The Evolution of Remote and Hybrid Work

hybrid work

By Alanah Mitchell

This article discusses the influence and impact of the pandemic on today’s work environments. Ideas and insights for designing workspaces and adopting and implementing technology solutions to support remote and hybrid work, as well as to promote strong organisational cultures, are shared. Comments about the future of work are also included.


  • Remote and hybrid work are here to stay, and companies need to adapt to this new reality by developing flexible policies, supporting employee well-being, and investing in technology.
  • Hybrid work, which combines remote and in-person work, offers a middle ground between the benefits of remote work and the advantages of face-to-face collaboration.
  • To succeed in a hybrid work environment, companies must prioritize communication, collaboration, and trust-building, and embrace new tools and technologies that facilitate virtual teamwork.

The pandemic and the impact on work

hybrid work home

The transition to remote work during the pandemic was both significant and unprecedented. Fortunately, researchers have been exploring the adoption and use of remote work and virtual collaboration for decades. Prior to the pandemic, research of virtual team adoption found this type of transition to be challenging to implement at a large scale across organisations.1 However, the pandemic left little room for other options, and a swift transition was necessary.

Actual office spaces may need to be designed or redesigned in a way that accommodates people both in and outside of the office space.

As organisations emerge from the pandemic, it does make sense that some employees continue to prefer face-to-face work. It is also reasonable that some employees have had their eyes opened to a new way of work (i.e., remote work) and cannot envision completely losing this ability. Hybrid work offers a solution, but hybrid can take on many different formats, from employees coming in certain days of the week (for example, MWF, Tu-Th), to employees working predominantly from different geographic locations with occasional on-site meetings.

Another important point is that not many leaders (or employees for that matter) have been trained to work in a remote or hybrid environment. Over the course of the past couple of years, organisational leaders and teams have figured out their own best practices, but including remote or hybrid work education as a part of leadership education and training is another critical piece of this transition.

In 2013, Yahoo received attention when their then-CEO called everyone back to the office and declared that employees could no longer work from home.2 Today, remote work has won, and many companies have softened their stance on enforcing modality or geography requirements. Today’s employees do seem to be driving many of the work modality decisions. Proactive organisations are addressing these human resource needs by improving employee benefits, redefining work hours and incentives, and attracting top talent. If an organisation isn’t paying attention to these trends, there is potential for another organisation to offer a package that will.

Hybrid work in practice

work outside

Based on my research, there is a growing interest in hybrid work from employees who want to take advantage of the benefits of remote work, like flexibility and productivity, as well as the benefits of face-to-face work, such as social connections, mentoring, and spontaneous problem-solving.3 This finding does suggest that employees are going to increasingly seek out employment opportunities that allow for hybrid work. The overwhelming interest in hybrid certainly stems from a crisis (the pandemic). What this crisis has shown us is that both managers and employees have been able to see that remote work can work, but at the same time the desire for some normalcy is still there and valued. Indeed, crisis research suggests that these types of events often result in individual self-reflection leading to thoughts about job satisfaction and possibly turnover, which is one of the reasons employee burnout is evident.4

In regard to the impact of hybrid work on mental health, it’s most likely that one size does not fit all. However, there have been a number of employee surveys looking to understand how hybrid work policies might be perceived as an employee benefit and whether or not there are positive perceptions related to mental health, with mixed findings. The employee interviews from my research generally identify work flexibility as a key benefit of hybrid work. Indeed, employees are most pleased to have autonomy or agency over where, when, and how they are working. Employees are reporting that they are more productive when they are working remotely; there is just a lot less “extra” in the day, whether that be social chats or walking from meeting to meeting, or any number of other in-office disruptions. However, spontaneous collaboration and problem-solving is much harder out of the office. Without activity in the office, employees are not running into each other by the coffee station to bring up topics they are struggling with. Organisational leaders are having to be much more intentional about recreating opportunities for this type of problem-solving in new ways. In any case, the feedback from employees is that work flexibility is key. Going forward, it will likely be the case that employees are more productive when work location flexibility is offered. However, it will also be the case that planning for meaningful connections and collaborations when employees are face to face is going to be important. Employees are also likely to be more multi-modal than ever, suggesting that even when working together in a face-to-face workspace, the use of collaboration technologies is still going to be important. Co-workers are going to want to be able to share electronic notes, documents, links, electronic whiteboards, and chat features, even when working in the same meeting room.

So, what does this mean for the physical office? Actual office spaces may need to be designed or redesigned in a way that accommodates people both in and outside of the office space. This may mean that organisations rethink or reimagine workspaces. It may mean that offices have fewer desks or only offer “hotelling” desks. In fact, Dropbox is an example of a company trying out a “Dropbox Studios” model without any assigned employee desks.5 Another model might accommodate employees who only come to the office on collaboration or team lunch days, with offices designed to primarily include collaboration spaces. Collaboration spaces that support both in-person and remote employees might be another model. Google is one example of a company still investing in office space, as their leaders want employees to have a space they want to be in, as well as a space where the office community and the larger geographic community can come together.6 Any of these models, or even different implementations, might be something that organisations strive for.

Any transition or change as significant as the one brought on by the pandemic is difficult, but it has been interesting to witness work as we know it transforming. In relation to organisational processes and technology solutions, companies have been creative in rethinking work. Some organisations have started using technology to create and distribute video messaging from leaders to share updates and news in an equitable and timely manner. This use of media-rich videos can be a valuable way to informally connect with employees and create a sense of community and culture even when apart. Other groups have developed technology processes to capture and set aside questions or brainstorm on ideas in a virtual “parking lot”, so that team members can collaborate together at times that work for them. Some managers have even adopted virtual “office hours” that are available for team members to check in and ask questions real-time, similar to an in-office drop-in. Games, trivia, food deliveries, music playlists, and many other ideas are all creative options to connect employees and team members through technology to make sure that people are working together as a team and towards the same purpose. The next decade will be one of the most innovative decades ever for collaboration technologies. In fact,
Gartner predicts the social and collaboration technology market to grow to nearly $7 billion by 2024.7 For now, managers and organisational leaders should be encouraged to keep communicating through multiple channels (for example, in-person and virtual), prioritise team wellness, and to continue monitoring employee ties and creating opportunities for strengthening work relationships through team bonding, either in-person or virtually.8

Looking at the future of work

hybrid work at home

The changes happening with work right now are significant. Going forward, work is going to be about what employees know and can do, and not where employees are located, which suggests an importance and value of employee skills. If employee location and geography are of less importance, employee capabilities and competencies are going to be critical. Of course, it is important to point out the role and influence of technology as a part of this transition, as technology is what makes this all possible. However, if technology solutions are not adopted and implemented in a way that accomplishes what employees and leaders need, then most will revert to face-to-face work. Yet, hybrid work environments are a positive and beneficial change that we don’t want to lose. Indeed, the pandemic has shown there are gains from remote and hybrid work in relation to work/life balance, productivity, and diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it would be a great loss to miss out on these benefits.9 Right now, organisations and leaders need to focus on making hybrid a better experience than in-office or remote-only work, or everyone will come back to the office full-time.

The overwhelming interest in hybrid certainly stems from a crisis (the pandemic).

Looking ahead, hybrid work has the potential to be the best of both worlds (both face-to-face and remote work) but it really remains to be seen how this is going to play out with widespread organisational adoption, as the mass adoption of hybrid work is an area where there is much to learn. The next five years are going to be very important: hybrid could get worse, or it could get better. Either way, whatever happens over these next few years is going to be quite impactful to the future of work.

This article was originally published on March 27, 2023.

About the Author

Alanah MitchellDr. Alanah Mitchell is the Aliber Distinguished Associate Professor and Chair of Department of Information Management and Business Analytics at Drake University. She is an experienced researcher, teacher, and consultant in relation to the design, implementation, and use of information and communication technologies for collaboration, specifically in global virtual teams. For more details see:


  1. Eckhardt, A., Endter, F., Giordano, A. & Somers, P. (2019). “Three stages to a virtual workforce”, MIS Quarterly Executive, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 19–35.
  2. Goudreau, J. (2013, February 25). “Back to the stone age? New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer bans working from home”, Forbes.
  3. Mitchell, A. (2021 online, in press). “Collaboration technology affordances from virtual collaboration in the time of COVID-19 and post-pandemic strategies”, Information Technology and People.
  4. Tayag, Y. (2021, September 7). The real reason everyone is quitting their jobs right now. Fortune.
  5. Cutter, C. (2021, January 13). “The Death of the Office Desk Is Upon Us”, The Wall Street Journal.
  6. Aten, J. (2022, April 13). “With 1 sentence, Google’s CEO revealed the best reason to return to the office I’ve heard yet”, Inc.
  7. Gartner. (2021) “Forecast analysis: Social and collaboration software in the workplace, worldwide”, Gartner Research.
  8. Mitchell, A. & Brewer, P. (2022). “Leading hybrid teams: Strategies for realizing the best of both worlds”, Organizational Dynamics, 51(3), 1-9.
  9. Barrero, J. M., Bloom, N., & Davis, S. J. (2021). Don’t force people to come back to the office full time. Harvard Business Review.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here