There are certain historical events that shaped our daily lives and the ways we work. The most recent event that brought drastic changes was the COVID-19 pandemic. Society has returned to what we call the new “normal” and the lockdown days seem long forgotten, but we see the changes it brought.

In bigger cities all around the world, coffee shops are taken over by laptop workers, and on every corner is a coworking space whereas traditional office spaces are used to a lower capacity than before. Especially digital workers enjoy their newly found freedom whereas companies try to define their work policies along the spectrum of full-time office on one end and fully remote on the other, most of them opting for a hybrid working model.

When we think of alternative ways of working, mostly two things come to mind: alternative workplaces and alternative working patterns (as opposed to the 5-day week). Let’s look at each of them in more detail.

Woman staring at her laptop screen in an office

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Alternative workplaces

What we refer to here as the “traditional workplace” is an office that employees commute to five days per week. For many professionals, this seems to be an outdated concept these days. What alternatives are being adopted?

Remote work

At the forefront of alternative workplaces is everything that we consider “remote”, be it working from home, from the beach or a cabin in the mountains. Let’s call it “work from anywhere”, WFA. This is the alternative way to work that often provides the most flexibility and it mostly applies to those workers that only need a laptop and Wi-Fi. There’s a restriction! You need a power supply and an internet connection. That’s where the “anywhere” is limited to. The alternative workspaces you can find on Othership always guarantee both!

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Woman sitting on the floor in her living room working on her laptop.

Photo by Vlada Karpovich

Hybrid office arrangements

Hybrid seems to be the compromise between managers wanting their employees back in the office and employees demanding higher flexibility and freedom of choice when it comes to their workspace. Other terms that describe a mix between the office and work from anywhere are office hoteling, desk booking, or flex scheduling.

The hybrid work policy of the company determines how many days employees spend in the office and elsewhere and how desk booking works. There are multiple hybrid workplace solutions and office hoteling software. You can reach out to our team of experts if you need any help.

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Experiential workspaces

This type of workplace comes close to the traditional office yet provides some more flexibility and accounts for individual needs of employees. When such an office is created the following criteria determine how the final space looks: office size, room separation, colour, interior atmosphere, personalization, technical equipment, lighting, noise, and climatization. It is a more psychological approach to workplace design.

People working in an office.

Photo by Austin Distel

Coworking spaces

It almost seems like a compromise between office and coffee shop: coworking spaces. They provide the comfort of a modern office, a community, and most of all flexibility. Coworking spaces offer hot desks and day passes, and monthly contracts without long-term commitments. This is attractive for companies and individuals alike. Access to desk space is highly customizable and not limited to a specific location. Compared to a coffee shop, they usually provide a work environment with fewer distractions and bigger desks, sometimes even separate screens and printers.

Individuals can book coworking spaces in their preferred location on an hourly basis or for a whole month, companies can do the same or arrange flexible options for their teams to access coworking spaces and meeting rooms as needed.

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Alternative working arrangements

We’ve seen multiple alternatives when it comes to the work location, there are also different options and alternatives to the 5-day work week, be it in the office, remote, hybrid, or anything else.

Four-day work week

This one has been in the news regularly in recent years and many companies have trialed this by now for a while: The four-day work week and three-day weekends.

There are different ways how companies to implement this. Some work Monday to Thursday while others allow their employees to choose the additional day off and still work Monday to Friday. There are companies that reduce the overall weekly working hours from 40 to 32 whilst others increase the hours during the four working days.

The benefits of this model involve increased employee happiness through a better work-life balance which in return leads to higher employee retention and productivity.

Nine-day fortnight

Similar to the four-day workweek, some companies adopt a 9DF model, where employees still work the same hours overall, but spread them over 9 days instead of 10. In most cases, this means that employees have every other Friday off.

The benefits are similar to those of the four-day work week, but it might not be suitable for all industries, and employees still work the same hours, hence have longer work days.

Woman working from a bench in a park.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Unlimited annual leave

This is not such a new concept anymore as it has been around as an employee benefit, mostly in younger companies and start-ups for a few years.  It is simple: Employees can take as many vacation days as they want. It is also referred to as unlimited PTO (paid time off). The benefits are obvious: Such an employee perk attracts talent, decreases the risk of burnout, and offers wider flexibility. On the other hand, though, it might lead to an unfair distribution of workload and vacation time within the team and could lead to the opposite of a good work-life balance as it fosters a culture of presenteeism. Employees could feel encouraged to take less time off to show their commitment. In reality, it seems as if most employees who have the benefit of unlimited holidays, rarely take more annual leave than those who have set leave days per year.

Companies offering unlimited PTO are for example Adobe, Netflix, and HubSpot. (Source: LinkedIn)

Team meeting in a modern office.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Five-hour workday

This concept is based on the hours people are productive in a day. Out of 8 working hours, plenty of time is spent by the coffee machine or the water cooler. Meetings also take a lot of productive hours out of the day. If you limited those, how many hours in a day are you really working productively?

The five-hour workday will only work if you define and measure productivity and set some clear boundaries. You could implement core hours for employees to allow collaboration and limit breaks to the minimum necessary. Around those core hours, there could be a lot of flexibility so that employees can do the work when they are most productive. Meetings could be held asynchronously unless a synchronous meeting is absolutely necessary. This on the other hand should have a clearly defined agenda and purpose.

Hours per year

There is another way to create a better work-life balance and allow for greater flexibility. Instead of defining weekly or monthly working hours, employees are contracted to a certain number of hours per year. This can be useful in jobs and industries with high seasonality or where employees require greater flexibility due to personal circumstances.

This is only possible for certain job roles and industries and requires a fair amount of planning to ensure business functions are covered at all times.

Person working with their laptop frmo a river edge with a boat.

Photo by Picography

Outcomes over hours

The most modern approach is probably this value-based way to work. Freelancers and small business owners often work in this way. They want to provide value instead of time. How many times do office workers find themselves sitting at their desk staring into the air just to sit out the remaining working hours?

The outcome-based model focuses on getting sh** done, no matter how long it takes. With this approach, there is no wasting time, procrastinating or looking busy when you’re not. This also means that managers and employers need to clearly define outcomes and when a to-do list is considered “done”. Responsibilities need to be set out and spread equally and everybody should be held accountable for their work.

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