There’s no ‘right answer’ on hybrid working, leaders at world’s top staffing firms warn

  • Insider spoke with the world’s largest staffing firms on hybrid working and the Great Resignation. 
  • Hybrid work shouldn’t be confused with flexibility, leaders from these firms said. 
  • Decisions shouldn’t be one size fits all but based on the needs of employees and the company. 

The world’s top staffing firms — the Adecco Group and ManpowerGroup — have warned against the risk of generalizing hybrid work. 

In interviews with Insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, leaders from both companies said hybrid working is not a one-size-fits-all policy and there is no real “right answer” on how to implement it.

Riccardo Barberis, the regional president of Northern Europe for staffing giant ManpowerGroup, said that companies will lose talent if they think they can go back to pre-COVID workplace rules, because candidates want flexibility. 

He said hybrid working — splitting working hours between home and the office — shouldn’t be confused with flexibility. “Flexibility is really about how I can manage my task and my mission in a flexible way? Hybrid model is really about work-life balance and well-being, and these are two different topics,” Barberis told Insider in Davos.

Barberis added that in his company’s latest survey of what workers want, it was clear that “one size fits one.”

“If you’re a woman, you want money, because you want independence and freedom,” Barberis said. “If you are over 50, you’re tired of bad bosses, so you want team spirit and good leaders. If you’re from the younger generation, you want flexibility, social impact, and shared values. This is why the great resignation happened.”

The Great Resignation is an economic trend that began in 2021 in which millions of workers decided to quit their jobs, in many cases because they were dissatisfied with working conditions or to look for better opportunities. 

Coram Williams, the chief financial officer and chief economist at the Adecco Group, told Insider he prefers to talk about it as the Great Reevaluation.

“Great resignation implies that we’ve got lots of people exiting the labor force and not coming back, and that isn’t quite the case,” Williams said.

Though participation rates in labor markets are lower than pre-pandemic, they have been rising, he said. “What’s really happening is that people are reconsidering the jobs that they do. They are not reconsidering their participation in the labor market.”

Based in Zurich, the Adecco Group is the world’s second-largest staffing firm. Williams told Insider that it is difficult to generalize hybrid work and that companies have to look at a number of factors when deciding what’s best for them.

“If you look at manual labor, it’s simply not possible to do it virtually. I also think there are certain sectors and certain roles where being in the office is a very important component of how you operate,” Williams said. 

“So it’s not a case of one size fits all. I think the point that we make, you have to think about how you incorporate flexibility into the way you run the office,” he added. 

Companies and government workplaces have been going back and forth on how to implement flexibility for employees, with several companies now finding a middle ground. But a number of organizations are still unclear about work-from-home policies and risk losing talent if they draw a hard line. 

“There’s no right answer, because you have to look at the context of your geography, your employees, your business, etc.,” Williams said. 

“I think everybody’s pushing for ‘What is the answer?’ And the answer is there isn’t one. It simply is you have to work out what makes sense for your business, your employees, the generations within them, the types of managers you’ve got,” he said.