Hybrid work schedules can open the door to new working parent possibilities. Switching from working in an office alone every day to working in coffee shops 2-3 days a week increased the flow of my creative juices and gave me a sense of autonomy that I’d been craving. I quit my job and started freelancing full-time by the end of 2019. My former boss is now my client and today, you can find me at The Haven CoWorking in Bend, Oregon, soaking up the Deschutes River views.
Flexible Work Solutions
A few months into postpartum depression and after returning to the office when my son was six weeks old, I asked my boss if I could work remotely a few days a week; this was in 2019. I didn’t know it was considered hybrid working back then, I just knew it allowed me to feel more in control of my time and performance as a new mom and full-time worker.
Working from coffee shops a few days a week cut my hours spent commuting to and from the office from 10 hours a week to 4-6 hours a week. This shift increased the hours spent with my newborn, reducing the stress of rushing home with bags of breast milk.
Many workers, parents and non-parents, have experienced a similar boost in quality of life while working from home during the pandemic. In an October 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 38% of workers said their jobs can mostly be done from home. Of this group, 71% of workers reported working from home all or most of the time, a significant jump from the 20% that said they worked from home before the pandemic. A majority of remote workers (54%) said they’d like to continue working remotely after the pandemic and a third want to work from home some of the time -- enter the hybrid schedule.
Source: Pew Research Center
Remote, Hybrid, or Office — How Will Companies Choose?
As employers consider what their post-pandemic workplace will look like, they need to take into account the wishes of the 54% of workers that want to continue working remotely and the 46% that either want to return to the office or do a hybrid of the two.
A CNBC survey of top executives in human resources, finance and technology found that 45% of companies expect to lead with a hybrid work model by the second half of 2021. But before companies send out their return-to-office memos, they should survey their workers.
Mercer’s Lauren Mason cites various studies that “have shown consistent differences between leaders’ perceptions of their employees’ workplace preferences versus those of the employees themselves.” She says employees often place a much higher value on flexibility than their employers realize. And about 80 Apple workers recently validated that sentiment.
One size does not fit all
As data from the Pew Research Center survey illustrate, some remote workers are thriving, others are not. Company leaders need to gather and consider the preferences of each employee before designing and issuing their post-pandemic work schedules.
- 49% of workers new to remote work or telework say they now have more flexibility to choose when — and where — they work.
- 38% of new teleworkers say it’s easier now to balance work with family responsibilities.
- 53% of teleworkers ages 18 to 29 say it’s been difficult for them to feel motivated to do their work since the coronavirus outbreak started. Only 20% of teleworkers 50 and older are having a hard time feeling motivated.
- 50% of teleworkers that are parents with children younger than 18 say it’s been difficult for them to be able to get their work done without interruptions since the coronavirus outbreak started. In contrast, only 20% of teleworkers who don’t have children under 18 say the same.
Source: Pew Research Center
My own experience back in 2019 further illustrates that one work schedule, even a hybrid one, does not fit all. I was a part of a seven-person team and the preferred work schedule varied with each person, even amongst parents with young children. All of my team members were women and three of us had babies or young children at the time. In this group of three, each of us was the primary earner in our household and two of us had partners that were stay-at-home parents. Despite these similarities, each of us preferred a different type of work schedule.
While a hybrid schedule was best for me, one colleague preferred to work long hours at the office and the other enjoyed working at the office but having the flexibility to arrive later and leave later. Today, with all of the changes that workplaces have undergone over the last year, employers have a real opportunity to do what my boss did in 2019: listen to your team members and, where possible, let each decision of where to work be an individual one. Understand that the conditions that allow a person to maximize their strengths, productivity, etc. are fluid, and one size does not fit all.
Once employers have surveyed their workers, they can begin to reimagine what their ideal workplace looks like. That includes reimagining their physical spaces, virtual spaces and office perks. If a hybrid schedule is a good option for some or all of the employees, they should start experimenting with answers to questions like:
- “What is worthy of our collective time, and how should it be structured?”
- What are we actually trying to achieve? — and not, where will we be sitting when we achieve it?
- How can we transform the physical office from a space where people work to a place where people collaborate and ideate?
- Do we need to keep an office, or would we be better off holding in-person meetings at a co-working space?
- What digital communication tools have been proven to be effective at engaging team members and fostering collaboration?