#

Hybrid work: From ‘new’ to ‘now’ normal

After the public health emergency was lifted in May 2023, the ensuing digital transformation pushed many companies and professionals to seek out more opportunities for digitalization and innovation.

Companies have been investing more and more in digital technologies to operate more efficiently while professionals are placing an increased premium on skills growth to become more competitive. The emergence of technological developments has not only transformed business operations but also heightened the competition across industries.

In the Philippines, many organizations have adopted flexible work arrangements that allow their people to work either in a fully remote or hybrid setup. According to PwC’s 2024 Global Workforce Hopes & Fears Survey which was launched in the last week of June, 52% of the 1,000 respondents from the Philippines said that they are currently doing hybrid work, i.e., having a mix of in-person and remote working. This is in contrast to the 27% who do full-time remote work (having no in-person contact at all with colleagues, teammates, managers, suppliers or customers) while 21% work full-time and in-person. Clearly, hybrid work has become the popular choice.

FLEXIBILITY: THE CORE OF HYBRID WORK
Flexibility may come in various forms such as flexible working hours and schedules, and through output-based performance. Companies may also explore the feasibility of a four-day workweek to give employees more time to rest and recharge.

In her article, “Overcome the caveats of hybrid working,” PwC Netherlands Director Marlene de Koning highlighted some notable insights from a survey conducted by PwC among the employees of a multinational construction company. The survey aimed to identify the right balance and suitable hybrid arrangements for its diverse workforce. The survey results revealed that older workers tend to feel well and connected with their colleagues when they work apart, while engineers work best when they are close to each other. Those working from home showed better work-life balance, but long travel times to project sites led to higher absenteeism. In essence, this example shows that when opting for a hybrid setup, groups and individuals may require different forms of flexibility.

BENEFITS OF HYBRID WORK SETUP
Nowadays, employees prefer a hybrid work setup. It allows them to work partly in a physical workspace and partly at home or from anywhere else, and to only report to the office on specific days or when necessary. They get to save time, energy and money from their reduced daily commute and meal expenses. This arrangement can significantly reduce employee burnout as commuting, particularly in congested areas, can be challenging. In addition, differently abled individuals may find hybrid work more convenient. Hybrid work for employees could mean work-life balance or work-life integration, depending on how one views it.

According to a November 2023 Cisco survey, “From mandate to magnet: The race to reimagine workplaces and workspaces for a hybrid future,” employees in the Philippines perceive that working in a hybrid setup has a positive impact on their office productivity (73%), cost savings (73%) and well-being (74%). Employers shared similar perceptions, with 78% noting increased productivity, 77% acknowledging cost savings, and 75% seeing improved employee well-being.

Employers stand to gain from hybrid work, too. With fewer employees working on site, overhead costs such as office space, utilities and supplies can be reduced. The resulting savings can be reallocated to other business-development and people-engagement activities.

Hybrid work arrangements may also increase job satisfaction, work productivity, company loyalty and talent retention. In turn, a flexible workforce is more likely to stay with the company longer, lowering the costs associated with high turnover. Additionally, this setup is also advantageous for business continuity as it allows operations to resume outside the confines of a traditional office, reducing the impact of sudden disruptions such as natural disasters or public health crises.

HOW CAN BUSINESSES CONTINUE TO REAP THE BENEFITS OF HYBRID WORK?
Businesses must fully embrace this “now” normal. Office facilities and technologies, such as virtual communication tools and equipment, should be readily available to support employees, whether working remotely or onsite. Office space, according to the employees’ expectations in a similar Cisco survey, should be used to promote teamwork and collaboration while individual tasks might be done at home or remotely.

Cybersecurity measures must be in place to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks. These include regular training for employees on data security and IT infrastructure that can secure the company’s sensitive data, wherever employees are accessing them from.

It’s also crucial to maintain company values and culture, and to keep employees engaged and included. Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation, so it’s important to find ways to keep the team connected. Regular virtual meetings and team-building and social activities can help build a strong sense of community.

A successfully managed hybrid workplace can foster diversity, equity and inclusivity, benefitting both employees and employers.

EMBRACING THE FUTURE OF WORK
Amid an ever-evolving business environment, hybrid work is here to stay. Companies must be ready for its challenges and opportunities. The future of work may still be unclear but one thing is for sure: Embracing this setup can lead to a more satisfied and productive workforce, while also enabling organizations to be more resilient and adaptable in the face of change.

The views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Isla Lipana & Co. The content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for specific advice.

 

Ryan Ray Reyes is a director at the Territory Services Group of PricewaterhouseCoopers Business Services Philippines Co., Ltd., the Philippine member firm of the PwC network.

ryan.ray.reyes@pwc.com