Is an Agile Work Environment the Future Iteration of Hybrid Jobs?

A mid adult businessman smiles confidently as he talks with a team of associates during a virtual meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The hybrid workplace model seems like it’s here to stay, despite the brief “great office return,” which has been placed on pause due to the Delta variant surge. While it has been praised as a great benefactor to work-life balance, now some experts argue that the hybrid model might not be what employees want and that this is not a “one size fits all” situation.

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Instead, employees would rather have flexibility, or “agility,” and choose on their own terms where and when they want to work. Some employees feel there are adverse consequences to the hybrid model due to the lack of human interaction from working from home. The BBC noted that these include a perception from those who often work from home that it could have a negative impact on their career, linked to a lack of interaction with colleagues and managers.

Ashley Paterson, founder and CEO of Healthy Hippo Naturals, agrees. She told GOBankingRates that while she feels like WFH seems like a more desirable option at times, “in all reality, nothing beats being face to face with management and working in an environment where you can bounce ideas off each other, oversee what everyone is doing and build stronger relationships.”

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Other potential negative consequences of the hybrid model include “those who want to climb the ladder could feel compelled to spend more time in the office, so they’re visible to the powers that be,” according to the BBC. “Some people, meanwhile, could experience difficulties switching seamlessly between home and office work environments.”

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Paris Riha, associate wealth advisor at Arch Global Advisors, says that while some see the idea of juggling two workplaces as frustrating, “it’s hard to believe that after a year and a half into the pandemic individuals don’t have a seamless work area set up at home in addition to the office.”

“I can almost guarantee that if individuals truly work hard, that work will be noticed whether you are present in the office or not,” Riha told GOBankingRates. “The one downside is that you are not able to communicate as easily among teams in the office — which can negatively affect how quickly you learn and grow.”

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In addition, flexibility, or the ability to choose the location of the workplace, is becoming more of a crucial factor. A survey by Mercer and AECOM found that when asked whether flexibility is of importance once the pandemic has passed, 56% of respondents said they would “consider switching employers if it wasn’t an option.”

Credit Karma, for example, isn’t asking workers to return to its offices in Oakland, California and Charlotte, North Carolina until January. When they do, however, the in-office schedule will be flexible and determined by the employee and manager instead of set company-wide, Colleen McCreary, chief people officer at Credit Karma, told CNBC. She added that over the past several months, she has had to remind leaders at her company that hybrid is not the arrangement they’re offering to workers.

“A few of them have spoken on panels and used that word and I had to tell them not to,” she stated. “If my kid has soccer on Thursdays and I have to be in the office all day on Thursday and can’t get him there, that may be hybrid, but it’s not flexible and isn’t working for me,” McCreary clarified to CNBC. “We’re trying to empower employees and teams to take responsibility for what works for them rather than wait for us to set it.”

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Deloitte, a professional services network, announced a similar effort in the U.K., calling it “agile working.” This model highlights how its employees “will be able to choose when, where and how they work in the future, once it is safe to do so.”

“The impact of the pandemic has profoundly changed our way of life, not least in the way we work,” CEO Richard Houston said in the announcement. “The last year has really shown that one size does not fit all when it comes to balancing work and personal lives. It has also shown that we can trust our people to make the right choice in when, how and where they work.”

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Dimitris Tsingos, cofounder and president of eLearning company Epignosis, told GOBankingRates that the future of work will remain flexible. “Over the past 18 months, flexible work has given people a taste of how they can achieve a strong work-life balance, allowing them to more effectively manage their home responsibilities — time with family, the ability to pursue hobbies and the opportunity to focus on their wellness — with their professional obligations,” he said. “To make a workplace culture future-proof, workers must have freedom of choice. Companies that require in-person attendance five days a week will lose talent who want more autonomy, and those that don’t have an office space may turn off employees who benefit from in-person face-time.”

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Last updated: September 22, 2021

About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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