The Cost of the Remote Hybrid Model

The idea of the office has been evolving slowly in the past few years. Companies have been dubbed forward-thinking for implementing strategies like the ‘open concept’ office space, as well as providing limited remote work-from-home options. As the COVID-19 pandemic has forced everyone out of the office and into their homes, these optional strategies have become necessary. They say that out of necessity breeds innovation, and from this pandemic has come a new era for the office- the remote strategy.
It’s already been predicted that remote work in the US and EU is expected to grow to a 40m job market by 2030, and likely more with new flexible models. And companies are going for it- just take a look at REI’s latest strategy: they’re selling their corporate headquarters and going completely remote, with three spaces in Seattle to provide space for in-person collaboration. To be honest, this is pretty smart. For one, it’s cost-effective to get rid of the office. An office on average costs $18,000~ per workspace, and exerts 5,443lb of Co2 (not to mention the energy wasted in the average 520 hours of commuting). The cost of remote work? $2,000 per workspace, with no commuting or Co2 emissions (unless you’re burning fuel at home). In addition, companies could spend a portion of this saved money to provide employees with a remote workspace, averaging at $16,000 per year per team member. Remote work also expands your hiring options. Now, you can hire anyone from anywhere in the world, without worrying if they’ll be able to take a 2 hour train to the office. So many pros and so little cons, right? Well...
Many are doubtful that the completely remote model will stick around. In fact, a number of companies are predicting a return to offices in the first months of 2021. If they don’t return,, a new exodus is expected to dawn on office-buzzed cities like New York, LA, Miami, etc. Commercial real estate is expected to be in big trouble as they will lose major tech-based clients, and realistically, many companies dislike the culture created by a workday of zoom meetings. So, big companies, why not take on the hybrid-model? Millennials and Gen Z’ers entering the job market crave fulfilling roles with a strong work/life balance, astray from the typical office-job. However, most still crave the company culture of an office. The hybrid model that REI is pseudo-implementing could provide a foundation for other companies to follow. Keep the office, but make it a collaborative space, or a space for team meetings/morale-boosting events. You’ll cut the office space you need in half, and will be able to provide your employees with an allowance of home-office funds. Allow teams to schedule meetings in the office, or come and go when they please. Trust in execution of projects and team support lies in the hands of good employees, and productivity is likely to boost when people feel trusted in their ability to complete work in a comfortable environment.

By Adi Shoham