Why Hybrid and In-Person Work Models May Not be the Answer Yet


In a July 2021 CNBC survey, 45% of companies said they plan to use the hybrid model for the rest of 2021, while 32% plan to return their entire workforce to an office. Most of these roadmaps for a return to work are predicated on the supposition that the pandemic is close to being over with the vaccination of the majority of the American population. The Delta variant and the continued spread of COVID-19 - even among the fully vaccinated - is throwing a significant wrench in these plans and confusing both top management and employees. 

Pandemic concerns are still very much on the minds of employees

The pandemic is, unfortunately, far from over with the rise of the Delta variant. While public health measures are certainly helping to curb the spread of COVID-19, it is still prevalent and may continue well into 2022. Newer variants such as Delta are far more communicable than the original COVID-19 virus, and can easily infect even those who are double-vaccinated. Many parents are concerned with going back to the workplace and increasing their exposure, having children at home who are unvaccinated. 

Public health measures that are necessary to curb the spread are, in some districts, being banned entirely by local or state governments. If an employee is working somewhere without a mask mandate and is concerned about COVID-19, working in an office may not be an attractive option for them - even for just a couple of days a week. 

A poll by Eagle Hill Consulting found that a full 54% of workers are concerned about coming back to the office, but a majority of 71% trusted that their employers will put the correct precautions in place for a safe return. Some of these precautions include:

  • Availability of masks, hand sanitizer, & gloves
  • Regular COVID-19 testing
  • Stay-at-home mandate for staff with symptoms 

A precaution which may make hesitant employees feel even safer - mandatory vaccination - is not being considered by 70% of employers. 

Most employees prefer remote work - and there’s currently a labor shortage 

A full four in ten of employees who are currently working from home at least one day a week will look for another job if their employer requires a full return to on-premise work. This bears repetition - 40% of your workforce will quit if required to return to the office full-time. This and other factors, including women quitting jobs to assist unvaccinated children with remote learning, have led to what has been called one of the biggest labour shortages in American history. It isn’t just the restaurant industry and low-wage positions, corporate America is seeing workers leave in droves if an employer doesn’t give them what they’re looking for. 

While that percentage should scare employers, some are still adamant that their workers return to the office. It’s probably best that they compromise with a hybrid work model rather than demanding a full return to in-office work. After all, 2020 and the early part of 2021 has proved that the work can get done, even during a time where everyone was arguably more stressed than they will be in a post-COVID world, we hope. 

Ideally, employers will continue with remote work until all employees feel safe returning to an office. When pandemic concerns are taken off the table, it is likely that many people will be eager to go back into the office after working from home for so long. But it may be time for companies to admit that the pandemic simply isn’t over for some employees, and those people will consider leaving if work isn’t kept remote for the time being. 

If you have workers who are hesitant to return to work, consider accommodating them for the time being as long as all of their metrics are consistent and they are reasonably able to perform their jobs remotely. On their part, they may have to understand that some clients will prefer in-person meetings, and they may have to come into the office periodically for meetings themselves. Flexibility is required on both ends to make this work for everyone until the working world is truly “back to normal,” whatever that ends up looking like. 

Companies can feel much more confident about having distributed teams if they have a productivity intelligence solution in place. Solutions like Prodoscore tell management which business applications  your employees are using, how long they are using them for, and how they’re engaged each day.  This type of data is invaluable today as we navigate uncertainty and will continue to be helpful in a pandemic recovery economy that demands organizational efficiencies, new opportunities for growth, and happy teams.  Contact us for a demonstration today!