What are we thinking?
Here our researchers and collaborators share their insights on remote work and digital organizing from different viewpoints.
What is hybrid work?
‘Hybrid is something that is formed by combining two or more things.’ (The Britannica Dictionary)
Because so many things are made up of two or more things such as plants (‘a hybrid of two roses’), vehicles (‘a hybrid car’), and persons (‘a Finnish-Congolese background’), it is better to focus only on hybrid work (HW), organisations, and workplaces. In any case, the basic concepts of ‘hybridity’, ‘hybrid work’, ‘hybrid organization’ or ‘hybrid workplace’ are still open and evolving, leading to ask: what are these ‘two or more things’ that justify using the terms that describe some phenomena in working life as ‘hybrid’?
This discussion, defining and sketching of ‘hybrid work’ started soon after the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in Autumn 2020 and has continued since as its implementation like a tide. The discussion concerned the time after the pandemic and what working life and workplaces would be like. I studied this phenomenon with postdoctoral researcher Outi Vanharanta during 2022 funded by Eurofound. We did our analysis by reviewing meta-analyses and literature reviews of remote and telework, empirical research reports and journal articles summarizing COVID-19-related telework findings, and professional publications, reports and articles often focusing on challenges and expectations of future hybrid work. Most data was collected through a standardised questionnaire circulated to the Network of Eurofound Correspondents (NEC) covering all the EU27 Member States. Based on our analyses, we concluded that ‘hybrid work’ is:
• HW is built on basic and sub-elements of physical, virtual, social, and time-related spaces and their features on individual, team, organisational, and societal levels.
• It is a dynamic entity transforming in time driven by changes in the purpose, needs, context, and resources of an actor. Stable conditions tend to freeze the HW configuration.
• An individual level formulation would be the following: ‘hybrid work’ is defined as any type of work arrangement where a worker operates in a sustainable manner alone or with others, as agreed upon between the worker and organisation, based on the latter’s purpose, the former’s needs and tasks, and the context, with flexibly regarding the time and place of the work – on the employer’s premises or default location or remotely at home, other locations or on the road – using digital technologies such as laptops, mobile phones and the internet.’
So, ‘Hybrid work’ can be characterised as a type of ‘flexible work’ as opposite to permanent, fixed arrangements of work such as ‘office work’, ‘remote and telework at home’, ‘home-based work’ and others. Our findings will be published early next year as a research report of Eurofound with the working title ‘Hybrid Work in Europe: Concept and its Bases’