Hybrid Work Culture – The Final Compromise?

To say that the Great Pandemic of 2020 was a transformative event would be an understatement.  It changed just about everything, including huge alterations to the landscape of the world of work.

Virtually overnight, tens of millions of people around the world began working exclusively from home and companies scrambled to facilitate that change and to develop coherent policies around it.

It turned out that remote working was incredibly popular with employees, though somewhat less so with management, so eventually, when the pandemic receded into the world’s rearview mirror, management began making moves to bring people back into the office.

This sparked an avalanche of articles from all corners of the internet predicting a showdown between employees who wanted to work from home and managers who wanted them back in the office.  Which side would win?

Fast forward to today and it seems that we have our answer.  Both sides won.  Neither side won.  The future is here, and its name is Hybrid Work Culture.  A recent Gallup poll confirms this.

During the opening days of the pandemic, it shows exactly what you’d expect it to.  A vast surge in the number of people working from home, which, according to the data collected, peaked at 70% of remote-capable jobs being performed 100% remotely (no in-office hours at all) in May of 2020 before beginning to decline.

In tandem with this, we saw the number of remote-capable jobs being performed exclusively in the office crater, falling from 60% down to just 12%.

Then, as the pandemic began to recede, we saw management begin to claw back some of that, insisting that more and more people return to the office, but here’s where things get interesting.

Rather than insisting that everyone return to a 100% in-office paradigm, we saw the rise of the hybrid work environment, with managers typically specifying that remote workers be in the office 2-3 days a week, allowing them to work remotely for the remainder of the time. 

The percentage of hybrid workers stood at 32% (again, of remote-capable jobs) in January 2019, about a year before the pandemic, dropped to just 18% during the Pandemic, and then began climbing steadily, reaching 31% in June 2021, 42% in February of 2022, and then 49% in June of that same year (2022).

It pretty much levelled off in 2023 and 2024, but is expected to surge to between 53% and 59% in the year ahead. 

It’s true as a percentage, pure-remote working is also increasing, but at a much more modest pace, having fallen from its lofty heights during the pandemic to just 26% in November 2022, and had only managed to increase to 29% by May of 2023.

It’s worth mentioning that it’s not just managers who are happier with this arrangement.  More than half of remote workers say they prefer hybrid work as it makes them feel more connected and engaged with their colleagues, which is a win for everyone involved.

All of that to say that the fears that management will insist that everybody return to the office are probably overblown.  Similarly, Management’s fears that the whole world will start working remotely are likewise probably overblown.

The corporate world seems to have found a comfortable middle ground, and it looks like the hybrid work environment is here to stay!