Touted as dynamic and agile, a fixed pattern of in-person and remote working can actually deprive workers of the autonomy they need to thrive.
Ednews informs that as they continue to navigate return-to-office plans, many companies are settling on hybrid set-ups: a workweek split between the office and the home, featuring a few fixed days of in-person working, generally with a standard 9-to-5 schedule.
Largely, these arrangements are touted as fluid and agile, a compromise offering workers much of the control and autonomy they expect following the pandemic. But the very nature of strict in-office dates and hours, implemented top-down by bosses, may not actually provide workers as much flexibility as advertised.
“Often, it’s giving employees a hybrid schedule of where they should do their jobs, without any flexibility,” says Tim Oldman, founder and CEO of employee-experience research firm Leesman, based in London. “It’s shoehorning them into fixed patterns that may not best support their work.”
For some workers, this reality isn’t simply inconvenient or disappointing. Less flexibility disproportionately affects some employees more than others – particularly, caregivers and workers with disabilities. “Fixed hybrid policies often don't address the return-to-office challenges faced by employees with different experiences of the workplace,” says Oldman.
Flexibility: A non-negotiable?
Although hybrid schedules vary, the most common ones strike a balance between three office and two remote days a week or vice versa. Often, these in-office days are fixed instead of selected ad-hoc, with the aim to consistently get teams together, or enable scheduled collaboration or in-person meetings. In theory, this compromise is a fair deal to both the employers who want their workers back in seats, and their employees, as they can hold on to some remote work and subsequent flexibility.
Workers continue to prize their autonomy. In a May 2023 survey of 2,105 US workers by market-research firm The Harris Poll, 69% of current or former remote workers say the independence that comes with remote work is more important than the professional benefits of in-person work. They also report that the flexibility of remote working means they’re more able to speak freely (74%) and are happier with their own work (72%).