Telework, Remote Work and Hybrid Work: History
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Subjects: Management
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Employees’ work environment has drastically shifted from offices to homes. Telework is often a desired employee benefit, but employers consider it a temporary setting. The lasting COVID-19 pandemic has changed the concept of telework. Home office has gained importance and will likely become an essential part of the working environment even after the pandemic.

  • flexibility
  • telework
  • work from home
  • hybrid work

1. Introduction

As of April 2020, around 81% of employees worked in countries where business closure was required due to the COVID-19 outbreak (ILO 2020a). A rapid transition from office to home through localization flexibility proved to be a necessary solution. However, it appeared to be temporary. Telework in the form of a home office has been used, and we have become more flexible in terms of time and space. However, with telework, employees perform their work from home where they live with other family members and where their rights and welfare are difficult to guarantee effectively (Wang et al. 2023). Working hours often intersect with household responsibilities and social activities in the family environment (Xue and McMunn 2021). With continuous lockdowns and movement restrictions, employees have had limited opportunities to spend their free time away from their home offices. As a result, many employees have worked more than the scheduled working hours agreed upon in their employment contracts, thus negatively impacting their well-being and productivity (Nemțeanu and Dabija 2023). Such work setting has negatively affected employees’ stress and overall health (Como et al. 2021). Even though most employees are used to working eight hours a day and standard working hours are preferred by a large number of employers as well as employees, we can assume that nonstandard or alternative work schedules will have greater significance in the post-pandemic era (Bolino et al. 2020).

2. Telework, Remote Work, Work from Home, and Home Office Defined

The term telework defines work from home or outside the workplace and is a subcategory of the broader concept of remote work. While remote workers can work at an alternative worksite outside the default place of work, teleworkers can work from any alternative workplace (Nilles 1994), and the use of personal electronic devices is an essential part of carrying out the work (Olson and Primps 1984). With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and recommended business closures, the not-so-new models of working outside employers’ premises have grown in importance (Pulido-Martos et al. 2021; O’Rourke 2021). Many companies have implemented work from home as a short-term solution to this crisis. Work from home is known as home-based telework, which encompasses temporary and alternative working arrangement (ILO 2020b). The term also refers to working at a home office. It represents the form in which an employee works from home utilizing ICTs (information and communication technologies). Home office is a defined name for occasional work from home or as a flexible benefit.
Since there is no international statistical definition for these terms, countries use slightly different and sometimes overlapping operational definitions (ILO 2020c). Therefore, for the purposes of this research, the terms remote work, telework, home office, and work from home (WFH) are being used interchangeably.

3. Hybrid Work

Hybrid work arrangement blends traditional “in-office” work with “out-of-office” remote work (Cook et al. 2020) or telework. This blended strategy provides employees the flexibility to work from an office or any other remote location (home, coffee shop, coworking place, etc.) outside their employers’ premises with or without the use of ICTs. According to Halford (2005), hybrid work changes the nature of work, organization, and management across domestic space, organizational space, and cyberspace. This paper focuses on a hybrid work model in which employees split their work time between their office and home. The combination of working at the office and work from home can benefit both employees and employers but may also lead to various issues arising from both work environments.
Many authors have examined work from home, emphasizing its effects on employees, managers, organizations, or organizational culture. The traditional understanding of working from home has been seen as a benefit for employees who could irregularly perform their work outside the workplace. It provides opportunities to divide the workday based on the obligations of individuals and possibilities to meet work- and non-work-related duties. Furthermore, working from home benefits employees who need to travel to work and, thus, saves time and reduces transportation costs, as well as employers who save money by saving facility costs (Barath and Schmidt 2022a). Working from home offers greater time flexibility and can boost focus and productivity when certain indoor environmental conditions of a home office are met, such as visual privacy, overall noise level, and freedom from distraction (Yang et al. 2021; Gratton 2021). Moreover, technology and technical support are other factors to be considered (Haines et al. 2002). Overall, it can lead to increased positivity, satisfaction with one’s job, commitment to work, and reduced chances of burnout (Charalampous et al. 2019).
On the contrary, employee unavailability when needed, failure to complete tasks on time, lower flexibility in solving problems, and more difficulty with controlling the availability and performance of employees are some of the drawbacks of this work arrangement. In the long run, the effects of minimized social interactions and excessive workload of employees are visible (Ellison 1999; Cooper and Kurland 2002; Gareis 2003; Haddon and Brynin 2005; Gajendran and Harrison 2007; Sewell and Taskin 2015; Messenger and Gschwind 2016; Davis et al. 2020; Babapour et al. 2022; Srebalová 2022). Smoder (2021) claims that employees working from home tend to work longer hours, which may worsen the balance between work and life and kinship. Moreover, it leads to a decrease in recovery periods, which can have negative physical and mental health consequences, e.g., musculoskeletal problems, stress, feelings of isolation, or depression (Tavares 2017).
A presence in the office enables employees to meet and work together. Social interaction and collaboration may positively correlate with employee creativity, performance, and productivity (Jyothi Sree and Jyothi 2012; Zwanka and Buff 2021; Iqbal et al. 2021; Čajková et al. 2023). The factors mentioned above can be considered the most significant benefits of traditional office work or on-site work, which, in many cases, provide an argument for maintaining these work settings. Yet, the situation may depend on the type of office. Open-type offices provide a way for employers to control the performance of employees and make communication more effective, but in overcrowded spaces, noise can interfere with employees’ potential to focus on work (Barath and Schmidt 2022b). Moreover, an overcrowded office space may present a challenging environment for introspective employees, cause stress or anxiety, and result in lowered productivity or performance (Needle and Mallia 2021). Lack of privacy and close surveillance are among the other drawbacks associated with working from the office (Ding 2008).
Notably, work settings change, and some duties are not necessarily performed in a physical workplace. Although hybrid work is relatively new in the workplace, and its benefits and drawbacks are still being discovered, it is evident that it leads to positive outcomes for both employees and employers. Zwanka and Buff (2021) argue that such reorganization of work, which is associated with increased freedom and autonomy to choose work time and space, can boost work–life balance, as it allows employees to balance multiple roles (family, personal, or career-related). Moreover, it improves efficiency, which can be considered the main benefit (Iqbal et al. 2021), as it allows employers to increase the quality and design of the workspace, minimize operating costs related to reduced office space, and improve employees’ safety.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/admsci13060150

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