The power of hybrid: how flexible work is reshaping the future
The past few years didn’t just disrupt how we live, they transformed the way we approach our jobs. While the concept of hybrid work was born out of necessity, we discovered how a blended work environment offers tangible benefits for employers and workers alike.
We learned that in order to do our best work and produce the best results, work needs to be flexible. I can’t imagine going back to commuting to work every single day when I can use the extra time to put my kids on the bus or get a jump start on my to-do list – the flexibility of hybrid work really gives us the flexibility to maximize our productivity and efficiency.
Hybrid work continues to gain popularity across many industries and sectors. A recent study shows 74% of U.S. companies already use or plan to implement permanent hybrid work models, while 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work format.
The same study also ties hybrid work to business success. In fact, 63% of high-growth companies operate on a hybrid model, while nearly 70% of negative or zero-growth companies offer a fully in-person or remote model. It’s clear that these companies are more fixated on where their people work versus letting employees choose how they want to work.
We’ve also seen the events industry adapt to this new hybrid world. As of November 2022, 70% of all events are now hybrid or include the option to attend virtually.
There’s no doubt most employees want a hybrid work model, companies benefit from offering a flexible work environment, and event attendees prefer flexible event experiences. Rather than fearing a hybrid approach to work, employers who fully embrace hybrid concepts will attract and retain the best talent, while event professionals will grow their audiences and improve collaboration and accessibility.
Hybrid in practice
Whether we’re talking about hybrid learning models, our jobs, or attending events, hybrid today blends in-person experiences with modern technology. It represents a shift toward a more adaptable and flexible approach to work, and how we connect for meetings and events.
The concept of hybrid certainly evolved over the last few years and continues to evolve today. In the beginning, we thought everything had to be one-to-one. You had to replicate identical experiences for in-person and virtual audiences, which often proved difficult and expensive to pull off, especially for event organizers.
Today, people hold different expectations for hybrid. I certainly have them for when I’m working at home versus collaborating with my team in the office.
Event attendees have the same expectations. Some want to attend a conference without ever leaving their homes, while others want to travel and experience the event in person. Regardless of how they show up, people want flexibility, and technology provides a digital-forward hybrid experience to raise the bar for everyone’s expectations.
The benefits and challenges of hybrid
Hybrid work environments offer several benefits for employers and workers alike. Having a flexible work strategy really helps people be more productive because they can choose how they want to do their best work. And it not only looks different for all of us — it changes each day.
A hybrid approach to work helps leaders attract and retain the best talent. We can recruit and hire candidates from anywhere in the world. This strengthens our teams and nurtures an inclusive culture that ultimately makes us better design thinkers.
Event organizers and attendees also benefit from hybrid experiences. By adding a virtual option, event organizers instantly expand their audience reach while making event content more accessible. Hybrid gives attendees the option to not just choose how they attend your event, but how they engage with your content and other attendees.
Hybrid work does come with some challenges, notably getting employees to come into the office on a regular clip. At Webex, we like to say the office needs to be a magnet, not a mandate. Essentially, we want to make the most of peoples’ time when they show up in-person.
I design collaborative activities differently when I’m in the office versus working from home. No one wants to go to the office just to sit through a bunch of remote meetings. So, we need to make sure we’re intentional about how we engage our teams in a hybrid setting.
Setting and respecting employee boundaries can prove difficult in a hybrid setting, as each employee has unique expectations. Talk with all of your teammates individually and come to a consensus, so employees don’t feel the need to “always be online.”
To truly be effective in a blended setting, you need the right technology to seamlessly connect remote employees and power a tech-enabled experience for in-person interaction.
From an events perspective, an end-to-end event platform is essential. It gives organizations the flexibility to seamlessly produce all types of hybrid event experiences — from internal experiences like sales kick-offs to large-scale, external flagship events.
Embracing a hybrid approach to events
Today, over 95 percent of meetings have at least one remote participant. We all need to embrace hybrid approaches and the potential for new opportunities and innovation.
It’s such an exciting challenge at Webex Events (formerly Socio) to create these really amazing, equitable, and inclusive experiences in a hybrid environment. From a design and user-experience perspective, we think about how to use technology to ensure everyone has a voice. We focus primarily on the worker and brainstorm new ways to enhance collaboration across different work environments.
Companies that adopt hybrid tactics are going to have more productive and efficient people. They’ll produce a better product, and they’ll have better retention. The idea of collaborating from anywhere is the standard now, so companies that adapt and remain flexible will maximize employee engagement and wellbeing. The output only gets better when your people love what they do and how they do it.
We’ve found that the return of in-person events absolutely comes with the need for virtual elements, so most events are now on the hybrid spectrum. Attendees want the flexibility to watch a session from their hotel room or answer poll questions on their phones while sitting in a live audience.
I recently attended Enterprise Connect, and it was a fantastic experience, but by the third day, I was exhausted. Instead of going to the ballroom bright and early one morning, I tuned in from my mobile device outdoors, by the pool. I felt much more engaged and excited to experience it on my own terms on that particular day.
Technology ultimately bridges the gap between in-person and virtual audiences. Regardless if we’re talking about learning, events, or work, hybrid is about giving people a choice on how they want to consume content or collaborate with others.
The future of hybrid work and events
We’re just getting started with hybrid, and I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all solution for employers or event professionals. It’s a journey of transforming the way we think and of course the way we work.
The best hybrid solutions are adaptable and flexible to what works best for each team, project, or organization. I’m excited to see how new technologies and innovations continue to enhance hybrid approaches and create new possibilities.
Many people fixate on the word “hybrid,” to the point it becomes overwhelming. It’s not about creating two identical experiences for in-person and remote attendees or expecting remote workers to have the same experience as they would sitting in the office. It’s just not realistic.
People now realize hybrid is more than another buzzword—it’s all about flexibility. Hybrid means I can choose how I want to show up to an event or the way I want to work, and maybe it changes from day to day. For me, hybrid has become synonymous with flexibility of choice.
Looking for some tips and strategies to level up your next hybrid meeting or event? Check out our Hybrid Run of Show template.
May 15, 2023 — Kevin Adamson