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The woman is sitting in her living room. The photo was taken by Romy Arroyo.

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What’s the future of work? The jury is still out, but it is clear that flexible working is part of the equation. The question is what will that flexibility look like? A four-day week could be the answer. The world’s biggest trial of this new working pattern is about to start with 70 firms and 3,300 employees in the UK. Is Brian Chesky’s prediction that we’ll all be living and working from anywhere ten years from now close to being true? As advocated by remote-first organizations like GitLab, asynchronous working is the way forward, where employees can have free rein over their location and hours. These options sound great, but how much flexibility is good for employees? How much do they actually want to spend?

Too much flexibility can be bad for a worker’s mental health and career.

If employees are free to choose where they work, they could swap their suburban office for a desk with a view of the ocean in one of the other countries that offer digital nomad visas. When employees work in another time zone, the opportunities for in-person interaction diminish. When communication is limited to video calls, it can be hard to see if they are struggling with their workload, experiencing stress, or on the verge of exhaustion.

People may miss out on vital feedback and the ability to learn because of lack of face time. According to Microsoft, 50% of remote employees feel alonelier than they did before they moved to remote work. The proponents of “anywhere working” argue that regular staff gatherings are still possible, but how often can people get together if they are scattered around the world?

Scientific research suggests that working flexible hours is best enjoyed in moderation.

The idea of being able to set your work schedule around other commitments might seem refreshing. Cornell researchers found that working during non-standard times reduces people’s intrinsic motivation and makes work less enjoyable.

The idea of collective time off and the perception of when it is and isn’t acceptable to work are some of the factors that lead to this. If you catch up on a project over the weekend when you would rather be doing something else, the positive feelings associated with controlling your work hours can fade. When working out of hours, there are ways to stay motivated. Most people benefit from having structure and boundaries between their personal and professional lives, and leisure time when they can enjoy it.

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A Middle Ground

Tiger Recruitment research shows that most workers aspire to find a balance. The vast majority of workers cited hybrid working when asked about their ideal set-up. Only a fifth of people would choose to work from home. According to the survey respondents, hybrid beats full-time office and full-time remote working. Those who have experienced it say it has improved their work-life balance and alleviated stress.

People prefer a balance of in-office and work-from- home days, according to the research. The least popular hybrid models were those that worked just one day a week or more.

The average worker looks for a middle ground. The ability to work wherever, whenever, and however you choose is appealing and it will suit some, but most people recognize the benefits of combining home and office working. It is time for those companies to sit on the fence.

Choice And Coordination

It takes a lot of effort to implement a hybrid structure. trusting people to get on and do their job when they are working remotely It depends on consistent communication to break down any barriers created by having people in the office and home at different times. Regular opportunities to bring people together and maintain the company culture are what it means. The rewards of getting it right are significant, as supported by new research. Employees who are given the flexibility to work both in the office and at home are more productive than employees who are entirely office-based or fully remote. Workers that are hybrid report better physical and mental wellbeing. Could the future of work be a mixture of both? If hybrid workers feel happier, are more committed to their employer and perform better, it should be.