Home Editors' Picks Hybrid work is here to stay, says experts 

Hybrid work is here to stay, says experts 

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE post-pandemic workplace will be both hybrid and flexible, with corporate offices functioning as places of collaboration and socialization, industry experts said.

Christophe Vicic, JLL Philippines, Inc. country head, said the hybrid work model, whose widespread adoption was accelerated during the pandemic, is here to stay.

“I think it’s going to stay. The principal reason is it’s about the people. It’s about the… employees who have clearly tasted a different way of working,” he said at the second day of the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum 2021 on Thursday.

“Some of the organizations [that] were caught by surprise by the pandemic [saw the] potential benefits of the hybrid model. And I think, before pandemic, we all talked about the millennials. They want more flexibility, freedom, and project-based type of work — [all] these accelerated during the pandemic,” he added.

With the hybrid work strategy, employees are given the flexibility to engage in both office-based and remote work during the week.

Mr. Vicic noted that the “tipping point of hybrid work is three days in the office and two days at home.”

“Efforts in hybrid work will be successful if it is supported through technology and building up a digital system,” he added.

Elizabeth Fuller, head of growth at WeWork Southeast Asia, said at the same forum that the hybrid work is a trend that “existed before the pandemic, and it just accelerated during the pandemic.”

Citing WeWork’s recent global survey, she said the office remains essential to companies.

“But safety matters more than ever,” with 76% of global business leaders said office setting is important for collaboration, while 74% said they want their workplace thoroughly and regularly cleaned and disinfected, and more than half or 61% said they want to maintain social distancing when they return to workplace, according to the survey.

In 2019, or before the pandemic, 80% of the businesses were looking at headquarters as an investment, Ms. Fuller noted. “In 2020, the pandemic forced many companies to adopt a work-from-home workplace strategy,” she also said, noting that in the future, “workplace strategies will need greater flexibility.”

Interestingly, WeWork survey also found that 90% of millennials prioritize their freedom to work over salary.

Michael T. McCullough, managing director at KMC Savills, Inc., noted remote work posed some challenges for employees such as difficult working conditions, managing routine, and finding motivation.

The hybrid workplace, which he described as the “office of the future,” is all about employee experience.

The accelerated demand for hybrid working is driven by two major reasons: it is a great way to save money and it is more environment-friendly because it means less office space, Mr. McCullough noted.

Aside from focusing on employee experience, companies adopting hybrid work should also offer flexibility and provide spaces for collaboration, he added.

A JLL study showed the future of work also means being responsible and sustainable, and that the office will serve as a hub for collaboration, problem solving, and career development.

Carol T. Mills, president of Ayala Land Offices, Inc. and AREIT, Inc., said hybrid work is the best balance of productivity, efficiency, and safety “for now.”

“But people work best with other people. It’s hard to imagine a future where that does not happen,” she added.

“Eventually, depending on how effective hybrid systems work for companies, I suppose, slowly it will build towards more use of office because working in the office has a lot of intrinsic benefits.”

Companies around the world are still looking for the best way to structure office life after the pandemic.

“Managing the complexities of the future of work lies in promoting greater flexibility and choice, where the main principle is to work where one is most effective for the job at hand,”Fernando Zobel de Ayala, president and chief executive officer of Ayala Corp., said in his keynote address at the BusinessWorld Virtual Economic Forum on Wednesday.

“At Ayala, we continue to be intrigued at the prospect of a workplace centered on flexibility, choice, and greater support for associates. We are exploring several options for our companies as we move towards a post-COVID world,” he added.

Bernadette Nacario, Google Philippines country director, said in her keynote speech on Thursday that many barriers still exist amid the accelerated shift to digitalization during the pandemic.

These are “challenges around talent, which remains a key blocker that all sectors need to keep working on.”

Companies should also be able to recognize behaviors and patterns to achieve more for the future, she added.

“Economic recovery is a critical moment for the Philippines, and Google Philippines is committed to supporting the country in several communities through…its technologies and programs,” Ms. Nacario noted.