A gradual transition away from the traditional office has been underway for a decade or more. The pandemic, of course, has accelerated this process – and sparked debate about the future of work.
Both businesses and individuals are actively reassessing how, when and where people should work.
For many, a hybrid workplace model is emerging as the best way forward. But like any approach, a hybrid model has pros and cons for South African businesses.
What is a hybrid workplace?
A hybrid workplace is one that combines remote work and work in a traditional office space.
For example, one employee may work remotely for three days a week. Another might work from home full time, but attend meetings at the office – or come in for briefings just when needed.
More and more, the internet is the workplace for a large sector of the workforce. This has made the transition to remote work a logical one. However, that doesn’t mean that traditional office space has completely lost its value. Instead, its purpose is evolving.
Drivers of the hybrid workplace trend
The concept of work has been evolving for some time and, with it, the question of what constitutes a healthy, happy and productive workplace. Even before the pandemic, companies were shifting away from enclosed offices to collaborative, open-plan workspaces.
Now, with workers and managers experiencing the fluidity and freedom of the remote workplace – and the fact it has only marginally disrupted workflow and efficiencies – the hybrid model is here to stay.
Well-known corporates that have adopted hybrid models
Social networking sites, IT giants and crypto-trading platforms such as Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft and Coinbase have all adopted hybrid models of work.
In South Africa, companies are also rapidly restructuring to incorporate hybrid models.
According to a Microsoft research group, 88% of large South African enterprises expect to adopt a more hybrid way of working permanently.
Examples of well-known South African corporates that are planning to adopt a hybrid workplace model, at least for some staff, are Woolworths, Shoprite, Rand Merchant Bank and Dimension Data. Also planning to implement some form of hybrid workplace model are Dentsu Aegis Network South Africa, Joe Public United and Publicis Groupe Africa.
South African creative agencies are also embracing a hybrid approach. Just some examples are Flow Communications, M&C Saatchi Abel, 34° , Havas Southern Africa, and VMLY&R South Africa.
Advantages of a hybrid workplace
Here are a few of the advantages of the hybrid model.
Higher levels of job satisfaction In a recent survey, 46% of respondents claimed they were more satisfied with their output when they worked remotely at least part of the time.
Increased productivity Contrary to expectations, the productivity of workers actually rises when the hybrid model is in place. In fact, more than 60% of professionals in South Africa cited enhanced productivity as a positive by-product of remote working.
The maximised use of time, freedom to work when at the most productive and the ability to focus more intently on tasks were identified as drivers of better performance.
Lower operational costs Fewer employees in the office at any one time means the cost of operations drops, from office equipment to utilities. Despite the current slump in demand, office space is traditionally expensive. In fact, a compound annual growth rate of 12.45% is forecast for commercial property in South Africa until 2026.
More contented employees The fact that employees only have to commute to the office a few times a week and outside of peak traffic hours cuts down on unnecessary stress. As an employee living in Johannesburg, for instance, that equates to saving five days per year, the length of time the typical commuter spends stuck in traffic.
Disadvantages of a hybrid workplace
One disadvantage of a hybrid workplace that’s unique to the South African situation is the disparities that exist between previously advantaged and disadvantaged workers.
Due to historical imbalances, not all workers have reliable internet connectivity or transport that operates out of peak traffic hours. Here are a few of the more generic disadvantages of the hybridised workplace.
Rollout of technologies In order to support remote workers, companies have to invest in devices, software and other resources. Connecting workers requires an experienced IT team.
Diminished customer experience The lack of face-to-face interactions with customers can have a detrimental effect on business.
Realigned workspace The cost of re-designing and equipping an existing workplace can be punitive. The hybrid model requires high-speed fibre connectivity, conference screens, power outlets and all the other gadgets and devices required to support a digitised workspace.
Ideal, flexible workspaces: how The Workspace can help
Worldwide, companies of all sizes are turning to flexible, managed workspaces to help implement hybrid workplaces – ones that best suit both their budgets and their employees.
With affordable workspace that’s available on flexible terms, companies can allow their staff to work closer to their homes, when it suits them.
At the same time, they can make sure that their employees are in a professional environment, with access to the facilities they need to get their jobs done.
At The Workspace, we offer affordable, fully serviced offices and coworking, and all our members have access to meeting rooms, boardrooms and a range of business services. For more information or to discuss your hybrid workplace needs, call us on 087 059 7777 or contact us online.