Hybrid work vs. remote work vs. onsite work – is any one of these work styles better than the others?
In the modern enterprise, hybrid work is well on its way to becoming the new normal.
But is hybrid a good thing?
Or should businesses revert back to full onsite work?
In this post, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of these three workplace modes.
Understanding their pros and cons can help managers and business leaders design more effective workplace strategies, workflows, and even talent management plans.
Remote Work: Pros and Cons
Before 2020, remote work was a subject of some debate.
While many organizations were hesitant to adopt telecommuting policies, opinions were gradually shifting in favor of remote work. Research was beginning to demonstrate that remote work made employees happier and increased productivity, while also saving businesses money on real estate and overhead.
At the time, however, many businesses had yet to adopt large- scale remote working policies.
As we all know, however, with COVID-19 came remote working on a scale the world has never seen.
Organizations that had never once engaged in remote working suddenly migrated to a 100% virtual workplace.
During 2020 and 2021, most businesses realized firsthand the pros and cons of remote work, many of which had been discovered by surveys such as Buffer’s State of Remote Work survey.
During 2020, companies began to realize that remote work did have its advantages, including:
- Increased employee productivity
- The freedom to work anytime, anywhere
- Zero commute time
- Spending more time with family
- Fewer distractions from colleagues
The ability to work from home, in short, can increase employee engagement, boost job satisfaction, increase output, and produce bottom-line benefits for the organization.
That being said, there are drawbacks, particularly when the entire workforce is forced to work from home.
- Social isolation can be detrimental to employees’ emotional and mental health
- Working from home can make it difficult to unplug, and some employees find themselves overworked or even burnt out
- Collaboration with coworkers can be a challenge when telecommuting, which can result from employees using different software, working from different time zones, or simply not knowing how to work remotely
For reasons such as these, quite a few employees have expressed a desire to return to work – though many have said that they would like to work remotely, at least part of the time.
Onsite work: Pros and Cons
Working on location at an office or another worksite also has its pros and cons.
Benefits of onsite work include:
- Fewer distractions from family members
- More interaction and communication with coworkers
- A more cohesive organizational culture, which can lead to solidarity and a sense of purpose
- Access to the organization’s equipment and facilities
- A structured routine, which can improve employee productivity and discipline by creating a common experience for all coworkers
Most of us are familiar with this type of work environment.
Onsite work, after all, has been the standard throughout human history. Remote working on the other hand, is a recent development that has only become possible thanks to digital innovation.
When comparing on site work to remote work, then, we can see that each workstyle has benefits and drawbacks.
Naturally, some of these benefits and drawbacks will differ depending on the individual – some people exclusively prefer onsite work, while others exclusively prefer offsite work.
That being said, there are general benefits and drawbacks to both remote and onsite work.
Some of the downsides of onsite work include:
- Commute times, which can be lengthy, stressful, and costly
- Increased costs for the organization, which can include real estate, equipment, and energy costs
- Increased distraction from coworkers
- A business environment which may not be preferable to the entire workforce
Again, the exact benefits and drawbacks of any given work environment will differ depending on the situation and the individual in question.
But benefits and drawbacks such as these can serve as a general guide for managers looking to modernize their workplace for the next normal – an era in which many suggest hybrid work will become ubiquitous.
Hybrid work: Pros and Cons
Hybrid office models differ depending on the organization.
In some cases, organizations will offer flex-time, remote work days, or other flexible options to employees.
In other cases, a portion of the workforce will be fully remote, another portion will be fully onsite, and another will be partially remote and partially onsite.
The exact workplace structure will differ and every organization will have its own unique hybrid office model. What often characterizes these models, however, is that they combine remote work and onsite work – hence the term “hybrid.”
The benefits include many of the pros of both on site and remote work.
For instance, in a hybrid office:
- Employees enjoy the freedom of working from remote locations
- When commuting to the office, they also have the opportunity to interact with their coworkers onsite
- Employers can save money if they choose to reduce their real estate, equipment, or other overhead costs
However, there are drawbacks, which can include the same from each category mentioned above, such as social isolation and increased distractions, whether they are from family members at home or coworkers at the office.
In addition to these drawbacks, however, there are unique challenges that should be addressed.
- In hybrid teams, there is often a division between remote workers and on site workers in terms of culture, workflows, and social bonds
- Collaboration between these two teams can be difficult, as each side establishes different workflows and processes
- Managers who work predominantly offsite or onsite may favor teams that they interact with most often
Despite these challenges, many organizations recognize that hybrid office models can improve the employee experience, the employer brand, and even attract more talented workers – to learn why, check out this post that covers the top remote working statistics for 2021.
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.