Elon Musk might be a genius but dismissing benefits of hybrid working isn’t clever

In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, there is no doubt that working life certainly looks a lot different. Completely reshaping our formally deep-rooted acceptance of the 9-5 office-based working day; a mixture of at-home and office work, has gained significant traction.

Although many are in favour of hybrid working structures, there is a growing number of business owners and employees who advocate for a complete return to the office environment. One of the biggest supporters of the return to the office is respected entrepreneur and brilliant mind, Elon Musk who recently demanded that Tesla employees return to the office for at least 40 hours per week.

While I do not disagree that office work has benefits, Musk’s total opposition to hybrid working reflects an outdated precedent that deems office work as the only viable solution for maintaining productivity, enhancing employee engagement and achieving business success – and this is simply not true.

Increased flexibility and work-life balance

One of the biggest arguments in favour of hybrid working models is the increased flexibility it offers both employees and businesses. This enables employees to cut down travel and commuting time, providing them with access to valuable extra hours to concentrate on work or personal responsibilities. According to the report “The Future of Work Is Hybrid” by the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 70% of unscheduled absenteeism’s are due to stress, work exhaustion or personal/family-related issues.

However remote work initiatives can reduce absenteeism by between 26% to 88%. This is because employees are able to balance their work and personal lives more efficiently, leading to reduced stress levels and improved well-being, as well as increasing their job satisfaction and engagement.

Productivity and cost-effectiveness

Contrary to concerns that remote work decreases productivity, many employees and studies have indicated that remote-working employees exhibit higher efficiency levels.

In fact, a report from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) noted that 53% of hybrid and remote working employees found they were less distracted and more focused when working from home. In addition, another study by the Future Forum indicated an increase of 29% higher productivity in remote/hybrid employees.

Remote working can also prove to be cost-effective for businesses. Office space expenses, utility bills, and other overhead costs associated with maintaining a physical workplace can be significantly reduced or reallocated to other areas of the business. These cost savings allow businesses to invest in employees' professional development or enhance employee benefits, ultimately improving overall job satisfaction and retention rates.

The importance of social interaction and collaboration

Many employers argue that hybrid working models limit valuable interpersonal connections and hinder collaboration among employees. While there is no doubt that being in the office offers a social aspect to working and facilitates collaboration; it can be mitigated by adopting a blended approach. Adding a mixture of remote and office work [hybrid] can be the perfect solution for businesses, as it enables employees to socialise and collaborate while also maintaining a flexible, healthy work-life balance.

Businesses must also create opportunities for social interaction and teamwork. Regular team meetings or events outside of work can help to facilitate camaraderie, encourage collaboration, and celebrate success. These types of gatherings can make a big difference in creating a close-knit, engaged, and successful team.

So, should we go back or not?

The return to the office is a complex and evolving topic, with both supporters and opposers vocalising their views to the industry.

Time will tell whether full-time office work returns as the ‘norm’, however as business owners, we must be clear on the facts before adopting such positions on this debate. The benefits of increased flexibility, improved work-life balance, employee engagement, productivity, and cost-effectiveness are clear.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 moved the dial too far in one direction, but with so many notable benefits, perhaps rather than choosing sides, we should aim to work towards managing hybrid models more effectively.  

Hybrid working is the evolution of the business world, offering a balanced approach that reflects the needs of the times. After all, is a workplace offering flexibility, improved employee well-being, and productivity not what we all want?

As Musk once said, “Some people don't like change, but you need to embrace change if the alternative is a disaster.”