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Which Hybrid Working Models Across Tech Will Actually Work?
As Silicon Valley's tech giants return to the office, The Org takes a look at the rollouts of their respective hybrid work models and strategies.
Amy Osborne / Contributor / Getty Images.
By Megan Bowden
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7 minute read

The tech giants are all reopening their offices. But the differences between their hybrid working models are staggering. Some sound like a dream, while others give employees less freedom.

Which hybrid policy is the most effective, most likely to increase retention, or the most affordable? Consider our round-up of the tech giants’ latest hybrid policy moves, plus one firm’s trend-breaking unique solution.

Apple

Apple’s hybrid policy is inflexible. Employees are required to be in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays if they wish.

While it’s more generous than a mandatory five days in-office, Apple seems to have missed the point of flexible working. A hybrid model that actually affords employees the freedom to work from home if and when they need to doesn’t set its days in stone.

Google

Google’s policies seem to be a little less strict. The company is pushing for people to come back to the office at least three days a week from the beginning of April. However, employees can elect to work remotely long-term. By the middle of last year, 85% of applications to work remote or relocate were approved.

Only the fully vaccinated can come back to Google offices unless exempt. But unvaccinated employees can work remotely long-term. And who weren’t prepared to return to the office on April 4th could seek a remote work extension. Essentially it seems Google employees can work how they wish, as long as they get the approval to do so.

Microsoft

Like it or not, Microsoft is obliged to promote some form of remote work flexibility because their product-of-the-moment facilitates it. Forcing employees back to the office five days a week isn’t the best advertisement for the efficacy of Microsoft Teams, for example.

But the company seems to be on the ball, announcing a string of updates in mid-March “to improve hybrid brainstorming,” which The Org has previously cited as one of the most difficult in-office dynamics to replicate remotely.

Microsoft is also investing in adjusting its offices to accommodate hybrid teams. VP for Modern Work at Microsoft Jared Spataro said in an interview, “You have to design your physical space for the people who aren’t there.” The company is starting with small changes, like adjusting conference room layouts so in-person and remote workers are equally included, improving the success of their hybrid teams while tweaking their product through practice to become better suited to hybrid working.

But how much freedom do Microsoft’s hybrid teams have? More than most. If employees request to have more than 50% of their work time be remote, it has to be approved by their manager. Not only do all employees have the freedom to work from wherever half the time, they get to choose when. And if someone would like even more remote flexibility, that decision comes down to their individual manager, who can make a much more informed, tailored decision than a company-wide mandate.

Twitter

Twitter has gone a step further. While employees have the option of working five days in-office, Twitter gives them complete control over where they work. A letter from CEO Parag Agrawal to employees read: “Decisions about where you work, whether you feel safe traveling for business, and what events you attend, should be yours. Wherever you feel most productive and creative is where you will work, and that includes working from home full time forever. Office every day? That works too. Some days in office, some days from home? Of course.”

If there was ever a way to show confidence in employees, this is it. Twitter has demonstrated a level of understanding of the varied circumstances employees have along with complete trust that they know where they will work best on any given day. Respecting employee autonomy will do wonders not only for their culture but their long-term retention, which is always impressive in tech.

Meta

Last year, Meta announced that employees could choose their own hybrid working arrangements, with many of the top executives electing to spend more time away from the office. That could include working fully remotely, as long as an employee’s responsibilities allowed them to do so.

“We believe that how people work is far more important than where they work from,” said Tracy Clayton, spokesperson for Meta. Few details have been shared, but it seems Meta will be just as flexible as Twitter.

However, office occupancy fluctuating between 0-100% without notice may be too expensive an overhead for many companies. How do you reduce costs, bring workers back to the office to interact, and let them work from home? One South African tech company has a unique solution.

MIP Holdings

Creating software for the financial services industry, MIP Holdings’ just over 500 employees operate in Johannesburg and Cape Town serving customers across Europe, North America, Australasia and Africa.

Pre-COVID, roughly 95% of staff worked on-site. Now, their office space is reduced by 60%, but staff still collaborate in person and work remotely. Chief Technology Officer, Patrick O’Reilly, spoke with The Org to explain how they did it.

“We have split our various teams into four groups. Each group is assigned one week per month to be "in office". The teams then plan team meetings and events and important collaborative work according to their "in office" week. Everyone works from home for the other three weeks."

Other than office services (i.e. cleaning) and the technical support team, all staff only come into the office one week out of every month, keeping their square footage at capacity while letting people work from home the majority of the time.

In practice, this means “interaction between staff, with customers, and with any other business partners is primarily by means of video conferencing,” but O'Reilly added that “participants can be included from wherever they happen to be.” And for the “small minority” of employees who prefer to work in-office every day, MIP Holdings accommodates their preferences by allowing them to do so.

Cutting its office space to 40% of what it was in March 2020 reduced the company’s operating expenses “substantially.” And there have been added benefits: “Previously everyone had to live within commuting distance of one of our offices, but now we have numerous staff who have moved "back home" - closer to relatives and their hometowns, because they are still able to work for MIP, and be closer to family. We have also for the first time employed people who live in other cities in South Africa, which has opened a broader resource pool for our business.”

MIP made these adjustments despite electrical power supply issues in the country. “We have had power interruptions of a few hours per day for an average of 30 days each year over the past 3-4 years,” O’Reilly explained. “We have a backup power generator at the office, but this did impact us when we moved everyone home. To address this, MIP negotiated bulk purchasing deals and provided UPS devices for all our staff. The devices can keep staff working for 8 to 10 hours without power, and this covers nearly all power interruptions.”

Which hybrid model works best?

Hybrid models will look different for every company as the technology we use to facilitate hybrid working policies evolves to make the employee experience more seamless.

In the meantime, some companies have proven to be a cut above the rest. Microsoft is investing in making hybrid teams successful long-term. Twitter and Meta are trusting their employees to decide where they work best. And MIP Holdings has given its employees autonomy and freedom with a “one-week in, three-weeks out” solution so cost-effective, anyone can try it.

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