Before COVID-19 changed the workplace forever, just 5% of full-time work was done from home. But when the pandemic forced offices to close, many industries had to rapidly adapt to a remote work model. While this change was done primarily for health and safety, many workplaces kept remote work policies in place after most of the world opened back up, either with fully remote offices or a hybrid work schedule. As of the beginning of 2023, a Stanford University study found that 27% of full-time employees were working from home.
While this is down from the staggering 60% in the spring of 2020 and 33% in 2021, this trend likely will be here to stay. Many companies now operate on a fully remote or hybrid work schedule, and studies show that employees overwhelmingly prefer at least some workplace flexibility. A 2022 survey by Owl Labs revealed that just over half (52%) of workers would take a pay cut of 5% or more to have flexibility in working location, and 86% of workers reported that being able to work from home at least some of the time would make them happier.
However, for companies, it can be difficult to find the right balance to keep up with industry demands and make their employees happy at the same time. Each workplace model—full-time in-office, fully remote, or hybrid work schedule—has pros and cons that should be considered. Whether you’re a business owner looking into workplace flexibility, or an employee trying to decide which model is right for your next position, here are the top things to consider about each type of workplace.
Full-Time in the Office
Pro – Greater Collaboration Opportunities
For many workers, there really is no substitute for in-person connection. Humans are inherently social, and working alongside others can provide many career-boosting benefits in the long run. It’s often easier for new employees to learn the ropes from senior team members in person, and we all know that building relationships and networking are important for career growth. According to a survey from Robert Half, 49% of respondents said they’re more comfortable collaborating in person, as opposed to the 31% who feel more comfortable doing so virtually. For many, the spontaneous idea-sharing that happens during in-person conversations is more rewarding and productive than chatting back and forth over virtual messaging platforms.
Con – Distractions Reduce Productivity
How many times has this happened to you at the office? You receive an important email or you’re on a tight deadline, and it’s time to get to work. But just before you hit that perfect state of flow, a chatty coworker drops by to ask you about your weekend. Before you know it, half an hour has gone by, and it’s going to take twice as long to get back to work now that you’re distracted.
Distractions are a big downside of in-person workspaces. A report by Zippia finds that a whopping 79% of employees report being distracted in the office. The top culprits? Talkative coworkers, workplace noise, and excessive meetings.
Pro – Socialization Creates Connection
Collaborating with your coworkers in person isn’t the only benefit of spending your workday face-to-face. Building relationships with your coworkers and supervisors can improve your overall career standing. According to the Robert Half survey, 65% of professionals reported they have more effective relationships with colleagues they’ve met face-to-face as opposed to ones they haven’t. These bonds can help employees in several ways, from mentorship and guidance to even building lasting friendships. In a world where 17% of U.S. adults report significant loneliness, socializing at work could be the key to not only a promotion, but fighting off depression and solitude.
Con – Less Work-Life Balance
Arguably the most famous aspect of this “great restructuring” is the greater demand that employees have for work-life balance. For workers in the office full-time, work-life balance can be a challenge to obtain. Rigid schedules leave less room for “life,” like doctor’s appointments, kids’ activities, or even illnesses, without scheduling PTO in advance. Add in that the average one-way commute to work is around 25 minutes, and many in-person employees can feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day.
Fully Remote Work
Pro – Ultimate Freedom in Your Schedule
On the flip side of the struggle to balance work and life with an in-person gig, fully remote workers get to enjoy the ultimate schedule flexibility. If your employer doesn’t require you to be logged in for a set chunk of time, you get to choose when and where you work in a remote setting. Are you more productive in the early morning? Log in early and get some of your most pressing tasks done while you sip coffee in your pajamas. Conversely, if you’re not a morning person, you can take it easy for the first part of the day and save your deep work for late afternoon or early evening. Have a midday doctor’s appointment, or need to pick the kids up from preschool? Working remotely allows employees to work around the demands of life, instead of trying to squeeze personal tasks in around the workday.
Con – Less Mentorship
When an employee seldom (or never) sees their supervisors face-to-face, it can be hard to develop a trusting work relationship. Effective mentorship, especially for newer employees, is one of the biggest struggles when it comes to working remotely. There are many challenges to mentoring staff in a remote setting, and the youngest members of the workforce are feeling the effects. A survey by Skynova reveals that 39% of Gen Z workers struggle to find a mentor while working remotely, and 24% have difficulty learning necessary job skills. As Gen Z continues to come of age in the workplace, this drawback of remote offices may become more apparent.
Pro – Fewer Distractions at Home
Without the hustle and bustle of a workplace, many remote workers find that they’re less distracted and more productive in a home office setting. A 2021 Gallup survey reported that 29% of workers experienced fewer distractions at home than in the office. Working remotely allows staff to focus on solo, deep-work tasks in the environment that works best for them. At home, employees can control the temperature and noise level of their workspace. They also have the freedom to listen to podcasts or music to help them focus without disturbing others.
Con – Burnout & Difficulty with Separation
A hidden downside of working at home can be that people often don’t know when to stop working. If your home office is your bedroom or living room, it can be difficult to shut down the laptop at the end of the day. Without a commute, some employees can struggle to transition from “work” mode to “home” mode, and many workers find themselves unintentionally putting in more hours. According to the Owl Labs 2021 “State of Remote Work” report, 55% of employees surveyed said they worked more hours at home than they did in the office. This difficulty with work-home separation can lead to increased burnout and decreased mental health.
Hybrid Work Schedule
Pro – Best of Both Worlds
Companies that have adopted a hybrid work schedule can simultaneously adopt the advantages of both in-person and remote work. Employees can better develop working relationships with face-to-face interactions and in-person collaboration during in-office days. At the same time, they can also use remote workdays to deeply focus on individual work, switch up their work hours for appointments or other “life” tasks, and save time and money by not commuting to the office every day. A hybrid work schedule seems like a “Goldilocks” option for many workers—Zippia reports that 44% of employees prefer a hybrid work schedule, and 55% want to work remotely at least three days a week.
Con – Difficulties with Schedule Coordination
While hybrid work is attractive to employees, companies have their hands full with structuring schedules effectively. There are several options for hybrid schedules, and leaders must decide which will be best for their operations. Will everyone be in the office and working remotely on the same days? Will in-office and remote work be staggered by individual teams or team members? How many in-person and remote days will be mandated per week? (Two days in-office is the most preferred by employees.) Can employees choose which days they work in person? There’s no easy answer for coordinating hybrid work schedules, and employers will need to experiment to get it right.
Pro – Lower Operational Costs
If only a small percentage of a company’s total staff is in the office on any given day, executives may want to consider downsizing to cut costs. It’s simple math, after all— fewer people in the office means less money spent on operational costs. A reduction in rent, utilities, parking spaces, and more can save companies up to 40% of their office costs.
Con – IT Difficulties
Unless all staff is required to be in the office on the same days, there’s a high chance that hybrid work companies will need to invest in technology solutions. It’s essential for hybrid businesses to provide the right tools for their workers to be productive, which can be a challenge with limited resources. With some staff remote, employers will need to address company equipment needs, conference room abilities, cybersecurity vulnerabilities, and more to ensure that all employees are able to perform their duties efficiently.
Bonus – Four Day Work Week?
There is a fourth work style option that has been gaining momentum in recent years—the four-day work week. This option has employees working less hours overall, without a reduction in pay or benefits. The nonprofit organization 4 Day Week Global put on a massive six-month trial in the UK that included 61 companies from June to December 2022 to put the four-day work week to the test. The results? The trial was a resounding success, with 92% of companies deciding to keep the four-day week permanently. 55% of the employees in the trial reported an increase in their ability at work, and 15% said they would never go back to a five-day schedule, even for a pay increase!
Other reported benefits included an overall increase in employee satisfaction, a decline in absenteeism, an increase in applications, and better mental health for employees. While not every industry is in a position to adopt this style of work model, it will be interesting to see if a four-day schedule overtakes remote or hybrid work as the new future of the workplace.
The Future is Flexibility
Industries and even individual companies are unique, so there’s no one-size-fits-all “best” work option. However, the trend has become clear in the last few years: flexible work is here to stay. Many people want the option to work remotely at least some of the time, but still have chances to interact with their coworkers in-person. Companies that offer some flexibility in their workday options—whether that’s a choice of in-person/remote or some hybrid work schedule—can reap the benefits of higher talent retention and overall employee satisfaction.
Are you looking for a flexible work option? LCS is proud to offer hybrid work schedules, along with several other top benefits. If you’re seeking a career change that will allow you flexibility and room to grow, check out our current openings and apply!