Five myths and misconceptions about hybrid working

We won’t deny it. We’ve been talking a lot about hybrid work lately. After all, it’s an important issue: arguably, hybrid work adoption is at the heart of the most significant workplace transformation that’s taken place in decades. 

Despite this fact, and despite all the press it's received lately, misinformation about hybrid working – and hybrid workplace strategy – abounds. Hybrid work is still a relatively new model, and decision-makers continue to adjust their approaches to it, iterating and learning from their mistakes as they go along. It’s only logical that popular perceptions about the hybrid workplace aren’t always accurate.

We wanted to set the record straight.

To learn more about the actual state of hybrid work adoption, we recently partnered with the global research firm Statista to conduct an online survey of digital workplace decision-makers. We polled more than 500 of these leaders across Europe to learn about their organisations’ existing and future plans for hybrid work adoption. We also discovered some of the challenges they’re currently facing, and learned what they’re doing to balance productivity and security.

One thing we discovered is that many commonplace assumptions about hybrid working simply aren’t true. Or they’re partially true, only in certain limited circumstances. 

Here are some myths and misconceptions about hybrid work. We’ll try to clear them up.

#1: Remote and hybrid work will be phased out over time...False.

Not only has hybrid work adoption become the norm across Europe, but this trend is expected to persist for the foreseeable future. All-remote enterprises are still uncommon in the E.U., but almost half of employers (43%) now offer their on-site workers the freedom to choose a few days each week or month to work from home or another location. Hybrid remains the workplace strategy of choice for most employees around the globe. As many as 25% of workers say they would quit or start looking for another job if told they’d need to return to the office five days per week, a recent research report found.

A majority of European companies (75%) do plan to reassess their hybrid work strategies within the next 12 months, but few are planning to return to the office-only workplace models that were popular before the pandemic. Instead, organisations continue to test out new approaches, preparing themselves to face future changes, which might be regulatory, economic or technological.

#2: Now that hybrid work has gone mainstream, the physical office is no longer relevant...False.

European companies are reimagining the physical workplace, but they’re not abandoning it. In fact, 62% of the participants in our survey reported that their company has increased its investments in real estate over the past three years, and 94% agreed that their organisation’s real estate strategy was driven – or at least influenced – by hybrid work adoption.

Just because people are no longer working solely in the office doesn’t mean that offices are now irrelevant or unimportant. If anything, their role – supporting face-to-face conversation and collaboration, and fostering cohesive organisational cultures – has become clearer, and companies are redesigning workspaces to further this aim. As many as 73% of respondents to another recent survey said that their companies are planning to reduce the amount of dedicated desk space in offices and increase the amount of open co-working space available to teams. Today’s organisations are investing money, effort and attention in building physical offices that are better suited for the role they’ll play as a critical part of tomorrow’s flexible, dynamic and hybrid workplaces.

#3: It’s harder to provide satisfying employee experiences and build a cohesive organisational culture when employees work from home some or all of the time... Neither true nor false.

Every organisation is different. It can be more difficult to create a cohesive organisational culture when employees aren’t all on site at the same time, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Employee expectations have changed. A majority of today’s knowledge workers prefer hybrid work, and growing numbers are increasingly willing to switch jobs to ensure they’ll have access to it. Engaging people by providing them with the right collaboration tools and with technologies that give them frictionless access to the apps they need to stay productive is more and more important to employees.

Hybrid and remote organisations do have to be intentional about things that used to require little thought when everyone was working on-site all of the time. Which days or times should teams spend on collaborative tasks, and which should be dedicated to focused individual work? Which tasks or projects must be completed synchronously, and which are better suited to asynchronous collaboration? 

When organisations adopt dynamic working models, they open themselves up to a plethora of new strategies for collaborating, organising processes and creating productive collegial relationships between co-workers. Determining which of these strategies are best for your individual company can require experimentation as well as thoughtful reflection. It’s well worth the effort, though. 

#4: Hybrid working comes with greater cybersecurity risk...True and false.

Hybrid work adoption can in fact increase your attack surface, especially if your organisation hasn’t updated its security strategy in tandem. When employees are working from a variety of different locations, and there’s growing reliance on cloud applications and services, it’s essential to adopt an identity-powered Zero Trust approach to security. This is critical for protecting your users, information assets and technology ecosystem against today’s most prevalent threats. 

Organisations that have not yet embraced Zero Trust by making identity the new perimeter may find that allowing remote work is indeed risky, since it’s near-impossible to extend the corporate network (along with legacy defences) into each and every employee’s home. But organisations that are able to successfully implement a modern identity strategy can be just as secure - if not more - no matter where people are working. In addition, companies that adopt an identity-powered security strategy will be able to provide users with streamlined, frictionless access to the resources they need to stay on top of their productivity game.

#5: Remote workers are less productive than their in-office counterparts...False

In the early days of remote work, many leaders worried that employees’ attitudes towards work would be, “Out of sight, out of mind.” But time has proven that the opposite is true: with fewer interruptions, no need to waste hours commuting, and access to powerful collaboration tools, hybrid and remote workers can in fact be more productive than those who work exclusively on-site. 

Our survey revealed that corporate leaders understand this: 63% of respondents said that they associate remote work with higher productivity than in-office work. Of course, improving productivity and powering collaboration is still an area for investment and experimentation. We predict that it’ll remain a top priority for hybrid, remote and flexible organisations for the foreseeable future.

Want to know more about what our research into the latest hybrid work trends revealed? Download The Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023 to explore our findings in greater depth. Or check out our Okta Workforce Identity Cloud to learn how we’re making it possible for leading organisations to implement Zero Trust-based security while keeping their hybrid and remote employees happy and productive.