Home, office or both?

The challenge of hybrid working in Latin America.

Hybrid working usually means a little more time in bed and avoiding stressful and often costly commutes. You’d have thought in Latin America, where traffic congestions can induce daily heart attacks, workers would jump at the chance of spending less time in the office and that employers would be willing to adapt to new working models. The reality is a little different.

According to an executive at one of the region’s leading human resources company’s, “Everything is already being normalised, things are returning to how they were before the brunt of the pandemic. We are seeing a preference for face-to-face working. Even where workers are working from home more days a week, employers are requesting that hours are tracked over fears of productivity decline.!

“From all the people who we have interviewed in the past few months or apply: 100% want to go to the office.”

“From all the people who we have interviewed in the past few months or apply: 100% want to go to the office.”

Executive, regional HR company

According to our sources, there also appears to be a social aspect that has turned some workers off the idea of working from home. The head of human resources at a retail company explained, “We are seeing data that appears to be influenced by family dynamics. Having spent much time at home during the pandemic, which can exacerbate family-related stress, workers appear keen to return to the office as a means of removing themselves from stress-inducing environments.”

“Having spent much time at home during the pandemic, which can exacerbate family-related stress, workers appear keen to return to the office as a means of removing themselves from stress-inducing environments.”

HR Director, retail business

Naturally, remote working requires technology and the capacity to engage in teleworking – online face to face meetings for example. This requires high quality broadband infrastructure and in areas where such infrastructure is nascent, adaptation and adoption will be a far greater challenge limiting the migration to hybrid working.

In wealthier, better-connected areas of the region, São Paulo for example, companies such as WeWork Brazil are actively promoting remote working arguing that it enables offices to function more effectively and avoiding worker saturation. It can also help to reduce emission levels – less commutes in gas-guzzling cars is good for the environment which is why ESG-conscious companies have been keep to promote it.

Some regional surveys point to a different perspective, one that workers have been more stressed working from home, feeling the need to work late evenings and weekends to compensate not being physically present at the office.

Many of Latin America’s largest companies are looking at hybrid working models but whether they will actually implement them is a different matter. Anglo American and Minsur, both mining companies, already allow for remote working but these tend to be for more administrate positions which points to a larger challenge when it comes to integrating the hybrid working model across Latin America.

Hybrid working works best in developed, wealthy countries whose economies are services-dominated, i.e., a laptop is all you need to do your job. Across Latin America where energy, manufacturing and agriculture remain significant industries – the overwhelming majority of associated jobs require workers to be physically present, from engineers to surveyors to scientists to cleaners. For those workers, hybrid models are simply not relevant. For the region, as the characteristics of the economy change so too may the attitude towards hybrid working. That however, will take time.

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