Remote Workers At Risk of Being Left Out In a Hybrid Work Model: Zillow CEO


With organizations embracing the hybrid work structure or curating future work models to suit the business and employees’ needs, fractures in this seemingly-perfect model are eventually coming to light. Rich Barton, the CEO of real estate giant Zillow, says a hybrid work model may promote a “two-class system” at the detriment of remote workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had unprecedented ripple effects on various aspects of our lives. While new ways to cope with the pandemic are being adopted, new challenges also seem to make plans go awry. Many global tech giants like Facebook are permanently offering work-from-home to their employees. In contrast, others like Salesforce have come up with a three-option plan, allowing employees to choose a working model that suits them best.

Most hybrid work models do not level the playing field. Employees tasked with customer-facing roles will eventually have to be present in the office premises for presentations, meetings, and more. Given that the pre-COVID working model places significance to physical attendance rather than actual productivity, the disparity between the two classes of employees will be challenging.

See More: Spotify Tunes In to Work From Anywhere, Embraces Hybrid Work

Addressing the issue Opens a new window during Zillow’s Q4 earnings call, Barton spoke at length about this flaw in the hybrid work model. “We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location. There cannot be a two-class system – those in the room being first-class and those on the phone being second-class,” he said. Zillow managed the shift to remote work to adjust with the new reality by successfully operating as a “cloud-headquartered” company.

GitLab’s CEO Sid Sijbrandij has also describedOpens a new window a hybrid work model as “the worst of both worlds”. Sijbrandij said the old, pre-COVID model of working rewarded attendance rather than output, something most companies will find hard to move away from. Another challenge that remote employees may face is not getting included in the team. They will have a more challenging time communicating than their peers who report to the office.

Hybrid work models come with their own sets of pros and cons. With an effective model, some companies can finally emphasize on productivity rather than efficiency. Also, many organizations have already started to cut down on the real-estate they own or rent, considerably lowering the operating costs. Employees who couldn’t find suitable accommodation close to their offices can now work comfortably from anywhere they want.

However, for a lot of employees, the biggest downside of hybrid working is the lack of human connection. They are missing out on the motivation, camaraderie, and are finding it hard to get their opinions on board. Also, there is another huge risk of cyber security as home office systems do not guarantee the same kind of data security.

Keeping these aspects in mind, tech giant Google has only extended Work from Home till September this year and is planning to re-open offices soon. “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new. So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something,” said Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google.

See More: Building a Culture of Organized Serendipity in the Remote Work Era

All companies now need is a plan for a smooth transition to a working style that adheres to company policy and evolves with changing needs. Before the pandemic, Zillow was far from considering a hybrid work model, and the company viewed its growth and company culture as being defined by collaborating in-person. Dan Spaulding, the Chief People Officer at Zillow, said the pandemic has been able to “free us from some of those old rhythms.”

In July last year, the company announced that it would give roughly 90% of its workforce the option to work from home at least part-time on an ongoing basis. The company expects some people to come to work a few days each month while others are required to show up three or four days per week.

The company is also putting its money where its mouth is. Earlier this month, it splurged $500 million to acquireOpens a new window ShowingTime. This online scheduling platform lets homebuyers connect with real estate agents virtually to schedule home tours online with the click of a button. The real estate giant has also announced a feature called 3D Home interactive floor plans which leveragesOpens a new window 3D Home tour, still photos, and AI-generated floor plans to let homebuyers check out new properties without actually visiting them.

Do you think a hybrid work model will negatively impact remote workers? Comment below or let us know on LinkedInOpens a new window , TwitterOpens a new window , or FacebookOpens a new window . We’d love to hear from you!