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Why Hybrid Work Is a Set of Principles, Not an End Goal

The discussion around hybrid working models has been such a hot one since COVID began that tracking what’s new and best can be challenging for even the most aware planners out there. First, it was the return to work and then, before that conversation ended, we started talking about flexible and hybrid working. What’s next, and why did we get into such a confusing state to begin with?

Remote-first, remote-never, hybrid, flexible, office hoteling, hub-and-spoke and beyond. We see so many different angles and approaches to the new way of working because the occupier firms leading the discussion have so many unique business scenarios. Everyone wants an easy-to-follow guide to the best way to set up their own offices, but something so cut and dry is a pipedream. It sounds elementary, but the type of working strategy that allows firms to reach max productivity for the dollar is a moving target based on the organization’s priorities, culture, and willingness to try new things. 

Despite the many approaches currently in play, there are some ways to see the bigger picture of what strategies and approaches will likely rise to the top. Consider the recently released 2022 Commercial Real Estate Outlook from Deloitte, which found most real estate professionals view sustainable properties, dynamic and reconfigurable spaces, and flexible leases as the three biggest ways to add value for tenants. Each of those are very strong bets for themes that will define the future of working. Even sustainability, which seems at first glance to be a little tangential to workplace strategy, will probably suffuse through the workplace until they are as indistinguishable as commercial properties and tenant experience. 

Another element of clarity comes from our recent research report How Tech is Helping Companies Optimize a Hybrid Future, which we produced with Smarten Spaces. In this report, we explore a range of strategies that companies across various industries are currently taking to maximize productivity as they face the brave new world of working. We then analyze the specific tactics and tools that make these new, more productive working arrangements possible, like communication technology and specific arrangements of workers over various geographies. Our report provides a solid basis of understanding to help workplace planners and corporate real estate officers make the most educated decisions possible when considering the future of work for their own firms. 

There is no lack of angles to consider when planning the future hybrid workplace and, as mentioned before, there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution. Hybrid might not be a yes or no state that workplaces can attain or fail to attain, but rather as a set of principles and approaches that businesses can choose from to best match their unique operating scenario. 

Treating hybrid as a set of principles and not a single vision for the best workplace offers a lot of benefits. For one thing, it would help offices avoid falling into the open layout trap. This was the period in the 2000s when open-plan offices were all the rage and firms in industries that had no business setting up open-plan offices drank the Kool-Aid to the detriment of their workers. Not every business needs to be 100 percent remote or 100 percent in-person. Let’s not pretend like they do. 

For another reason, treating hybrid as an approach and not a specific end result should empower businesses to be up-front with their workplace goals. Instead of paying lip service to hybrid and then still doing things the old-fashioned way, or developing processes that confuse and contradict, be open about the approach to work. This will help businesses attract the right candidates for their DNA, not ones that leave after a few months because they found out they wanted a different work style. 

The day is young for Work 2.0 and we will certainly see more approaches to hybrid as the years go by. Let’s not fool ourselves by thinking the authoritative book on the subject is ready to be written yet.

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