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What is hybrid work? It means something and nothing.

Data reports and surveys about hybrid work, remote work, and in-office work policies often have similar themes: CEOs want one thing while employees want something different. The resulting insight is that “hybrid work” is the future because it offers elements of what both executives and employees want, and many companies are running with that philosophy.

But what is hybrid work anyway?

It’s a catch-all term, that means something and nothing all at the same time. Yes, it means partly in-office work, and partly remote work. But it’s also an extremely vague term that doesn’t represent any truly functional workplace concept.

Here’s the thing: there is no single word or label yet for our future workplaces.

Why? Because every company’s workplace should be unique to its business. And now, we have more workplace options and flexibility today than ever before.

We, as company leaders, now have the tools, the spaces, the ideas, the inspiration, and the flexibility to create the best work environment for our company’s success. And at the same time, we can offer employees those same tools, spaces, ideas, inspiration, and flexibility to build the work environment they need to do their best work.

The key is piecing it all together to enable the best workplace for everyone.

Read more: The remote work vs. in-office work debate is over: Here’s how we move forward.

What does the “best workplace” look like?

The future workplace doesn’t look like any one thing. The workplace used to be an office—something you could pinpoint as the location of a company’s place of work. It was one tangible thing you could take a picture of.

Now, the workplace is a concept that could vary by the day for certain people or teams. It’s flexible, nimble, and cost-efficient. It’s not entirely different from on-premises software vs. software as a service (SaaS). With on-premise, you could point to a server and say, “Our software lives on that server right there!”

With SaaS, you can’t do that (at least not easily), yet it provides the same function and is more flexible, nimble, and cost-efficient.

We have the freedom to build our workplaces from a completely blank slate without having to start from a concept of “remote work” or “hybrid work” as a foundation.

How do I know if it will work?

I often talk to company leaders who are still figuring out what their workplace will look like. They don’t know for sure what will work, so most of them agree that they want the ability to continue to evolve their workplace. 

Most employees want some level of flexibility and structure in their company’s workplace concept, and clear strategic reasoning for it. Employers want to be engaged, connected employees. To achieve this, companies start with their best approach to a workplace concept based on business goals, team preferences, geographies, and more. 

And, again, just like with SaaS, because you are not locked into a specific type of office or workplace, you have the ability to change. Push monthly updates and patches, then communicate them, and show your users and employees that you are trying to improve their lives. And at the same time, you need to continue to refine your workplace concept.

Ultimately, with the right work environment and flexibility, engaged employees will do what’s needed to do their best work and reach their career goals.

Problems that need solving

In-office work has its problems: commute, lack of flexibility, and more. Working from home has its issues too: lack of collaboration, isolation, and cultural void. This does not mean we just live with the downsides. We have so many workplace options today that these are just problems that need solving. And on the flip side, present huge opportunities to build our ideal workplace of the future.

Every company will have its own version of these problems to solve based on business needs, employee preferences, and geographies. But with levers like travel, flexible workspaces, technology, and enabling employee autonomy, company leaders can craft a new way of working that doesn’t necessarily fit into a “remote work” or “hybrid work” box, but certainly does fit the future success of your company.

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