Is the reign of hybrid work coming to an end?

It is becoming increasingly challenging to make sense of the new workplace trends that seem to emerge every few months — from the Great Resignation of last year to the viral “quiet quitting,” and the latest buzzword, “quiet hiring.” Among the flood of workplace micro-trends that come and go every few months, hybrid work takes the top spot.

Since companies across the globe made the transition two years ago, we’ve seen employees embrace hybrid work. In fact, according to IDC, more than 56% of employees in the Asia-Pacific region want flexible work options.

However, that’s only one side of the coin. Despite some employees’ preference for the hybrid work model, companies are increasingly encouraging their workers to return to the office, with some going to the extent of mandating a return to office. For instance, the Walt Disney Company recently implemented a mandatory four-day work-from-office week, joining the ranks of Tesla, Uber, and Twitter.

This raises the question: Is the reign of hybrid work coming to an end? How do we begin to decipher the new ways to work in today’s modern workplace?

Embrace workplace flexibility 

One thing is certain: Organisations across Singapore can expect some resistance against returning to the office. In Logitech’s recent Hybrid Meetings survey, only 9% of Singapore respondents preferred returning to the office full time.

If workplace trends such as the Great Resignation and quiet quitting are indicators to go by, we are witnessing a shift in power dynamics, with the voices of employees becoming louder and greater expectations being set for more transparency, equity, and flexibility at work.

Flexible work arrangements are an increasing priority for employees, with a study conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies revealing that nearly half of respondents surveyed believe that it should be the new norm, and that organisations should allow employees to choose the days they prefer to return to the office. In the same study, some employees even expressed that they would consider resigning if they were mandated to return to the office on most days.

Based on these insights, prioritising a culture that embraces flexibility and employee well-being will be a competitive advantage in building a thriving organisation and driving long-term growth.

Focus on the “who” rather than the “where”

We all have our preferred working styles. You may be an advocate of remote working, but your colleague may prefer the structure of traditional hours and working from the office. What’s critical in our evolving work environment is empowering employees with the ability to choose how they work.

Organisations must continually refine their policies and initiatives to reflect people’s changing demands. With the increased autonomy for employees to choose between returning to the office or working remotely, it’s crucial to ensure that both in-office and remote workers are able to collaborate effectively.

This means rethinking traditional approaches to team dynamics and finding ways to bring physical and virtual teams together. Organisations will need to invest in videoconferencing technologies that enable seamless communication and collaboration between remote and in-office workers. Remote employees also need to be equipped with the tools to collaborate at the same level as their peers productively no matter where they choose to work from.

Finally, leaders should consider scheduling regular in-person meetings or team-building events to foster a sense of community and shared purpose among all team members.

Ensuring equity regardless of collaboration format

With more hybrid meetings taking place today, creating positive and equitable meeting experiences will be critical to facilitating productive discussions. In fact, 60% of respondents from Logitech’s Hybrid Meetings survey agreed that hybrid meetings would be more productive if all participants had an equal chance to speak and contribute.

In today’s increasingly hybrid work environment, the onus is on organisations and leaders to foster engagement, enable seamless collaboration, and place all meeting participants on equal footing regardless where they join from.

Technology will be key in ensuring meeting equity. Multiple cameras, high-quality audio/video, and smart AI technology that captures the best angle and camera shot for meetings will be the gold standard for video meetings in 2023 and beyond.

Workplace reimagined

The modern office is undergoing layout changes to cater to new demands. Offices are now becoming spaces of collaboration, exchange, and focus. Organisations are reimagining the office layout to serve different purposes, such as single-person phone booths for external meetings and calls, open spaces and small huddle rooms for informal catch-ups, and larger meeting rooms reserved for bigger in-office meetings such as town halls.

Having a variety of spaces provides a change of environment that stimulates creativity and collaboration, especially when outfitted with the right equipment. Integrating these spaces with AI technology can also help IT administrators understand how meeting spaces are utilised over time, generating insights to help monitor the usage of rooms and tweak office floor plans accordingly to ensure the best use of the limited real estate.

There is no guaranteed formula for success when it comes to navigating the modern workplace. Organisations that mandate returning to the office may face difficulties, just as those that require remote work from employees who prefer the office. In the end, creating a healthy and productive work environment comes down to providing employees with the freedom to choose what works best for them and equipping them with the right tools to be productive and efficient. At the end of the day, organisations that prioritise continuous dialogue to understand their people and communicate goals and expectations clearly are likely to be the most successful.