Why hybrid work is here to stay and so is the office!

- September 5, 2023 3 MIN READ

As an Australian tech startup we’ve operated in a flexible manner now for over ten years, but August marked a significant turning point for our business, as we announced the shift back to the office under a hybrid working model. While criticisms remain regarding office working, the last 12 months revealed a simple truth – that isolation dilutes creativity, explains Chris Dahl, Co-CEO, Pin Payments.

Though it may seem counterintuitive for startups to enforce office working, major brands like Atlassian, Zoom, Canva and Slack have all reinstated back-to-work policies. But the key seems to be in striking a balance between remote-first and office-only, with statistics showing 84 per cent of employees want flexibility and 63 per cent would leave their job if they didn’t get it.

With work culture continually changing post-pandemic, can we find a way to strike a balance between collaboration, creativity and flexibility in modern working arrangements?

Unmasking the realities of remote work

During the early days of the pandemic, like many companies, we shifted to working from home and have done so now for several years. Zoom became our lifeline and office collaboration was a thing of the past. And while it was a necessary move during the pandemic, as time progressed, we began to realise something was missing – those spontaneous interactions that often lead to profound knowledge sharing.

However, it wasn’t just creativity and collaboration that suffered, morale was considerably lower, and our business was no exception. A study by the University of Sydney found remote workers were more likely to experience social isolation and loneliness and had a higher risk of depression and anxiety than office workers. The challenges of remote work ranged from decreased motivation and focus, to challenges onboarding new staff, to decreased socialisation.

Sitting in the office now, I can hear conversations among team members and discussions that might have been missed in the virtual world. There’s an undeniable buzz in the air and an energy that you can’t replicate through a screen. This renewed synergy isn’t about working harder, it’s about communication flowing freely, decisions being made swiftly, and opportunities presenting themselves at an accelerated pace. It’s not just about efficiency, it’s about the creative spark that ignites when ideas bounce off each other in real time.

Hybrid is here to stay

While remote work has its merits, our move back to the office has rekindled a newfound sense of workplace connection. Face-to-face team meetings have proven invaluable and the camaraderie and understanding that stem from sitting across the table from one another are difficult to replicate digitally.

Despite this, flexibility and work/life balance are still vital in today’s working world and completely removing that may have negative work culture ramifications. Offering flexibility and allowing your staff to choose flex days will prevent the monotony of being tethered to a desk and give staff with families and differing circumstances some choice.

Hybrid work has also brought undeniable benefits for new employees who often find it easier to ramp up skills face-to-face and develop connections with their team. However, the pandemic taught us that quiet time is still vital for high-focus tasks, and a hybrid model supports assigning that to work-from-home days. Whereas strategies, creativity, innovation and ideas generation require in-person collaboration.

The road ahead

While no transition is without its challenges, the pandemic has reminded us that balance is vital, even in working structures. Our shift back to the office has brought with it a renewed sense of purpose and an energy that permeates discussions and interactions. It serves as a reminder to all businesses that while technology has transformed the way we work, the power of human connection and collaboration is timeless.

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