Benefits administrator blog from Delta Dental

Tag: commute

The new normal: hybrid workplaces

Over a year after non-essential workers quickly adapted to operating from home, a survey by PwC found that nearly 70% of executives believe that employees should return to the office three days a week while just 20% of employees agreed with that sentiment. In fact, that survey also found that 30% of employees would stay remote a full five days a week if allowed. Additionally, the New York Times found that just 25% of workers would prefer to go back to an office full-time. As COVID-19 restrictions continue to be lifted, the compromise for many offices has been hybrid work models. These models not only accommodate workers both remote and in the office as a means of safety, but have also become staples of employee satisfaction.

“Compromise,” however, is the key word. As hybrid work is new to much of today’s workforce, a learning curve is to be anticipated. Here’s what you need to know about the future of hybrid workplaces.

Why go hybrid?

In a post-pandemic world, only one thing is for certain: there is no “back to normal.” Many everyday practices have evolved to accommodate new health and safety protocols, including day-to-day office life. In a hybrid model, social distancing is made easier by having less people in the office, thereby minimizing the chance of a virus running rampant.

Going hybrid may also help companies save budget otherwise spent on office space. As of January 2021, demand for office leasing was down 61% from December 2019, according to Business Wire. As some businesses opt to let go of their leases, they might also choose to stagger in-office and work from home days for some teams to accommodate staff while maintaining less space.

While some companies may fear that this newfound flexibility could hurt productivity, research shows that it is simply not the case. A 2020 report by Microsoft found that 82% of the leaders they’d surveyed found their teams to be at least as productive working in their new remote environments as they had been in an office.

In addition to flexibility, other advantages include:

Disadvantages of remote work

As many workers have now experienced, not every aspect of remote working is a positive. While the hybrid model might help remedy some of the disadvantages, there are still some concerns:

  • Burnout. Perhaps you’ve heard of, or even experienced, “Zoom fatigue” — the physical and mental exhaustion brought on by too many video conferences. Screen burnout is very real. In a hybrid work culture, time spent with your team truly face-to-face may help relieve that draining feeling associated with spending hours meeting virtually.
  • Company culture. One disadvantage of working from home cited repeatedly through the pandemic was the feeling that company culture and values are harder to upkeep virtually. Bringing workers back to the office a few times a week may help create physical reminders of the company mission.
  • Reliance on technology. Technology is not infallible. There are internet outages, security risks and keyboards accidentally taken out with a spilled water bottle. When a single laptop is your only means to get the job done, there’s a lot riding on a little piece of technology.

Considerations for employers

With so much uncertainty about what the next year holds, flexibility and adaptability in the workplace is an important consideration for all employers. According to the Society for Human Resources Management, these are a few of the questions that company leaders should ask themselves when considering a hybrid workplace:

  • Why does a specific employee need to perform his or her work in the office?
  • To what extent does an employee need to collaborate with others?
  • How is someone feeling about working from home versus in the office?
  • Is that person feeling disconnected or overwhelmed?
  • Is the employee clear about the organization’s strategy and his or her role and responsibilities?
  • What types of meetings are best to hold in person?

Perhaps the largest lesson for employers from all of this is that employee safety should always be at the forefront. Whether employees spend their days at home or in the office, keeping them viable, healthy and happy is a victory in and of itself.

5 ways to transform your commute from pain to gain

4‑minute read

Do you live in a metropolitan area in the United States? If you don’t walk or bike to work or exclusively work from home, we bet we can guess how you feel about your commute. Let’s take a look at average commute times by some major metropolitan areas:

  • New York City — 34.7 minutes
  • Washington, D.C. — 32.8 minutes
  • Chicago — 30.8 minutes
  • Oakland — 29.9 minutes
  • Atlanta — 29.2 minutes

Let’s simplify by supposing the average person’s commute time is 30 minutes. You’re looking at an hour-long commute if you go both ways without making any stops. No stopping for gas, no picking up the kids or grabbing the groceries you forgot over the weekend. That’s an hour that you’ve potentially wasted.

But it doesn’t have to be wasted time. In fact, you can even get a jump start on your workday with these tips for making your commute more productive — grouped by drivers and public transit commuters.

For drivers (listening activities only!)

Did you know talking on a hand-held cellphone is banned in 16 states, plus Washington, D.C.?  Hands-free driving is not only safe — in many states it’s also the law.

Here are some commute productivity tips for drivers:

  • Listen to a podcast. These days there’s a podcast for everything. If you’re looking for business insights or news to inspire your workday, check out this guide to the best business podcasts. For those wanting to boost their health or fitness, this comprehensive list has a podcast to help you reach just about any wellness goal. If you prefer using your commute to catch up on life outside of the office, here are some great suggestions to keep you updated on news and current events.
  • Listen to an audiobook. If you’re trying to escape reality on your daily commute, audiobooks are a great option (just don’t get so engrossed you forget you’re driving!). There are far too many to parse out a complete list of suggestions, but we’ll take a shot at naming a few standout titles from recent years. Some popular fiction titles include All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. In the comedy genre, try Calypso by David Sedaris for some serious laughs. For more suggestions, here are 101 more titles you can check out.

For public transit commuters (who have their hands free) 

For commuters who are able to use their hand-held devices, there’s a little more room for productivity. Here are a few tips for those riding to work on public transit:

  • Set your priorities. Try a productivity app like Wunderlist, Evernote, MindMeister or Pocket. The functions vary by app, but in general they help you organize lists, tasks, ideas and resources. You can organize your thoughts, bookmark things to read later, or create a collaborative grocery list.
  • Get your mind right. It may seem counterintuitive, but more screen time may just help ease stress, anxiety and other mental health ailments. Headspace and Calm help ease stress and anxiety with guided meditation, breathing exercises and soothing sounds. Stigma is a journaling and mood tracking app that can help those who suffer from anxiety or mood disorders to identify trends, and even connect with peers through a messaging function. And for those who don’t wish to (or can’t) go to counseling or therapy, Talkspace offers an affordable, convenient solution.
  • Learn a new language. Want to add a skill to your résumé or CV? Duolingo and Rosetta Stone make it easy to learn a new language on the go, with guided lessons and assessment tools.

We hope these tips help make your commute a pleasure rather than a pain by increasing your productivity, delivering a laugh, helping you administer some self-care or just providing some entertainment. Have any suggestions, or want to share your progress? Send us a quick email at newsletters@delta.org.

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