The firms turning their back on hybrid to go all-remote

In this report, we look at why organisations struggling with the hybrid model are choosing to go fully remote in 2023 rather than return to the office full-time

As a new year dawns, organisations on both side of the Atlantic have begun to come to terms with the realities of hybrid working. In short, there’s no such thing as a smooth transition to the hybrid model.

Hybrid has the type of scheduling complexities that heap logistical pressures on workplaces and psychological pressures on workers. So much so that many companies are now wondering whether it will be worth all the effort in the long run.

But while some large firms are keen to avoid the hybrid halfway house by ramping up efforts to bring their people back to the office full-time, many more are moving in the opposite direction – they are doubling down on full remote setups and shedding office space as fast as they can.

‘Many firms are doubling down on full remote setups and shedding office space…’

According to a BBC report, US tech company Yelp is among those companies to ditch hybrid and go fully remote. Yelp has 4,400 staff; CEO Jeremy Stoppelman described hybrid as ‘the worst of both worlds’ and announced that its offices in such cities as New York City, Chicago and Washington DC would close.

Yelp is keeping its San Francisco HQ for now and transitioning to a ‘hoteling’ model where desks can be rented for the day. But it clearly sees its future as fully remote – and Yelp is not alone. PayPal and worker-for-hire app TaskRabbit have both pulled out of San Francisco. Airbnb, 3M, Spotify and Lyft have all introduced permanent work-at-home arrangements.

Resistance to returning

Difficulties in mandating people back to the office as part of a hybrid approach provides one reason why companies might consider going fully remote. There has been widespread resentment and resistance to an office return among employers who enjoyed high levels of autonomy during the pandemic.

But that’s not the whole story. Hybrid work is difficult to manage and ‘a mess’ according to senior US academics interviewed by the BBC. Offering a fully remote option might simply be a way to stop exhausted and confused employees quitting their jobs as firms chop and change their approach.

There is strong evidence that people like remote working so maybe companies are just following the numbers. Yelp has reported a surge in job applications since it announced its new policy. But doubling down on remote working is not without its risks – it might mean dodging the hybrid bullet but nobody knows how going fully remote will play out in the long term and what will be its impact on company culture, collaboration, onboarding and networking, for example.

 ‘It might mean dodging the hybrid bullet but nobody knows how all-remote will play out in the long term…’

Some companies have extensive experience of operating an ‘all remote’ policy. Online storage and software platform GitLab, for example, is one of the world’s largest all-remote companies with more than 1,300 team members in around 65 countries. It’s been run that way since 2014 and in 2019, well before the pandemic, it appointed a Head of Remote to evolve its strategy.

In a period of hybrid trial and error by so many employers, corporate outliers such as GitLab are likely to be studied closely to see if doubling down on remote can really work.


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