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Hybrid Work Overhyped? Arguments Against Grow

Everything’s bigger in Texas — besides hybrid work, that is.
Over the last year, no workplace question has garnered more attention than "what does the future of work look like?" Many workplace leaders have come to a meet-in-the-middle approach, embracing a hybrid work model that capitalizes on the individual productivity gains of working from home and the collaboration benefits of meeting in-person at the office. However, not everyone is convinced about hybrid. For companies in the growing tech hub of Austin, Texas, the present and future is looking much like the past — either in-office or remote, but not a mix of the two — as Matthew Boyle, workplace trends reporter for Bloomberg, shared in a recent article.
Research from staffing agency Robert Half found that 13% of senior managers in Austin favored hybrid work, Boyle reported, having spoken with Thomas Vick, a regional director at the firm. Remote and in-office work is thriving over hybrid for two key reasons, Vick shared. One, Austin already had a strong remote work presence. And two, workplaces already made major investments in physical office buildings and are planning to make use of them.
Looking more broadly at office occupancy in major cities, Boyle highlighted data from security company Kastle Systems, which tracks access-control swipes in more than 2,600 buildings in 138 cities. According to his report, the company found that offices in the Texas cities of Austin, Dallas, and Houston accounted for some of the highest occupancy rates (from 47% to 51.4%) during the week of July 28 and Aug. 4, with Philadelphia and then Chicago rounding out the top five. Boyle also pointed out that Austin’s local corporate culture and business conditions can be two reasons companies there aren’t embracing hybrid and are going against broader future-of-work trends.
BBC worklife writer Bryan Lufkin laid out the case against hybrid work in a recent feature. One major concern of hybrid work comes down to company culture, Anu Madgavkar, a partner with McKinsey Global Institute, shared with Lufkin for the BBC article. With some people working in the office and others at home, hybrid creates a “‘two-track’” culture that makes some workplace strategists wary, Madgakar told Lufkin.
Workplace culture aside, other issues complicate a hybrid future, as Lufkin pointed out. From an IT perspective, a hybrid work model “‘is a hacker’s dream,’” which means many workplaces will have to scale their cybersecurity, he shared from Madgavkar. Then comes the cost of outfitting a hybrid workforce. Instead of supporting just one work model, hybrid might require that workplaces have fit-for-purpose workstations at home and in the office, which can be costly.
Will any of these data points and stories like these do much to sway current perceptions on in-office, remote, and hybrid work? I doubt it. Decision makers will gravitate toward whatever meets the case they want to make. If they want to postpone a return to the office, they’ll point to companies like DoorDash, Indeed, and Lyft that have announced that they’re waiting until 2022 to head back into the office. Or, if they want to get employees back to the office sooner than that, they’ll follow the lead of other companies like Google and Amazon that are mandating COVID vaccines for their employees.
What works for a workplace in Austin might not work for one in New York. Key will be figuring out which working style meets the needs of your workplaces... and then remembering one universal lesson of the pandemic: Don't count on that decision being permanent. 

Are you looking for more discussions and insights into the future of work? Then, make sure to attend Enterprise Connect this fall, which will feature a Workplace Strategies track that features discussion on hybrid work, employee experience, and more. As a WorkSpace Connect reader, use the promo code WSCNL to save $200 off the current registration rate. Register here!