When my company announced that we’d soon be transitioning from fully work from home to a hybrid working arrangement, I was a little skeptical. But well, it couldn’t be that bad right? After all, it’s better to remain some control over my work schedule and home life, rather than to retain no control at all. That way, at least I’d still enjoy the best of both worlds.
Theoretically speaking, hybrid working is the middle ground between employer and employee. Some employees like me have gotten so used to flexible working habits that it has become ingrained as the new working culture, and full-time in-person at the office seems to be a relic of the past. But employers prefer to have their workers back in the office, or the fold so they say.
They give many reasons such in-person workplace is better for collaboration, brainstorming, and also to regain control of their employees that was lost when the pandemic struck. And also to physically be able to monitor their workers in person once again. There’s this perceptiion still, that if they can’t see you at work, they don’t know if you make the cut for certain positions.
But boy, this hybrid arrangement has been exhausting!
What has hybrid working taught me?
1. A balance of “personal focus and productivity” vs “in-person collaboration and the commute time”
The novelty of hybrid work died pretty quickly for me. It was fun initially, to see the familiar faces again back at the office. Having lunch with colleagues seemed to be a better alternative than ordering lunch from Grab. Collaborating in person in meeting rooms seemed to be more fun and effective than over the internet.
But very soon, it became a jarring one-week-in, one-week-out routine. I felt that I was more productive and had better focus on the days that I worked from home than the days I worked at the office. I dreaded the days that I had to get into office because of the terrible commute that had returned to the roads, and the distractions at the office. It takes an hour for me to get to office, and another hour back from office. That’s two additional hours wasted just to commute, time which could have been better utilised for other things, even if it’s doing nothing. Because in the latter, rest is still better than being stuck in the unforgiving jam.
So much about the in-person better productivity hype. If anything, work places are full of distractions, I’ve come to realise.
2. A need to maintain two separate office mindsets
One thing I dislike about the hybrid working arrangement, is that there’s a constant need to change daily habits. It’s hard to find a routine when you constantly need to adapt to the in-and-out the office arrangement. It’s an unnecessary distraction, I feel, because having an unpredictable schedule can cause unnecessary stress.
But then again, maybe it’s because the hybrid working arrangement hasn’t become second nature yet. Things that I needn’t do for the past almost 2 years like planning for commutes, in person meetings – saps more energy than before. I have, in a way, unlearnt this habits. Hence, picking these up again, takes greater effort.
Hybrid working… the next big experiment!
However, I think hybrid working should be the future of work. It will represent the best of both worlds, but it still needs tinkering. There needs to be a clear definition of the autonomy and boundaries that both employer and employee would hold onto in this arrangement.
One issue that will crop up again and again in these early days would be the issue of autonomy and trust. My personal two cents is that I feel that these should be given to the employee who should have more say how manage their schedule.
There needs to be a clear definition of the autonomy and boundaries that both employer and employee would hold onto in this hybrid working arrangement.
Perhaps, a new measure based on the job completed rather than the time spent working on a job should be adopted. I think the time has come where bosses should shake off the need to have employers tied by the number of mandatory hours at work place or the need to ‘see’ them at work. Anyway, with this digital age, the quality of work should superceded most things.
We talk about about work-life balance all the time but the reality is it didn’t quite exist even before the pandemic. We were basically spending most of our productive hours working. Many of us are familiar with the 40 week work schedule.
While the main cause seemed to be the work stress caused by the pandemic, I think a lot of the reasons why people quit have always been the same. Read about the reasons why people quit during pandemic and you will find that these reasons resonate with many even before the pandemic.
But the pandemic did cause a major shift in the way we live our lives, and that includes work. While it did become a valid reason for people to lose their jobs, it also became guises of abuse too.
Post pandemic, we have read about The Great Resignation that some say are due to the awakening to what one wants out of life. This narrative is still ongoing, but I suspect many are questioning more things that have to do with the meaning of life. Do we give all our best years to the companies we work for? After all, the chase for material things become immaterial when one is reminded how easy death is inflicted by a virus.
So, hybrid working – I think it is an inevitable outcome of the pandemic. For many who worked from home and had more time for other things while remaining productive, if not more, they would want such an arrangement. The digitalisation of life, hastened by the pandemic has made many acutely aware of how much they are missing out being cooped up at their work places from sun up to sun down and even beyond.
The Great Resignation is supposed to be a knee-jerk reaction to that. We are still waiting for the Great Comeback of those who left but so far, it’s not quite happening as hoped. Perhaps they have gone hybrid. Or maybe even freelance, which is another form of hybrid work, I guess.
There’s definitely going to be teething problems as we venture into this next big working experiment.