Hybrid Offices: Here to Stay

Hybrid Offices: Here to Stay

Written by Cecil Mattson, 2L of Texas A&M School of Law

I’m writing this from my bedroom.  The lights are off, music is playing, and I’m drinking a homemade London Fog.  I love being able to set up my work space like this; it’s easier to focus when I’m comfortable.  Even better, when I’m done for the day, I’ll be able to skip my long commute, cook some soup, and get started on my studying.  Life is great.

One day a week, I take the train to the office, and sit at a desk left vacant by a coworker having a work-from-home day.  There, I swap a dark room for fluorescents made moot by bright sunlight; music for the excited chatter of coworkers; my London Fog for bonding over breakroom coffee.  I like this, too.  Having access to an office space is very helpful.  I enjoy being able to connect with coworkers and share ideas.  Like many others, I’m loving hybrid work.

The Benefits of Hybrid Offices

There’s a vast number of reasons why so many people, like myself, are advocating for hybrid work options.  Hybrid offices, where employees can choose to work from home, come into the office, or arrange their preferred combination of work sites, are more accessible, more environmentally friendly, and better for the economy.

Accessibility for Disabled Workers

Many workers with physical disabilities have barriers that able bodied people generally don’t think about.  Getting dressed in professional clothing, traveling around inaccessible areas, and not having the space and privacy to treat disability-related issues as they arise can make in-person work incredibly draining for some disabled workers.  Having the ability to work remotely as needed can eliminate that exhaustion, leaving the worker safer, more productive, and much happier.  

The great thing about hybrid workplaces is that there’s an in-office option for those that need it.  Some workers with disabilities related to focus or social interactions find that working in-office, among other people, is better for their productivity and mental health.  Others find that a personalized combination of hybrid and in-office work helps them maximize comfort and productivity.  This universal accessibility helps all workers, regardless of disability status.  

Other Accessibility Benefits

Anecdotally, members of other minority groups find that remote work options have decreased instances of discrimination and microaggressions.  Unfortunately, many workers feel uncomfortable demonstrating their individual cultural or gender expression in an office setting, but find that remote options alleviate some of that discomfort.  Some workers also report that remote work has also led to their work being judged more by quality, rather than by preconceived stereotypes.

The Environment

For workers that have to rely on personal vehicles, even one day of remote work significantly reduces carbon emissions. Reduced carbon emissions from cars isn’t the only benefit. Part of the environmentally damaging overconsumption that takes place in a typical work day is a result of people simply not having the time and energy to deal with finding sustainable alternatives.  Reduced commute times may help encourage workers to cook healthy meals at home, garden, and do other activities that help reduce their carbon footprint.

So Why the Push for In-Office Only?

Billionaires like Elon Musk have been in the news lately, pushing for the end of remote and hybrid work.  Despite the overwhelming evidence that remote options are beneficial for workers, for Musk and other billionaires, it’s about the money. Specifically, it’s about office commercial real estate investors’ passive incomeOffice space ownership has prohibitively expensive starting costs, and consistently high profit, meaning that a commercial real estate investment locks money into the bank accounts of already wealthy investors.

Hybrid offices can require fewer work spaces and use fewer resources, meaning that demand for commercial office space could decrease significantly if hybrid offices become the long-term norm.  Furthermore, hybrid offices are more adaptable to remote work, which allows companies the flexibility to boycott office space rent increases, if they occur.  In short, long-term hybrid offices have the potential to disrupt the flow of cash into the already-stuffed pockets of real estate investors, leaving more money for employees.

The Future of Hybrid Work

With the benefit of choice, accessibility, a reduced carbon footprint, and the potential to increase income, workers everywhere are excited about hybrid offices.  Lately, workers have seen an exciting shift in power: with an overall increase in unionization, and a trend towards workers understanding their rights, workers are able to choose to make hybrid offices the future of work.

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