted to work, how they wanted to work, and who they wanted to work with.” - Dr. Troy Hall, Award-Winning Culture Strategist

This evolution presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities for both employers and employees. So, what are the pros and cons of remote, hybrid, and in-office models, and best practices for implementing these strategies?

Remote Work: Freedom and Flexibility

Remote work is when an employee works entirely from home, or a decentralized location separate from other employees. Since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, remote work has increased dramatically, with some instances being mandatory for organizations to continue to operate. In 2023, 16% of companies globally are still successfully operating with a fully remote workforce.  

Transitioning to remote work came with many challenges – providing the necessary at-home technology and equipment, investing in tools to keep employees connected, and ensuring employees stayed engaged in their work. While many organizations find remote work easy, cost effective and efficient, it’s important to remember that not all workers or organizations have the flexibility to be fully remote. There are many industries that require deskless workers such as retail, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, construction, education and more.  

The pros of remote work:

  • Flexibility and work-life balance: remote work offers unparalleled flexibility, allowing employees to manage their schedules around personal commitments and preferences.
  • Reduced commute: the elimination of daily commutes saves time, money and reduces stress, contributing to a better work-life balance.
  • Global talent pool: organizations can tap into a global talent pool, hiring the best candidates regardless of geographical constraints.

The cons of remote work:

  • Isolation: remote work can lead to feelings of isolation and detachment from the team, affecting collaboration and company culture.
  • Work-life blur: the boundaries between work and personal life can blur, leading to burnout and decreased productivity.
  • Technology dependency: a heavy reliance on technology can pose challenges, especially if technical issues arise or if employees lack a conducive home office setup.

Overall employee experience of remote work

For many, remote work has been a huge benefit, offering freedom and flexibility that was previously unimaginable. According to Forbes, 65% of workers prefer to work from home and enjoy it. However, the lack of physical interaction can make it harder for some to feel connected and engaged with their teams and company culture.  

Hybrid Work: Flexibility with Connection

Hybrid work is when employees work partly from home or remote location, and partly at their organization's central office in their region. Some organizations who have opted in to a hybrid work model have downsized their office spaces or offer a co-working space where employees can come and go as they please.  

Some hybrid work models require employees to be present in the office for specific days of the week. There are many reasons why organizations may choose a hybrid work model – it allows employees to still have the flexibility to work from home partially while staying more connected with their coworkers during in-office days.  

While this model can work well for organizations whose employees are mostly local, a hybrid model might be difficult for organizations who have employees stationed globally. In fact, a study by Standford revealed that 67% of hybrid workers feel more productive when working from home rather than in their central office.  

The pros of hybrid work:

  • Flexibility with structure: hybrid models offer a blend of in-office and remote work, providing flexibility while maintaining some level of in-person interaction.
  • Enhanced collaboration: scheduled in-office days foster teamwork and creativity by facilitating face-to-face collaboration.
  • Personalized work experience: employees can tailor their work environments to their needs, enhancing satisfaction and productivity.  

The cons of hybrid work:

  • Complex coordination: managing who is in-office and when can become a logistical challenge, potentially leading to inefficiencies.
  • Inequality concerns: there's a risk of deskless or frontline workers not having the same flexibility and opportunities as others.
  • Consistency in policy: establishing fair and consistent policies for both remote and in-office employees can be difficult.

Overall employee experience of hybrid work

The hybrid model is often seen as the best of both worlds, allowing for personal flexibility while still providing opportunities for in-person engagement and collaboration. However, it requires careful management to ensure inclusivity and fairness. It can also be costly for organizations who are paying for spaces that are only occupied half of the time by their employees.  

In-office Work: Connection Through Tradition

In-office or onsite work is when employees must be in their physical organization's office during their working hours. This is the work model that everyone is most familiar with, because prior to the pandemic, it was the norm.  

Today, with so many organizations experimenting with different working models, it's unusual to commute every day to a physical office space, but for some that’s their preference and how they feel the most productive and perform their best.  

It’s important to remember that not everyone has the ability or luxury to work from home. Some people may not have the space for an office set up, have decent working conditions like high-performing wireless internet or air conditioning, and some people may not feel comfortable working from their home.  

Many aspects of personal lives can get in the way of working from home like children or family responsibilities, pets or animals, home renovations or repairs orlack of space, resulting in people preferring to work in-office rather than their home.  

The pros of in-office work:

  • Culture and collaboration: in-office work fosters a strong sense of community and culture, making it easier to collaborate, share ideas, and build relationships.
  • Structured environment: the physical office provides a structured environment that can enhance focus and productivity.
  • Immediate support: employees have immediate access to support and resources, facilitating quicker problem-solving and decision-making.

The cons of in-office work:

  • Commuting stress: daily commutes can be time-consuming and stressful, impacting employees' health and productivity.
  • Less flexibility: the traditional 9-5 in-office model offers less flexibility, which can affect work-life balance and employee satisfaction.
  • Higher costs: for both the organization and employees, in-office work entails higher costs, from real estate to commuting expenses.

Overall employee experience of in-office work

While in-office work supports a vibrant company culture and immediate collaboration, the lack of flexibility can be a significant drawback for those valuing work-life balance. High levels of burnout and stress can come from feeling like you can’t leave your desk all day. While some find this traditional approach productive, others may feel more supported in a hybrid or remote setting.  

Best Practices for Implementing Work Models

The future of work is not one-size-fits-all. The choice between remote, hybrid, and in-office models depends on an organization's goals, culture, and the nature of work. A great start would be to survey your employees to better understand what they feel would work best for them. Your employees are your most valuable asset, and where and how they can be the most productive and successful in their work should be a top priority.  

Here are some best practices when choosing a work model:

  1. Gather insights: find out what your employees’ preferences are and what would be the reasonable solution for your organization.  
  1. Clear communication: establish and communicate clear policies and expectations for the work model you’ve selected.
  1. Invest in technology: ensure employees have the tools and technology they need to succeed, regardless of their work location.
  1. Foster inclusivity: create opportunities for all employees to engage and connect, preventing any feelings of isolation or disconnect.
  1. Monitor and adapt: regularly assess the effectiveness of your work model and be prepared to make adjustments based on feedback and changing circumstances.

By prioritizing flexibility, communication, and employee wellbeing, organizations can navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, creating environments where employees thrive and contribute to their fullest potential.

The Kudos Model: Keeping Employees Connected

Kudos enhances workplace connectivity across remote, hybrid, and in-office models by enabling peer recognition tied to organizational values, culture, and performance. It offers a vast selection of necessary tools like recognition, ecards, pulse surveys, employee rewards, and robust people and culture analytics to facilitate meaningful connections for employees at all levels.  

Supporting HR leaders in building strong, inclusive, and resilient workplace cultures is what Kudos does, regardless of the working model your organization has chosen. No matter the approach, employees should feel engaged, valued, and recognized for their contributions from anywhere at any time.  

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About Kudos

Kudos is an employee engagement, culture, and analytics platform, that harnesses the power of peer-to-peer recognition, values reinforcement, and open communication to help organizations boost employee engagement, reduce turnover, improve culture, and drive productivity and performance. Kudos uses unique proprietary methodologies to deliver essential people analytics on culture, performance, equity, and inclusion, providing organizations with deep insights and a clear understanding of their workforce.

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