Future Work

The Latest Stanford Remote & Work from Home Study Results

The Stanford Remote Work from Home Study researches remote work, it's benefits, and impact. Read the latest results here

Welcome to
Future Work

Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.

Not a member yet? Join over 10,000 people-centric managers and subscribe here.

Rather listen? The spoken version will be available tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

But with so much information about hybrid and remote working models (see 100+ remote work statistics here), it can be hard to separate fact from fiction and understand what is hybrid remote work exactly and how to do it well.

This week, Stanford professor and the world's leading researcher on working from home (WFH), Nick Bloom, released new research that sheds light on the realities of hybrid remote management. Here are five key insights that every hybrid remote manager should know to lead successful, more productive teams.

Below, I've summarized some of the key findings, some of which really surprised me.

Hybrid remote work is here to stay.

Hybrid remote work (see the hybrid remote meaning) and remote work are working models where companies let employees work in the office on some days and from home on others. And it's here to stay.

As we all know, COVID has drastically changed how people work. Work-from-home (WFH) has become the new norm, as according to Bloom's study, WFH is stabilizing at about 25% of days, a five-fold jump from 2019.

What is hybrid remote work – work from home days
What is hybrid remote work – work from home days

Singapore and Canada are the countries that work from home the most, with an average of 2.8 days per week. In contrast, Korea works from home the least, only 0.8 days. Across the world, WFH is typically 1 or 2 days per week.

What is hybrid remote work – days at home by country
What is hybrid remote work – days at home by country

What is the difference between hybrid and remote work?

In our fast-evolving world of work, new and confusing terminology begs the question of the difference between hybrid and remote work. Hybrid refers to any model with some office days, whereas remote work typically describes people who work from home full-time.

An interesting exception are so-called remote-first companies. These companies typically allow people to work from home fully but offer opportunities to go and work in an office, which can be a hub office in a certain location or a coworking space.

Almost every company is a hybrid remote company.

Despite the averages, WFH has also brought about new ways of categorizing employees. Employees are split into three groups, and most companies have some of all:

  • 60% of full-time in-office employees: front-line employees, mostly non-graduates, and lower-paid.
  • 28% of hybrid employees, who are professionals and managers, are mostly graduates and higher-paid.
  • 12% are full-time work-from-home employees, holding specialized roles such as IT support, payroll, etc., often as contractors.

So while not every company is fully remote or hybrid, many companies have at least some roles that don't require employees to be on-site, full-time.

Remote hybrid is especially popular in finance and tech.

Based on the Survey of Workplace Attitudes and Arrangements, work from home is particularly high in tech and finance, with information (including parts of tech) working from home 2.72 days/week, followed by finance, insurance, and professional & business services.

On the other hand, transportation, hospitality, personal services, retail, and manufacturing understandably work from the office most.

What is hybrid remote work – days from home by industry
What is hybrid remote work – days from home by industry

How to do it well: Six Facts Every Hybrid Remote Manager Should Know

1. Hybrid work is of real value to team members

Some managers have been skeptical of hybrid and remote work, worrying that employees won’t work as much and will start disconnecting from their teams and work. More on this later.

They should keep in mind that regarding the benefits of hybrid work, there are several reasons why it's considered valuable. According to Bloom's research, employees see it as a significant part of the employer value proposition: what makes a particular company an attractive place to work.

Many employees value the option to work from home as much as an 8% pay increase. Additionally, certain industries, such as technology and finance, score even higher regarding the value employees place on hybrid work. For these industries, the value of hybrid work is closer to 11% and 10%, respectively.

Hybrid Remote Work Model – Value in Pay Increase
Hybrid Remote Work Model – Value in Pay Increase

This shows how important it is for companies and managers to offer hybrid work options to attract and retain top talent. WFH has also reduced quit rates by 35%. This significant reduction shows that WFH can positively impact employee retention.

Hybrid Remote Work Model – Increase Employee Retention
Hybrid Remote Work Model – Increase Employee Retention

Once employees have tasted the benefits of hybrid work, it's hard to put the genie back into the bottle. In a well-developed market like Singapore, FlexOS research shows that of employees currently practicing hybrid work, more than half (52%) would quit their jobs if they no longer had this privilege.

Hybrid Remote Work Employee Retention Singapore
Hybrid Remote Work Employee Retention Singapore

2. Hybrid remote work positively impacts diversity

Bloom’s research also shows the positive impact of hybrid WFH on diversity in various dimensions (race, gender, age, politics, and religion).

For companies investing in attracting under-represented groups, offering work from home is crucial. Women out-index men in desiring work-from-home, and so do under-represented groups vs. their white peers.

Hybrid Remote Work – Increase Diversity
Hybrid Remote Work – Increase Diversity

3. Most Employees DO NOT want to work from home every day

According to Bloom's study, most employees still prefer some days in the office, with younger employees preferring even more time than older employees. The research shows that the desired number of days in the office hovers somewhere between 2.5 and 3, and only 50+ employees significantly want to work from home full-time.

Hybrid Remote Work – How Many Days?
Hybrid Remote Work – How Many Days?

Employees often experience Office FOMO, especially the group of 35-44-year-olds. It’s great to be working from home until you realize you’re missing out on activities and opportunities in the office.

Hybrid Remote Work – Office FOMO
Hybrid Remote Work – Office FOMO

4. Employees are working harder than ever

The (hybrid) remote working model has led to employees working harder than ever and work life balance is in danger. The time commuting, which was never considered working time, is now spent on more work. We saw before that average workday span (+13%), after-hours and weekend work (+28%, +14%, respectively), time in meetings (+252%), and chats sent (+32%) all went up during the pandemic.

This data also shows that productivity is not an issue, as managers feared. Fully remote employees are typically slightly less productive, but it lowers costs for companies at the same time. An organized hybrid working model where companies pick which days in the office, raises productivity a little (1% to 3%) but certainly doesn’t decrease the amount of work that we do. This is mostly because we spend less time commuting and have more time to do focused work without any distractions.

Hybrid Remote Work – Commuting Time Spent
Hybrid Remote Work – Commuting Time Spent

5. Coordinating schedules is critically important.

Coordinating schedules in this new kind of work arrangement is also important. Almost 1 in 2 employees state that they return to the office knowing that their favorite colleagues are in on a certain day. Gallup research shows employees choosing their hybrid schedule and which days to come to the office boost employee happiness and engagement.

But Bloom has bad news for those in enterprises.

Hybrid Remote Work Model – SME vs Enterprises
Hybrid Remote Work Model – SME vs Enterprises

The larger the company, the fewer employees can expect full autonomy over when and where they work. In companies under 25 employees, more than half of the employees can decide on their hybrid schedule. For companies with over 250 employees, on the other hand, only a fraction of employees have that choice; it’s more likely that their manager or company will decide for them.

For employees with a flexible schedule wanting to avoid showing up to an empty office, enjoy your long weekend! Recent research from Scoop shows that Mondays and Fridays are the least popular days to come into the office.

Hybrid Work: Which Days to Go Into the Office?
Hybrid Work: Which Days to Go Into the Office?

Managers can use the free Hybrid Work Schedule tool to ensure their teams come to the office on the same day. This prevents people from feeling disappointed when they come into the office and find no one there (they care about), and helps maintain motivation for future office days.

The research paper recommends managers to:

  • coordinate your team to come in on the same 2 or 3 days each week (I like Gallup’s build on this to make this an agreement employees make to each other, not management.)
  • promote in-person meetings (just don’t overload them), events, coffee, training, and lunches on those office days
  • suggest cross-office zoom meetings and reading, writing, data, etc. on home days
  • treat anchor day attendance like 2019 in-person attendance: exemptions only for emergencies like a sick child, burst water pipe, or illness
  • for new hires (< 1 or 2 years), add an extra day in the office for mentoring

Beyond just office days, clear expectations should be set about collaborating and communicating on all workdays. Research from Microsoft shows that only 28% of companies created clear team agreements. Not setting clear expectations leads to confusion and a subpar employee experience.

6. Designing intentional office days is key

The top 3 benefits of working in the office are face-to-face collaboration, socializing, and managing work-life boundaries. This is why there’s nothing worse for people than showing up to the office and sitting at their desks to do Zoom calls all day. Often annoy colleagues around them because there aren’t enough phone booths available.

Benefits of Being in the Office – Global

These reasons for coming to the office align with our insights. However, in Singapore, more employees show up to do focused work, which may reflect the differences between Singapore and the U.S. regarding proper workspace at home and childcare opportunities.

Benefits of Being in the Office – Singapore
Benefits of Being in the Office – Singapore

Interestingly, Gen Z (18-24) prefers to be in the office for on-the-job learning so they can receive direct feedback. This preference is understandable, as about 80% of learning occurs through shadowing others – which is difficult to do from home. In contrast, millennials (25-34) come to the office for the right environment and vibe to work, more so than other age groups.

Beyond work, additional reasons to come into the office are centered around connecting with others. Our research shows that 67% of hybrid workers are motivated to come to the office for social, creative, well-being, and training workshops, particularly when these workshops are conducted in small groups with like-minded colleagues, or in other words, their "community."

Benefits of Being in the Office – By Category
Benefits of Being in the Office – By Category

Get-togethers can also come in team lunches, coffee breaks, co-working sessions, and other group activities organized by managers. Get-togethers such as team lunches, coffee breaks, co-working sessions, and other group activities organized by managers (53%) closely follow workshops. These are also a big part of the key meetings every hybrid manager needs to have on their calendar.

Managers need to ensure that office days are designed around what employees want and expect from those days or risk seeing them come to the office space less, wasting their high real estate investment. The same meeting cadence needs to be in place for those working remotely. Just because there's no physical office doesn't mean we can't be intentional about how and when we meet!

Let’s move forward!

Managing a hybrid or remote team can be challenging, but leading more productive teams is possible with the right knowledge. Practice these six tips to run your successful hybrid or remote team. Hopefully, with this in mind, the question of what is hybrid remote work has been answered well.

Welcome to
Future Work

Every week, I scan the news for must-know stories about the employee-centric, happier, distributed, and AI-driven future of work.

Not a member yet? Join over 10,000 people-centric managers and subscribe here.

Rather listen? The spoken version will be available tomorrow on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts.

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