Today’s employees are working in a golden age of productivity and efficiency since there has never been as much facilitating technology and so many tools to help them be productive and efficiently collaborate with others. In the past two years, organizations have been taking the digital leap even faster than before, because the pandemic has forced them to improve their processes and working methods. Many work tasks have been moved to virtual spaces only and remote work has increased remarkably. Companies constantly seek to improve their performance but this shift to remote work and thus a hybrid mode of working – employees dividing their working week between being in the office and working remotely at the home – is likely to be a long-term trend. This hybrid mode can be both an opportunity and a threat from an employee efficiency viewpoint. The present article discusses the pros and cons of hybrid work.
Authors: Elina Nikkilä, Taina Vuorela & Kristiina Brusila-Meltovaara
Initial experiences of remote work have been promising
In 2021, a case study explored 100 office employees’ remote work in a local industrial company in Lahti. As many as 41% of the employees claimed to be more efficient working remotely, while 31% claimed to be as efficient as in the office (Nikkilä 2021); only 28% of the respondents considered their work to be the most efficient at the office. Remote work often provides a more peaceful environment, as well as more efficient use of time and overall flexibility, which can improve employees’ wellbeing and overall performance.
The same study also discovered considerable differences in staff’s willingness to return to the office after the pandemic: 24% of the employees wanted to continue working fully remotely, while 4% did not want to continue remote work at all (ibid.); as high a percentage as 43% of the respondents wanted at least 1 to 2 remote days per week, while 29% of the employees preferred as many as 3 to 4 remote workdays per week. Thereby, it is clear that employees consider themselves thriving in different kinds of environments and an either/or option of remote work would not appear to suit the case company and its staff.
Adopting hybrid work can be beneficial to an organisation – but this requires trust
Hybrid work is an agile, present-day way to work and it may increase employees’ motivation and wellbeing, which, in turn, can lead to better results in efficiency and productivity (ibid.). Hybrid work can reduce office work-related disadvantages, as it, ideally, supports employees’ personal preferences and needs, making it a desirable option for both employee and employer. However, the flexibility of remote work demands trust and honesty from both sides. An employer must trust employees’ capability to manage their work, but the employees also need to be worthy of that trust (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2021). Flexibility is a standard requirement for today’s employees and companies must be ready to grant such freedom in order to capture the most wanted professionals. When this trust is built from the start of the professional relationship, it ties the employee and management together and the engagement improves with time (Hougaard et al. 2018, 128–129).
Hybrid work is a complex phenomenon, as it seems to create an environment which is not equal to a merely healthy, sustainable working environment
While traditional everyday work at the office is becoming outdated, fully remote working can be exhausting, so companies need to find beneficial solutions somewhere in the middle. The pros of hybrid work come with a price, as prolonged remote work can be isolating and numbing to employees, which can increase the psychological load and can eventually impair the employees’ performance (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2021). This observation is corroborated in a study conducted by Talouselämä (2022) which shows that the prolonged ‘forced’ remote work is no longer considered an asset and many employees cannot wait to get back to the office. This applies especially to the younger work force (under 35 -year-olds); early middle-aged employees (age group 35 – 50) still prefer working at home, as hybrid work allows for flexibility and maintaining a balance between family life and work (ibid). Designing cozy, home-like atmosphere for the office may be a new trend, when companies start attracting and recruiting new work force (ibid).
Social relationships at work are an important element of an enjoyable work experience. Creating and maintaining them while working remotely may be the Achilles’ heel of hybrid work. This is not the only issue, however. Working remotely has significantly reduced employees’ physical activity and created a daily routine of stagnancy which involves too much sitting (Talouselämä 2022). This is clearly not a healthy trend. The closer the office, the more likely it is that employees will return there; yet, individual office spaces no longer seem necessary (ibid.). Interestingly, Finland seems to lead the way in promoting hybrid work: Finnish companies are more pro-tech than our Nordic neighbours in exploiting remote-work related technology (ibid).
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health 2021. Guidelines for remote work. Cited 30 January 2022. Available at https://hyvatyo.ttl.fi/en/koronavirus/en/guidelines-for-remote-work
Hougaard, R., Kalajo, T. & Ora, H. 2018. Ajatteleva johtaja. Helsinki: Alma Talent.
Nikkilä, E. 2021. Future model for remote working in a case organization. Master thesis. LAB University of Applied Sciences. Cited 30 January 2022. Available at https://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2021121726771
Toivio, T. 2022. Etätyö ei tuonutkaan pelkkää auvoa – ”Se, mikä nyt koetaan normaaliksi, on kaukana terveellisestä, kestävästä työpäivästä”. Talouselämä 25.1.2022. Cited 30 January 2022. Available at https://www.talouselama.fi/uutiset/etatyo-ei-tuonutkaan-pelkkaa-auvoa-se-mika-nyt-koetaan-normaaliksi-on-kaukana-terveellisesta-kestavasta-tyopaivasta/c5b6b4e6-a983-41d4-b524-c35e3a781f56
Elina Nikkilä graduated from LAB in 2021 as a Master in Business Administration, International Business Management.
Taina Vuorela works as a Principal Lecturer at LAUREA University of Applied Sciences.
Kristiina Brusila-Meltovaara works as a Principal Lecturer at LAB University of Applied Sciences.
Illustration: https://www.pexels.com/fi-fi/kuva/naine-tyopoyta-lappari-toimisto-7679589/, Karolina Grabowska, Pexels-licence
Reference to this article
Nikkilä, E., Vuorela, T. & Brusila-Meltovaara, K. 2022. Finnish companies lead the way: hybrid work can be the key to improved staff efficiency and engagement in organisations. LAB Pro. Cited and date of citation. Available at https://www.labopen.fi/lab-pro/finnish-companies-lead-the-way-hybrid-work-can-be-the-key-to-improved-staff-efficiency-and-engagement-in-organisations/