Return to Office: What is a Hybrid Work Set-up?

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FILE PHOTO: MRT personnel check vaccination cards of passengers boarding a train at a station in Quezon City, suburban Manila on Jan. 18, 2022.
Photo/s: Maria Tan, Agence France-Presse

Data analyst Migo (not his real name) has begun going back to the office for one whole week a month, after two straight years of working remotely. Come April, he may have to balance working from home and in his cubicle as his company prepares to implement a hybrid work setup.

This system of half-office and half-home has been around pre-pandemic as a response to the growing globalization of services and as COVID cases decline, Migo and millions others will attempt to balance working on and off site.

Hybrid work is "experiencing a surge in popularity as the win-win solution of the post-pandemic work environment,” said Karina Ysabel N. Bicomong, Section Head of Organization Development at Summit Media.

What is hybrid work?

It's adoption fast-tracked by the virus, hybrid work is agreed number of times on a week or month wherein the employee works from home and from the office.

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Last week, tech giant Google said it would implement a hybrid work setup in its offices—a system that would stay even after the pandemic.

“The pandemic was able to demonstrate that many tasks can be accomplished remotely,” Bicomong said.

“At the same time, needing to stay in one place 100% of the time took a toll on peoples’ mental health over this period and also showed how human interaction and face-to-face collaboration can also be beneficial to wellness, efficiency and productivity,” she added.

Hybrid work also offers a greater level of flexibility for employees. Companies can also see “increased engagement, greater efficiency and productivity, and less burnout,” Bicmong said.


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What does hybrid work mean for employees?

Once the new system kicks in, 31-year-old Migo will have to report to the office at least three times a week, and work from home the other days. He also has the option to go back to the office full-time, but he’d rather do hybrid work to avoid the rush of fellow employees in the shared floor. “Marami rin kasing na-hire si company,” he said

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Migo’s employer, like other companies, has a lot to figure out before implementation: teams, shifts, and distribution of employees on the floor.

Some employees required to go to the office three times a week (for a total of 12 days a month) also floated the idea of working in the office for 12 straight days then staying at home for the rest of the month.

According to Bicomong, there are several ways to go about splitting work locations, as stated in the Department of Health’s list of Alternative Work Arrangements.

4-10 cyclical routine

Employees go to work for four days, then work at home the next 10 days. Employees are split into two groups alternating weeks.

Three-day schedule

Employees may be asked to work for three consecutive days from Monday to Wednesday, or Tuesday to Saturday. It can also be Monday-Wednesday-Friday or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday.

One week on, one week off

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Employees report to the office for a week, then work at home the next week.

Who gets deployed “is largely determined by the company and the nature of the industry or work,” she said.


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Safety first

All eyes are on government guidelines, as companies are legally bound to follow evolving pandemic protocols to keep employees safe.

“If these guidelines are not well-established, implementation would also not be as effective. Retrofitting of infrastructure and facilities, constant communication of safety guidelines, and leaders leading the charge and adjusting as well are critical,” Bicomong said.

“The changing nature of the virus also lends itself to more ambiguous recommendations, though with two years of the pandemic down, we now have a better understanding of how to keep our environment safe and virus-free,” she said.

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It’s not for everyone

While hybrid work is an option for companies, certain industries reliant on client-facing and frontline services can’t implement it. Pilots can’t fly planes from home. 

“Businesses like manufacturing, aviation and public transportation are still essential in today’s modern world, and would still need their employees to report on-site for the work to be done,” Bicomong said.

Employees long deprived of social interaction may once again enjoy pantry banter. It’s a delight for many, but for some, personal responsibilities may make the return to office far from ideal.

“[Employees] mainly in charge of caring for others like children and senior household members would have to make adjustments once again that may not be as attractive because of increased safety risks,” Bicomong said.


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Adapting to change

Top companies like Google and Twitter are making working from home and hybrid work a permanent option for employees so they can maximize productivity, avoid burnout, and avoid traffic—a prospect all too enticing for the Filipino tired of EDSA Carmageddon.

The Philippines is yet to see the effects of hybrid work as more companies call employees back to the office.

In Bicomong’s 12 years of HR experience, she has learned that change was the only thing constant in the workplace: “I think what is here to stay is the sense that we have to be comfortable with change. There are still many uncertainties in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have to be prepared to adjust to whatever comes next.”

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