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Hybrid Work Models in Supply Chain Pt. 1

In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 caused a massive shift in the employer-employee model for many companies. As the need for physical office space slowed down, many companies adopted hybrid and virtual work models. In a post-pandemic world companies will need to decide whether to continue with hybrid or virtual work models or return to pre-pandemic ways of operating. In this two-part series we will explore hybrid and flexible work models in a supply chain environment.

Getting into Hybrid Work Models

So, what exactly is hybrid work? Virtual or remote work is when an employee can manage their workstreams from anywhere they find beneficial. A hybrid work model blends remote and in-person work into one. This could mean that an employee’s time is split between different ways of working. There are four types of hybrid work models:

  • A flexible model gives employees the freedom to choose when and where they work on a given day. Employees can work completely remotely or opt into on-site work for any given reason. 

  • A fixed work model gives predetermined days and times that employees will work remotely and on-site. This could also mean that groups of employees rotate working remotely and on-site. 

  • A remote-first model allows employees to work remotely most of the time with occasional on-site requirements for things like training, planning, and team building.

  • An office-first model sets the expectation that employees should be working in person but can choose certain days out of the week to work remotely. 

Hybrid work in the US

According to a 2020 report by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), pre-pandemic, only 6% of employees worked primarily from home and 75% of employees had never worked from home. In contrast, over 33% of employees worked from home in May 2020 while the pandemic was happening. At the peak of COVID-19, NCCI reported only 7% of employees in production worked remotely, with supply chain occupations making up most of the occupations within production. Management, analysts, and essential floor staff were asked to work from home which pushed supply chain workers to innovative ways of managing a company’s supply chain without being physically on-site. 

McKinsey found that 29% of work in the United States could be done remotely with no productivity loss. An additional 10% could be done remotely if needed. Survey findings report that 61% of leaders in supply chain expect that the pandemic has and will continue to create permanent hybrid work models. The workforce has seen labor and talent shortages, so leaders in the supply chain space can expect onboarding and longtime employees to have higher expectations for the work they're doing. To continue remaining relevant and competitive, companies will need to better support employees to reduce the impact of employee loss. 

This post has been a discussion on types of hybrid work and how it currently exists in the US, more specifically in supply chain. We know that supply chain leaders are tracking ahead of the environmental changes and will be looking to keep up with the ever-increasing demands on current and future employees. In the next post of the series, we will discuss what flexible work options look like through continuous implementation.


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