A new study from Harvard Business School suggests that when it comes to hybrid work, just one to two days in the office, on a flexible schedule, creates the best outcomes for employees and businesses alike.
The study, conducted for nine weeks over the summer of 2020, analyzed the work of people at an organization headquartered in Bangladesh, the study said.
During that period, different groups of employees were assigned different levels of working from home and in the office – high work from home, which makes for about 0 to 23 percent of the time in the office, intermediate, which meant 23 to 40 percent of the time in the office, and low work from home, which meant greater than 40 percent of the time in the office, according to the study.
“What we were able to do was to use cutting-edge machine methods to gauge the novelty of their work products,” Prithwiraj Choudhury, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, said in a recent interview with Boston.com. The technology was able to gauge some work products against other, similar ones, such as strategy presentations compared to other strategy presentations.
“We found that that intermediate group, which spent between 23 and 40 percent in the physical office, they did the best,” Choudhury said, “That translated to roughly one to two days a week in the office.”
The study found that not only were the workers creating more work products, they also showed “greater satisfaction,” and “less isolation,” according to Choudhury.
“Intermediate hybrid, in my opinion, gives workers flexibility, but ensures that people aren’t feeling isolated,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean that the hybrid schedule should be strict. It should be flexible and be left up to each team to decide when they’re going to be in the office, the study found.
That could be a certain amount of days each week, or perhaps a certain week out of the month, Choudhury said. The key is that people on the same team should be in the office at the same time – having separate hybrid schedules for people on the same team is “counterproductive.”
“My vision of hybrid is one that is flexible,” he said. “One that is not rigid, so I don’t like the three/two model [three days a week in the office, two days a week at home].”
More studies need to be conducted to confirm what this study found, Choudhury said.
“As long as a whole team can be together, they’re going to be more effective,” he said. “That’s what we call flexible.”
When people are in the office, it should be meaningful time, according to Choudhury, noting that offices should be reworked to encourage this.
“When you go to the office, there’s an opportunity to interact with colleagues, and mentors, and have meaningful social interactions,” he said.