Hybrid model providing more freedom to employees

By Phan Duong   November 6, 2023 | 12:05 am PT
Hybrid model providing more freedom to employees
Duy Thuan in one of his working spaces at his house in mountainous Central Highlands’ town of EaKmut, Dak Lak Province, August 2023. Photo by Thuy Nguyen
For over a year, Ha Duy Thuan has been going in to his office only once or twice a month to meet his superiors and colleagues.

"My company realized that our physical location doesn’t dictate the quality of our work, so they let us work wherever we want," said Thuan, a 33-year-old solution architect and software manager of a technology company in Ho Chi Minh City.

His company was one of the first businesses to transition to working remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic. After the pandemic passed, the company switched to hybrid working. The employees are free to determine where they want to work and when. As such, many only show up to the office a few times a month.

With this freedom, Thuan decided to move back to his hometown. "When my company applied the hybrid working model, I wondered why I was still in the stuffy city of Saigon," he said.

Currently, Thuan and his wife live in the town of EaKmut in Dak Lak province, 60 km from the city of Buon Ma Thuot. His house in HCMC remains under lock and key for him to use whenever he has to go to his office.

On a crisp October morning in Hanoi, The Anh, 32, began his day earlier than usual. After completing some work, he took his 2-month-old daughter to the hospital for her vaccinations.

"I can do my errands and help my wife look after my daughters during my work hours without fear of anyone complaining," said The Anh, a marketing employee at a company in the financial education industry.

His company was established during the pandemic and has 60 employees from both the north and south of Vietnam. During the pandemic, they worked completely online, and now only require the employees to go to the office on the first three days of the week.

Hybrid working refers to the flexible work model that allows employees to choose where and when they want to work. The practice is becoming increasingly popular all over the world after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The model is has become popular in a variety of industries but was seen the earliest in the technology, marketing, and accounting industries.

According to the "Southeast Asia Startup Talent Report 2023" written by the talent recruitment company Glints and the venture capital firm Monk’s Hill Ventures, hybrid working is a growing phenomenon in Southeast Asia.

The report states that 45% of businesses in the region are applying the model. In some countries, the percentage of hybrid workers is higher, for instance, Singapore with 63%. Vietnam has the lowest ration of online workers in the region at 11%.

Nguyen Phuong Mai, the CEO of the HCMC branch office of an Australian technology company, predicted that hybrid working will be the model of the future.

"This model will become more and more popular as we use tools such as OKR and KPI to calculate the work done, instead of relying on clocking in. As technology becomes more complete and more reliable, the trust and empowerment superiors give to their employees will also increase," Mai said.

An online conference between an employee, Mai, and company founder Matt. Photo by Groove Technology

An online conference between an employee, Mai, and company founder Matt. Photo by Groove Technology

Labor specialist and director of the research center SocialLife Nguyen Duc Loc said the model is helping companies recruit talent from all over the world.

After the pandemic, digital transformation, changes in working habits, and the need for work-life balance began fueling the hybrid working model at not only big businesses but also at middle-sized and small companies. A few government institutions in HCMC are also discussing applying this model.

In Mai’s opinion, the transition is essentially a shift from "working hard to working smart." Her company allows its departments to choose the time they want to show up at the office and encourages them to rotate their shifts so different departments can have the chance to meet each other.

By the end of the third quarter of 2022, the board of directors of Mai’s company admitted that hybrid working was helping them save money. They said it was efficient, and had attracted talent from all over the world.

Moreover, they saved a portion of their budget by no longer renting a large office space in downtown HCMC. This motivated them to continue investing in this model.

"Our operation fees decreased, and our revenue increased, not because our sales increased, but because of the efforts of our employees," she said.

The Anh stated that the biggest advantage of hybrid working is the work-life balance that it brings. In the past, after his wife gave birth to their first daughter, he was only allowed a few days off.

The Anh, 32, working from his home in Hanois Hai Ba Trung District, Oct. 26, 2023. Photo courtesy of Anh

The Anh, 32, working from his home in Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung District, Oct. 26, 2023. Photo courtesy of Anh

When she gave birth to their second daughter, he asked to work remotely for an entire month. With the time he saved from commuting, he’s been able to do chores and look after his daughters.

A recent poll done by his company about hybrid working showed that 80% of employees rated the experience as extremely positive and 20% positive, with no one choosing "neutral", "negative", or "extremely negative".

For Duy Thuan, moving back to his hometown allowed him to live a life of passion and creativity.
During his lunch breaks and after finishing his workday, Thuan dedicates his free time to personal hobbies such as painting, gardening, woodworking, and taking care of his pets.

Currently, he is the administrator of a DIY woodworking group with over 100,000 members. He is also finishing his degree in architecture and creating furniture for his house in EaKmut.

After working so extensively at home, Thuan now looks forward to coming to his office. Every month, he flies to HCMC once or twice to participate in teambuilding events. "My team is planning on taking a trip to my house after construction finishes at the end of this year," Thuan said.

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