(TND) — People who learned to work remotely during the pandemic aren't all rushing back full-time to the office, and that is unlikely to ever happen, experts say.
So, it’s probably a good idea to look at what works best for a hybrid workforce. That’s what Gallup researchers recently examined.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hybrid work – a mix of days in the office and working from home.
Different companies carry out different tasks and demands for their employees.
But labor economist Aaron Sojourner says both fully remote work, as well as hybrid approaches, have been mostly good.
Productivity, he said, has remained high through the various stages of remote working brought on by the pandemic.
“I think it’s going to turn out to be good, for sure, because it’s creating new options,” said Sojourner, who is a senior researcher at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. Sojourner was not involved with the Gallup survey.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to where we were before the pandemic,” he said.
The Gallup survey of thousands of “remote-capable” employees found that flexible working arrangements have overwhelmingly become the expectation.
Eight in 10 of these workers expect it from their employer going forward, according to Gallup.
Gallup wanted to see how companies are handling hybrid work schedules and what employees want.
It can be a tough balancing act for companies, both Gallup and Sojourner said.
Gallup found that employees greatly want a say in when they make the trek into their offices, but Sojourner noted that management needs to come up with plans, so they don’t either only have overly crowded offices or workspaces sitting unused for long stretches.
Gallup also noted that if hybrid work isn’t well coordinated, teamwork, employee engagement, and organizational culture can break down.
“The pandemic forced every organization and every worker to invest in figuring out how to do their work remotely as maximally as possible, right? To push as far as they could,” Sojourner said.
Folks on hybrid schedules are evenly distributed across the spectrum of days in the office.
Gallup found a third of workers spend just one day a week in the office, a third spend two to three days in the office, and a third spend four days in the office.
Of those surveyed, 88% prefer three days or fewer at their workplace, according to Gallup.
Not surprisingly, Mondays and Fridays are the least popular days to show up at the office. People want to ease into their workweek on Mondays and get jumpstarts on their weekends on Fridays.
Gallup says its findings show two to three days in the office each week tends to be optimal for employee engagement. But, of course, all of that depends on the specific company and tasks being performed.
The more you work together, the more days in the office you may need.
Gallup found top-down requirements can take a toll on employee engagement. Workers often want their own teams to have the ability to set attendance policies.
Many hybrid workers, 60%, do not want their employer to set a universal scheduling policy, according to Gallup.
Flexibility in work schedules has become an expectation, according to Gallup. People will change jobs for it, and they don’t expect to take pay cuts for the benefit of working remotely, Gallup said.
Sojourner said remote work can be good for both companies and workers.
Companies can tap into bigger pools of candidates, not constrained by geography. And workers can access new, possibly better, companies.
Sojourner said companies and their employees figured out how to produce remotely when the pandemic struck. Now that people don’t have to work from home, everyone is trying to find the right balance between home and the office.
“The new optimum is somewhere in the middle, and it’s going to vary for different organizations,” Sojourner said.