At the start of the pandemic, we were “forced” into social distancing. Lack of human interaction and uncertainty of future circumstances have put us under stress. As time goes by, we’ve gotten used to the convenience of working from home, and have adjusted to online communication. Surprisingly, it seems that many white-collar workers are reluctant to return to the office if they perceive work from home does not affect work products. Hence, in the new normal, many PR agencies and brands are finding it difficult to convince their employees to get out of the house.
According to PRCA’s Mental Health Report 2021, there were mixed opinions on COVID-19 impact on mental health across countries: while Singapore and Malaysia observed negative effects; respondents from Vietnam, Thailand, and Taiwan said that social distancing has improved their mental health. This suggests that our home offices have given us the privacy and quietude we needed to achieve peace of mind.
So when new normal comes into place, work-from-home vs. work-from-office: Which model is a good fit in the world’s new normal? The answer is both: a hybrid workplace.
According to Work Trend Index 2021 by Microsoft, hybrid working is inevitable. After surveying 30,000 people in 31 countries, 73% employees expressed that they wanted their company to keep remote working as an option. But at the same time, 67% respondents sought in-person interaction and collaboration after pandemic restrictions end. The data indicated that there is a significant number of people looking for both online and offline interactions, which can be attained through a hybrid working model.
With COVID-19 still lurking around, working at the office makes many people concerned about health and safety. On the other hand, while remote working is very convenient and reduces the amount of time spent preparing or going to work, many employees find it challenging to communicate with colleagues or finish work on time. What would you do if someone refuse to answer their phone right before deadlines?
Also, in the long run, remote working puts pressure on maintaining work cultures and codes of ethics. Employers find it hard to build trust and organizational bonds between the companies and employees in the online landscape.
As a result, companies are now adopting the hybrid work model, allowing them to synchronize remote working and office working to ensure the bond stays intact and meets employees’ expectations for flexibility. As it features the best of both worlds, the hybrid model helps employers ensure the operations happen seamlessly and effortlessly maintains a dynamic, collaborative work culture for the team, wherever they are at.
Combining remote and physical working provides employees with more flexibility and autonomy to improve their productivity. Also, the companies can reinforce internal communications, work culture, ethics, teamwork, and a sense of belonging among the employees with frequent interpersonal interactions.
However, similar to working from home: connectivity could be a major challenge. It results in interrupted information transmission or unnecessary misunderstandings. Companies will need to ensure employees have well-connected technology and essential equipment to work productively. To solve this problem, companies could take on digital transformation by integrating modern online workplace systems to optimize data and file management, co-working space, and seamless video call interactions. There are many useful platforms, such as the well-known Microsoft Office 365, Google Workplace, or Zoho. Microsoft Teams witnessed more than double rise in usage for online meetings. And Zoho observed 60% growth even when the world is going through crisis. This shows that digital transformation and integrating business operating system is the new trend to adjust for hybrid working.
Instead of making the office feels like home like Google, Facebook, Youtube, Lego, etc., moving the office back to home is another solution for small companies that does not have the resource to make their office into a 5-star workplace. It is necessary to empower employees to choose their ideal workplace that accommodates their positions and personalities. By creating a comfortable working environment, companies will find it easier to increase employee satisfaction and retain talents while maintaining a work culture.
Hanh Le, Assistant to Managing Director at EloQ Communications, a leading PR and marketing agency in Vietnam.
Dinh Pho, an Internal Branding Intern at EloQ Communications. Dinh is pursuing her bachelor degree at Ton Duc Thang University, majoring in Marketing.