What is a hybrid workplace model & what is it like in Singapore?

September 22, 2022

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Nothing has redefined the way we live and work quite like the COVID-19 pandemic. Arguably one of the biggest footprints the pandemic has left on this world is the popularisation of the hybrid workplace.

A hybrid office model is one that integrates in-person and remote work arrangements with the intention of reaping the benefits of both. Employees benefit from more flexibility whilst retaining ease of access to colleagues should they need to discuss urgent matters. It’s a win-win situation for employees and employers.

And in Singapore, this all became a thing sometime in late 2021 in the middle of the pandemic.

While the devastation caused by the pandemic will eventually become a thing of the past, it seems like the hybrid work model is here to stay. In fact, the majority of local companies will be sticking to a hybrid work model.

Let’s examine how it gained popularity and the benefits it brought about.

How did the hybrid workplace come about in Singapore?

At the start of the pandemic, many people were either furloughed, laid off, or left their jobs as they started prioritising their personal well-being more. A never before seen paradigm shift in attitudes toward work occurred in Singapore, with many turning to side hustles or freelance work to earn money online.

As the world started to open up again, the great rehiring occurred. More companies found it difficult to recruit talent as more people had begun to value their personal time more. 

To some, time wasted commuting to work and being physically present in pointless meetings were no longer an option. But to others (38% specifically), working in the office was more productive and presented more opportunities to bond with colleagues.

The hybrid workplace model was implemented after Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that 50% of the workforce could return to work in the office. Employees either worked in the office on alternate weeks or alternate days throughout the week. This provided the best of both worlds. More personal time (albeit a bit less than a fully remote arrangement) while having easy access to colleagues to discuss pertinent matters.

And this arrangement has stuck ever since. 

What is the difference between hybrid and remote work environments?

While both arrangements favour the flexibility of employees, one takes the best of hybrid and in-office work models and combines them into one. In that regard, you could say that the hybrid work arrangement is partially remote. Both models allow you to work from home.

What are the benefits of hybrid work environments?

1) Switching environment facilitates entry into the flow state to enhance productivity

The flow state is one in which an individual is able to fully immerse themself in whatever they are doing. It is a state of mind that comes with intense focus. 

And one of the key methods to entering this state is to eliminate all forms of distractions.

Hybrid work models facilitate this nicely. If you’re too tempted to chat with colleagues in the office, working from the comfort of your peaceful home can help with that. If your home has too many people in a small space, then perhaps working in a quiet meeting room in the office would help.

You’ll have the flexibility to switch around when one work environment is no longer conducive for you to be productive.

And this was happening way before COVID-19 happened when people were mingling in person. Imagine how much this problem can potentially be magnified when people move over to online communication, where employees now have visual and auditory cues removed from their conversations.

2) Employees get some flexibility in managing their work schedule

On the point of flexibility, productivity levels aren’t the only things that benefit from hybrid work arrangements.

Having the flexibility to manage your schedule also means having more time to spend doing the things you care about. And for some, this makes a huge difference for those who have heavy personal commitments like taking care of children or live incredibly far from the workplace.

This has an underestimated positive effect on employees’ mental health and well-being.

3) But they also get the benefit of being able to work in close proximity with their teammates

I think it’s quite safe to say that we have all experienced slow or even an absence of a response every time we ping a co-worker to ask for something. And productivity can really take a hit.

Having that in-person work arrangement helps speed things up a lot when you need them to. 

Need an urgent response from someone in another team? Just walk over to their desk. Need help with solving complex problems? Have an in-depth discussion over lunch at the office cafeteria.

Spending parts of your week in the office isn’t all bad. It can really help get things moving when you need them to.

What are the cons of hybrid work environments?

1) It may not be suitable for all industries

The hybrid model simply cannot be applied to certain fields of work.

Chart showing how suitable various industries are suited for hybrid workplace models.
A chart from a McKinsey & Company study on the industries that are suited for hybrid workplace models.

 

Some of these industries include quality assurance, construction, and client-facing ones. Buildings need people physically present to be, well, built. Power plants will need on-site staff to watch over and maintain the equipment. Manufactured goods will require the presence of employees actually to assess the quality of the products.

As for client-facing roles, while technology has empowered us to run effective virtual meetings, many customers still prefer to meet the account managers in person. And who are you to deny your paying customers what they want if it is a reasonable request?

2) Increases in some unnecessary fixed costs

During the pandemic, many companies actually provide stipends to support employees in helping them set up their workstations. The money is typically used to pay for office chairs, work desks, or even an additional monitor screen. 

Meanwhile, both remote and hybrid office models will cause you to waste a part of your fixed costs. Think office rental and utility fees. When there are few to no people in the office, isn’t it a bit of a waste to turn on the air conditioners?

What are the best practices for implementing a hybrid workplace?

1) Facilitate it with technology

These days, technology seems to provide the solution to most of our problems. And disruption to in-person work arrangements is just one of the many problems that tech can solve.

Some of the best work-from-home productivity tools are great at supporting your organisation’s hybrid work arrangement. 

 

For instance, co-working space booking apps like Deskimo allow users to book a slot at any co-working space we partner with to use their facilities. This can potentially help companies save money by eliminating the need for a work-from-home setup stipend and paying monthly rental fees for a fixed office space.

2) Never compromise on company culture

These days, getting employees to come back to work can be a touchy subject. That’s because many of them have come to a realisation that they have no need to be in the office to get work done. And mandates to get staff to go back to the office are now perceived as illogical and archaic.

Managers need to give employees a reason to come back. And a great way to do this is by introducing in-office perks. 

This can come in the form of things like a fully stocked pantry, after-work dinners, and team bonding activities during work hours. Building a great company culture does wonders in improving employee satisfaction and improving retention rates.

3) Actively and regularly gather feedback

To most employees in Singapore, the hybrid work model is very new. Managers need to regularly collate feedback from their employees to get a better understanding of how the new policies and changes are affecting them.

Apart from scheduling routine feedback sessions, it is also important to assure employees that you have an open-door policy when it comes to feedback. If you are concerned that employees are not willing to share their concerns openly, you can subscribe to anonymous feedback-sharing tools and get your employees to submit feedback to the management team.

4) Never treat your in-office employees better than your hybrid ones

While this comes as a no-brainer to many, to some, working away from the office somehow automatically makes you less of an employee of the organisation.

For example, some companies believe that remote and hybrid employees should be paid less. This is in spite of the fact that hybrid employees are just as capable when it comes to meeting deadlines and producing good work. 

This can and most likely will cause a lot of unhappiness among your hybrid workers and can even lead to high turnover rates.

The hybrid work model is here to stay

We hope that this article has provided you with insights into the hybrid work trend and its benefits to the organisation.

While it definitely has its cons, the benefits cannot be understated. And with the help of tech solutions, managing a hybrid team has become that much easier. 

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