‘The Future of Work is Remote White Paper’ is compiled by Randstad offices in Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia and Singapore.
Based on the survey data from the 2021 Randstad Employer Brand Research and qualitative interviews with 16 HR leaders across Hong Kong SAR, Malaysia and Singapore, the paper outlines expectations between employers and employees on remote and hybrid work as we enter the next normal.
In recent years, many cities have developed their trade or industry hubs that are specifically designed as highly collaborative ecosystems between private and public sectors. Certain industries are predicated on an in-person environment, such as airports or scientific laboratories that depend on on-site infrastructure or specialised equipment.
Face-to-face interactions bring a different energy that remains important in fostering innovation and camaraderie among colleagues. However, the changing movement restrictions and varying office capacity regulations allowed HR leaders to experiment with the different models of hybrid work.
what is a hybrid workplace?
The hybrid workplace is a type of business model that combines a flexibility of remote working and working in the office.
The pros of implementing a hybrid work culture are an increase in workforce productivity, improved work-life balance, fostering a resilient workplace and saving operational cost. For a hybrid work set-up to work, employers and employees must understand that they both stand to benefit from it.
Many organisations have adopted digital technologies and implemented new policies that helped streamline operations and reduce costs. As a result, companies which in the past never considered remote work as an option are now centring it in their long-term strategies and adapting the hybrid work model.
employers want the best of both worlds
Whether companies expect employees to work remotely or in the office, it's important to note that either of these options has their fair share of shortcomings.
The traditional 9-to-5 model enforces the notion that hours spent in the office have a direct correlation to overall performance and productivity. However, it could create an unhealthy culture of presenteeism in the office and deteriorating mental health among employees.
Even though companies saw improved productivity with remote working in place, a fully remote arrangement cannot replicate the human aspect of work. Because remote work arrangements focus on tasks and outcomes, it’s easy to forget about the workers behind the deliverables. While not impossible, it takes more effort to foster collaboration and camaraderie in a remote setting.
The future of work is hybrid and the “happy medium” lies in hybrid work models. With this work arrangement, employees can choose when or where they want to work, so long as they follow the parameters set by their company.
"It is a mental battle that each employee is facing: how COVID is affecting them, their personal situations, their families, and the prolonged uncertainty that COVID brings. I think the mental aspect of it is probably one that is often overlooked."
remote work’s implications on the office space
Since companies now realise that work is what you do and not where you do it, what will happen to expensive real estate leases?
Many companies believe that the office space should be retained, but redesigned. Carry out design changes to transform cubicles and private offices to collaborative and leisure spaces that accommodate the needs of hybrid work
To figure out how office spaces should transform into new spaces, HR leaders can ask these questions:
- What percentage of the office space should be dedicated to collaboration and/or leisure?
- How often should employees come in to conduct group meetings?
- How much space is required if only a few employees come in at a time?
- How conducive are these office spaces to fostering collaboration, productivity, and positive work experiences?
- Will the office’s current location be considered accessible and convenient in the next normal?
Besides reinventing office spaces for better collaboration, employers will have to consider incorporating new technologies to make physical offices safer and more sanitary. Companies are expected to install motion sensors that can automate certain functions, such as opening and locking doors or turning lights on and off. Organisations in high-risk environments such as healthcare, manufacturing, and food & beverage can also install self-sanitising stations so their employees feel safer at work.
These changes to the workplace improve the experience of the entire workforce and result in greater cost savings for companies, especially in cities like Singapore and Hong Kong where real estate is expensive.
According to McKinsey, organisations that explore alternative workplace strategies could reduce their real estate costs by 30% over time. These budgets could be used in other business-critical activities such as investing in new technologies or upskilling the workforce.
expectation vs reality
Many companies are using "collaboration, reconnection, and better work communication with colleagues and peers” as reasons to enforce a return to office policy. But it’s important to note that an office touted as a collaborative space in theory may not be one in practice. In some cases, there is a clear disconnect between what employees want from being in the office and what they are experiencing.
When companies bring their employees back to the office, they must ensure that their workplaces actually provide the benefits they promote. Even in offices that are already redesigned for the future of work, employers still need to consider their employees' varying needs—and refrain from applying the same solution to every individual.
food for thought: how should companies view space?
For the longest time, companies invested in big, fixed real estate in central locations to conduct operations. How can companies integrate space management with alternative workplace strategies? Instead of fixed office spaces, can they partner with co-working spaces or decentralised satellite offices to cut costs and improve accessibility?
The white paper ‘The Future of Work is Remote’ covers the following topics and course of action:
- Adjusting your teams and workforce to remote work
- Redesigning your office workplace
- Building trust and leading your hybrid workforce
- Navigating a hybrid learning & development environment
- Embracing new organisational technology to nurture an innovative culture