BLOG / The Hybrid Workplace

What Is a Hybrid Work Model and Why Is It Still So Contentious in 2024?

April 12, 2024
10 min read
HubStar VP of Growth
What Is A Hybrid Work Model

Most of us probably predicted a few years back that hybrid work would be an outdated term by now. Since virtually everyone who works at a desk is using some form of it, you may have thought that by now, hybrid work would just be considered work

But that hasn’t been the case. 

Hybrid work is still the default work model. There’s no sign of that changing anytime soon. 

Instead, what’s happened is that hybrid has split everyone into camps. Hybrid work has staunch proponents, fierce adversaries and every conceivable shade of opinion on how it should be done. 

So, four years after the pandemic, we’re taking a look at the hybrid work model again. We’ll cover:

  • The definition of hybrid work
  • Why it’s still such a contentious topic
  • Benefits and challenges
  • Types of hybrid work schedules, and
  • How to create your own hybrid work strategy

5 Hybrid Work Trends for 2024

Is hybrid work changing for better or worse? All will be revealed in these 5 top trends for 2024.

What is a hybrid work model? 

Hybrid work is a work model that entails employees spending part of their time working remotely and part of their time in the office. 

For most, hybrid work is a weekly schedule of a pre-defined number of days in the office and the rest of the days working remotely. But technically, someone could be working one day per month in the office and still be hybrid working. 

Although the term seems to have been coined during the pandemic, it’s nothing new. 

Is hybrid work rocket science? It could be, because the first ever hybrid work pilot was conceived and designed by a rocket scientist – Jack Nilles – back in the 1970s. 

Back then, before the internet, the work of the participating employees had to be fed into a mini computer and then uploaded to the mainframe at the end of the day. Even so, the results were shocking. Turnover plummeted, productivity skyrocketed, and expenses were slashed. 
So why, when 80% of office occupiers today have some flavor of hybrid work in place, is it still causing such a stir?

Why is the hybrid work model still so polarizing 4 years on?

“Hybrid working is the worst of both worlds.” 

“Some aspects of hybrid and remote work make toxicity more likely to occur.” 

“Hybrid work is an illusion of choice.” 

What is it about the combination of remote and in-office work that’s so polarizing? 

For full time in-office advocates, hybrid threatens social connection, collaboration and organizational culture. They believe it damages career advancement and mental health. 

For hybrid work fans, the model is the perfect combination of convenience and in-person connection. They believe it improves employee engagement, mental health and diversity and inclusion.

For remote work advocates, hybrid work represents a secret push to get everyone back in the office full time, which damages culture and productivity. They believe hybrid is a ploy for the C-Suite to claw back their investments on office buildings, keep closer tabs on people and have an insidious new way to decide who gets made redundant. 

The truth is, we don’t have all the answers. 

Every organization has different priorities, and this determines views on exactly how much flexibility and autonomy employees should have. Certainty – even if founded on opinions instead of facts – is easier to process that uncertainty.  

The crux of the matter lies in the nuance, which isn’t the most popular or flashy opinion to have. Nuance doesn’t make headlines. 

But it does create better places to work and societies to live in. 

And that’s why – if you’re a workplace leader trying to figure out how to do hybrid, which policies to enforce, what schedules to pick and how to communicate all this – being mindful of nuance within your organization is so critical. 

But is there really a reason for the contention around whether hybrid is actually the right way to work? Although it’s been just a few years, what does the data actually say on the benefits and drawbacks of the hybrid work model?

Benefits and Challenges of the Hybrid Work Model

Benefit #1: Better work-life balance

71% of employees surveyed by Gallup listed this as a top advantage of hybrid work. It’s been proven numerous times that work-life balance has a slew of benefits, from improved productivity and employee wellbeing through to improved retention and easier hiring. And since hybrid work leaves more time for family and life commitments, hybrid roles can broaden the talent pool, including those who might find roles without flexibility inaccessible. 

Benefit #2: Improved organizational performance

Companies with flexible work policies are more profitable than those without, according to a recent survey by Flex Index. Organizations giving employees a choice of where they can work had better revenue growth performance by 16 percentage points, compared to their more restrictive peers. 

These performance gains could stem from the improved productivity that comes with having more control over one’s work environment – indeed, 51% of employees cite better productivity as a top benefit of hybrid work. Flexible work policies are more attractive to potential employees, and could also mean that companies can hire faster, scale faster, and just get more done.

Or, it could come down to a culture that drives results, according to Debbie Lovich, a senior consulting partner at Boston Consulting Group, who conducted the study. “If [companies are] less restrictive on on work policies, they’re probably more pro-innovation, more purposeful and more engaging,” 

Benefit #3: Reduced real estate costs. 

Real estate is the second biggest organizational expense behind salaries, and hybrid work patterns typically mean that less real estate is required to accommodate the same number of employees. 81% of CFOs claim that hybrid work is saving their company money, citing portfolio downsizing and moving to shared office spaces as key cost-cutters. Amazon is about it save itself $1.3 billion by ending leases early and shedding underused office space. That’s one hefty chunk of change! 

How to Cut Corporate Real Estate Costs in 2024
5 min read

How to Cut Corporate Real Estate Costs in 2024

The empty office crisis has left many organizations watching their CRE costs climb higher and higher. Here are 3 ways to buck the trend and cut costs this year.

Challenge #1: Fewer opportunities for collaboration and social connection

Fewer days in the office results in fewer opportunities for spontaneous run-ins and watercooler chats. This decreased time spent in-person makes collaboration harder to come by for 30% of employees surveyed. It also increases feelings of loneliness for 55%. However, it’s worth noting that not everyone is a fan of traditional in-office collaborating and watercooler moments. Many find them distracting and productivity-hindering. 

How to fix it: Make interactions about quality, not quantity. Forcing everyone into the same building and then waiting for social bonds to skyrocket can do more harm than good. Instead, use the office as the setting for intentional, purposeful interactions. Indeed, Slack’s State of Work Survey finds that 45% of employees say brainstorming is easier in person. A further 60% report that working in-person improves productivity. Find out what people really want out of in-office connection, then use it to shape your workplace, policies and tech.

3 Things Destroying Social Connection In Your Hybrid Workplace

3 Things Destroying Social Connection in Your Hybrid Workplace

If you’re looking to build social connection in your office and have one or all of these 3 things going on, you’re doing more harm than good.

Challenge #2: Difficulties managing hybrid teams

Strolling up to someone’s desk for project updates has been the default way of managing for decades. And then it all changed overnight. Four years on, a shocking 70% of managers say they haven’t received any formal training on how to manage hybrid teams. This can lead to a mess of undesirable consequences – projects stalling, proximity bias, departmental silos and decreased retention. 

How to fix it: Specialized training is the most obvious fix here, but there’s more. Managers and employees tend to be from different age brackets with different communication styles and views on remote work productivity. So it’s key to keep an open mind and ensure you articulate and document policies as clearly as possible.

Challenge #3: Unpredictable demand for office space. 

Hybrid work’s impact on corporate real estate can be both an advantage and a challenge. Back in BC (before Covid), it was much easier to forecast how much office space you’d need. That’s because one employee occupied one desk five days per week. But now, three different employees might occupy the same desk four days per week. The trusted planning metric of employees per square foot is no longer viable, and fell by 22% last year. There’s been a 30% increase in space-sharing since 2021, making it a lot tougher to plan out: 

  • Office design and layout
  • Space functionalities and amenities
  • Portfolio sizes

Without the right approach, that is. 

How to fix it: New metrics and new tech to measure it all. Quantifying how employees are using existing office spaces is key to predicting demand for office space in the future. Space utilization is becoming increasingly used to track how effectively space is being used, and hybrid occupancy software like HubStar aggregates utilization in one place for confident decision making.

5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2024

5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2024

Measure these 5 space utilization metrics to cut costs, improve employee experience and make real estate portfolio decisions with certainty.

Types of hybrid work schedules 

Here’s where it gets even more contentious, especially when mandatory time in the office policies – aka the dreaded mandate – enters the picture. 

Different schedules work for different companies, but there is a lot of compelling data showing that mandates reduce revenue growth, erode trust in leadership and damage retention. 

Here are the four main types of hybrid work schedules: 

  • Trust-based hybrid – employees can choose when and how frequently they come into the office 
  • Specific days hybrid – employees must come into the office on specific days every week (e.g. Tuesdays and Thursdays) 
  • Minimum days hybrid – employees must come into the office on a minimum number of days per week or month, but can choose the days (e.g three days per week in, two days working remote). 70% of companies are sticking with this hybrid work schedule as of Q1 2024. 
  • Team-level agreements hybrid – Each team or department has the autonomy to decide how often they’ll come into the office (e.g. marketing team comes in two days per week, development team only comes in for sprints)

How to create a hybrid work strategy 

❓What hybrid work schedule should we choose? 

❓Should we have the same policy for everyone? What about offices in different countries? 

❓Do we have enough space for everyone? 

❓To mandate or not to mandate? 

Getting the answers you need when the workplace is a soupy mess of perpetual change feels absolutely overwhelming. And to add to the complexity, workplace policies aren’t just the responsibility of HR like back in the day. Numerous stakeholders are now involved to really pull it off, including: 

  • Corporate Real Estate 
  • IT 
  • Operations 
  • HR
  • The C-Suite 
  • Comms

The right hybrid work strategy aligns stakeholders, sets out a desired outcome, and lays out a framework to get there. 

Here’s a brief run down of the steps your organization should take to create a solid hybrid workplace strategy.

Step 1) Shape your vision and set your objectives. 

Change is easier when you know where you’re going and why it’s worth it. That’s why it’s vital to set a vision for the future of hybrid work at your organization. Without a vision, your hybrid work strategy is rudderless, and the leaders in your organization won’t be able to make decisions in alignment with a common endgame.  

So, what’s that endgame for your organization, and what are the objectives you want to achieve along the way? Right-sizing your office portfolio, building a better culture and boosting productivity are some good examples. 

Step 2) Measure workplace patterns and preferences 

You can’t plan for the future unless you know where you’re at right now. This is where a lot of organizations go wrong, basing their hybrid work strategies on assumptions or what everyone else is doing instead of what’s actually happening. 

Look into workplace data like space utilization rate to understand usage patterns – which days of the week are most popular, what types of spaces employees use the most and which ones are the least used. In addition to feedback directly from employees, workplace data clarifies why employees come in, how often they want to come in, and what functionalities they want from the office space. 

Step 3) Decide on your hybrid schedules and policies 

An understanding of work patterns and preferences creates a solid basis to decide on hybrid work schedules and policies that are realistic for employees and the workspaces you have. The right choice of schedule and policy depends on a range of factors, from company culture to existing ways of working. That’s why it’s so critical to do all research and due diligence so that when your hybrid work strategy is ready to roll there’s no chance of mass resignations, many of which have famously made the news over the last few years. 

Whatever you decide, it’s worth noting that 26% of employees would rather have a root canal than go back into the office 5 days a week. 

Step 4) Optimize your spaces and tech

A recent study by Cisco found that over 50% of office space is still dedicated to individual work, despite meeting up with other people being the number one reason employees come into the office. Chances are, most office spaces don’t offer the right configurations and functionalities for today’s hybrid workforces, and most will need some optimization and rejigging. 

Tech is also a substantial part of making a hybrid work strategy, because it impacts both how employees connect to each other and how they experience the workplace. For example, a common conundrum many people find themselves in is deciding to go into the office only to find there aren’t enough desks or meeting rooms when they arrive. Workplace resource booking can prevent this from happening. 

4 Ways To Use Data To Design Your Hybrid Office

4 Ways to Use Data to Design Your Hybrid Office

Office design is complicated enough, but adding hybrid to the mix has many companies stumped. Here are 4 ways to use data to power your hybrid office design.

Step 5) Measure and iterate 

Nailing hybrid work in your organization will never be and one-and-done deal. Ways of working are constantly changing, and as we all know too well, external events can upend everything we thought we knew about the workplace. Who knows, hybrid work might be obsolete in a few years time (but probably not). 

A solid strategy is an adaptable strategy. And that means coming up with a set of metrics to measure progress against so you can iterate workspaces, hybrid work policies, or anything else while it’s timely and without blowing through your entire budget.

However you choose to do hybrid work, it’s part of your overall workplace strategy. And there’s a lot of moving parts to get right – workplace experience, real estate portfolio and cost effectiveness.

Tune into this on-demand webinar for a deep dive into how to create a workplace strategy, three pitfalls to avoid, and which tactics to make yours a success.

Workplace Strategy in 2024 - on-demand webinar


HubStar is a next-gen hybrid workplace platform that helps workplace innovators create a productive, connected workplace. Bring teams together in the right place at the right time while optimizing the spaces, facilities and policies they need to collaborate, do their best work and thrive.

Share this: