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Hybrid is the Worst of Both Worlds

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

My theory is that #hybridwork is generally "the worst of both worlds", but let's explore...

The case for fully in-office:

1. Physical proximity increases worker productivity and enhances cross-team relationship building - yes. However, the thresholds and limitations aren't clear. How close and how frequent is required? Where do diminishing returns kick in? Maybe Brad Harris or David Allen could offer some guidance here?

The case for fully distributed:

1. Massive increase in your talent pool - hire from anywhere, not just within commuting distance.

2. Potential for reduced payroll costs - hiring at a lower cost in other geographies.

3. Increased worker retention - according to a Qualtrics study, 76% of millennials would accept a pay cut in exchange for more flexibility .

4. Cost savings due to less commercial office space.

5. Sufficient and efficient worker collaboration and network-building can be supported through planned gatherings, i.e. new hire onboarding, team/department planning sessions, sales kickoff meeting.

Nothing but downsides in a hybrid environment:

1. Hybrid presence in a physical office constrains your talent pool similarly to full-time in the office. You can only attract / retain workers that live within reasonable commuting distance from the office, if regular attendance (1+ time per week) is required.

2. Recruiting only within a tight geography also eliminates the potential for labor cost arbitrage.

3. Worker retention is better than fully in-office, but not as good as fully distributed. True?

4. The physical office footprint and associated costs are essentially the same as a full in-office environment - unless your org introduces "hoteling spaces" which carry their own positives and (many) negatives.

5. There is a need for coordination (time and $$) to align schedules for "team togetherness", since not everyone is around all the time. So, you're paying for the full-time office and ALSO planning the team gatherings.

For clarity, "hybrid" in this case refers to situations in which an employer REQUIRES workers to be physically present in a central office location at least 1+ times per week. Office-as-an-Option (OAAO, "Oh Ayy Oh") or Office-as-a-Perk (OAAP, "Oh App") approaches are essentially fully distributed solutions, offering workers the potential to come together in a shared physical location if and when they so choose (not driven by employer requirements).

A few relevant data points:

- 34% of workers report that the structure of their workday makes it challenging to perform in a sustainable way over time.

- Employees without access to flexibility are 2x as likely to report being dissatisfied at work

- Half of employees say they would leave their company if offered a more flexible alternative

- 70% of employees find on-site work unnecessary

- 30% of workers report being more engaged and productive with remote work

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