According to a 2020 study by Upwork, “By 2025, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely, an 87% increase from pre-[COVID-19] pandemic levels.” While many businesses expect to stay fully remote, a great many others are taking the hybrid road.
In the LaSalle Network’s 2021 Office Re-Entry Index survey, business leaders were asked how they believe their workforce will be modeled 12 months from now. An overwhelming 77% of respondents said they would be using a hybrid model in which a portion of employees work in the office and a portion from home. This sentiment is prompting experts to call hybrid workplaces “the new normal.”
Hybrid workplace: Where employee flexibility meets employer needs
According to WeWork, “In a typical hybrid workplace, some or all employees have the freedom to choose where and when they work, dividing their time between working from home and working from a central office.”
Employers are supplying this freedom because they realize the value of flexibility to employees. A 2020 survey by AECOM/Mercer revealed that 56% of employees would consider switching jobs if flexibility was not an option.
However, some jobs cannot be done entirely from home; some employers must maintain a brick-and-mortar setting. Hybrid workplaces allow employers to retain their physical offices while giving employees at least some flexibility.
How a hybrid workplace operates varies by employer. In most of them, however, one or more of the following will be true:
- Most employees work remotely, and only a few work on-site.
- Most employees work on-site, and only a few work remotely.
- There’s a roughly equal number of remote and on-site employees.
- Employees work staggered shifts in which they rotate days or weeks of on-site work with remote work.
- Remote employees are required to visit the office periodically for in-person meetings.
Employment law challenges
Despite the benefits of hybrid workplaces, switching to this model involves challenges, including employment law implications.
One common problem occurs when an employee lives in a state or local jurisdiction different from the one where the employer’s physical office is located. In this case, the employer must determine whether to follow the laws of their physical business location or the laws of the employee’s place of residence.
Employee payroll taxes, state unemployment tax, mandatory paid time off and temporary disability insurance are just some of the areas that may be impacted when an employee lives and works in two different jurisdictions. In general, employers must stay on top of all federal, state and local laws that may apply to their hybrid workforce.
Consider obtaining legal advice when clarification is needed. Also, look out for guidance provided by the administering agency. For example, on December 23, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor released Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-7, which offers workplace poster guidance for employers with fully remote and hybrid models.