How did we get here? The Hybrid Working Evolution

  • Dan Bladen
  • Author Dan Bladen, CEO & Co-Founder

“Hybrid work represents the biggest shift to how we work in our generation…it will require a new operating model, spanning people, places, and processes.”

– Satya Nadella, CEO & Chairman, Microsoft

The pandemic has changed the way the world works forever and now 90% of companies are moving to hybrid working. Whether a company moves to hybrid or not is no longer the question – the question now is how to do hybrid.

The vast majority of companies are unknowingly sleepwalking into a hybrid model that has the potential to destroy not only their company’s culture but also its performance. This is due to a focus on managing hybrid real estate (their second largest cost) to the detriment of their most valuable asset and largest cost, their people.

As the world transitions to hybrid, more variables will be introduced to the everyday work experience – making it increasingly difficult to coordinate and work with colleagues. In fact, Adam Grant has stated that “the first and perhaps cardinal sin of hybrid work is a lack of coordination.” Many solutions are stuck trying to solve today’s hybrid challenges with yesterday’s facilities management tools – making it impossible for employees to know where the best place to work is or, more importantly, who they can actually work with.

In this three-part blog series, we will look at the common hybrid working models, discover how we got to where we are today, the challenges that are presented by hybrid working, and most importantly – how companies can solve the challenges by adopting a facilities people-first approach to hybrid work.

How We Got Here: Hybrid Phase 1

The pandemic didn’t just create the hybrid working model out of nowhere, it has simply accelerated the trend. In fact, the trend started in the early 2000s when the internet became good enough to be reliably used at home. In Hybrid 1, the work desk could be anywhere, as long as there was an electrical socket and an ethernet cable.

Shortly after this came Hybrid 1.5 – the birth of WiFi. WiFi meant that employees were no longer tethered to the desk by an ethernet cable. There were still some physical barriers though and it wasn’t until the Blackberry, and subsequently the iPhone, that work could truly happen anywhere and at any time. The iPad catalyzed the *bring your own device* (BYOD) movement and the global investment in WiFi infrastructure went into overdrive. The canvas was now set for people to work anywhere because the tools for work were now untethered from the office.

How We Got Here: Hybrid Phase 2

In 2020 the pandemic brought about Hybrid 2 (aka forced remote). It wasn’t hybrid per se, but an unexpected extension of hybrid that many of us were already familiar with.

Because the infrastructure for flexible working had already been laid over the last 20 years – Hybrid 2 worked – white-collar workers kept their jobs (though often at the expense of their mental health) and companies themselves largely continued to grow. By the Summer of 2020, the conversation had already turned to thinking about and planning for what work would look like after the pandemic. It became clear that what companies and employees wanted above all else was flexibility.

Hybrid working

Hybrid phase 2 proved that employees could be trusted to get work done anywhere. Naturally, employees wanted to keep the flexibility and autonomy they had gained during the pandemic. It also proved that companies could operate without all their expensive real estate and that employees worked just as hard at home as in the office. Furthermore, companies now had access to talent outside the confines of an acceptable commute to the office.

This brings us to today as the pandemic moves to endemic, the stage is now set for the future of work to finally begin! Over half a billion people are now moving to hybrid – there hasn’t been a change to the way the world works like this since the Industrial Revolution. This change has huge implications for society, the environment, companies, and workers on a global scale. If we, as a society, get this right, everyone benefits.

Hybrid 1 provided the toolkit for hybrid working

Hybrid 2 proved that it could work under the most extreme conditions

..and now post-pandemic everyone wanted a third way!

After two years of build-up, the dawn of the future of work is now upon us – so what’s going to happen next as we transition out of the pandemic? Read on for the second part of the blog series here >>