Three things Covid-19 taught us about hybrid working

Katrine Biering Sonnenschein, Øivind Hagen, Ingrid Steen Rostad, Ragnhild Wiik

What happened to our motivation and job satisfaction during the lockdown? A new study looks at what the media coverage tells us about the future of work.

During the pandemic, many of us were forced into working from home to reduce risk of disease transmission.

Some people loved it, others struggled.

Media outlets across the world frequently discussed the physical and mental well-being of employees, job motivation and working conditions when homes became people’s new workspaces.

In a recent study, we analyzed data from three Danish and two Norwegian newspapers. We identified three main themes in how the media explored how working from home affected us, which in turn gives a strong indication for what employers must consider when designing tomorrow’s workplaces.

Increased health-related issues at the home office

When working from home, employees often work at unsuitable places or badly equipped home offices. News outlets regularly addressed the consequences, which included back and neck pain, as well as headaches. According to the well-known psychologist Frederic Herzberg, hygiene factors like basic working conditions have to be satisfactory in order to get motivated employees.

Our new hybrid lifestyles also affected our general well-being, with many experiencing problems including depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness. While all these issues can be considered normal phenomena under such circumstances, they still deserve increased attention, also after the pandemic.

An important lesson for employers is to take more responsibility for their employees’ physical and psychological well-being when working at home, for example by providing ergonomically friendly equipment, as well as satisfactory psychosocial conditions.

More autonomy: good or bad?

Employee autonomy was also a hot topic during the pandemic. Many newspapers focused on the positives: less time spent commuting; the ability to work from home when children were sick; housework which could be performed during work hours.

Some even argued that employees were more productive when working from home due to managers’ inability to exert full control, which gave employees the autonomy and motivation to perform better.

While the home office can be advantageous for some, autonomy can be a challenge for others. Going forward, managers should be aware that colleagues can find the distinction between work and leisure as challenging, which could make some of them feel demotivated.

Increased competence and connectedness?

Some argued that the increased use of digitalization enabled employees to gain more familiarity with technology that may enhance their competences. However, the increased use of digital tools and platforms can also lead to less relatedness among colleagues.

But did the increase of digital collaboration make collegial relationships more superficial? Not necessarily. In the future, managers should consider how digital collaboration can be combined with regular physical social events to strengthen organizational culture and cohesion.

A hybrid future

All in all, a hybrid model seems to be an optimal solution for the future job market, where employees with task-based jobs can experience motivation and job satisfaction whether they are working from home or at their workplace.

At the same time, it is important that managers consider that people are different and must understand that the hybrid model does not necessarily satisfy everyone’s basic needs for autonomy, competence and connectedness, which in turn may affect the strength of their job motivation.

When working from home, it is important for employers to look after both the physical and psychosocial conditions of their co-workers. They have to recognize that people are individuals and not a homogenous group, and that there is no single workplace model that is optimal for all.


Sonnenschein, K.B; Hagen, Ø; Rostad, I.S. & Wiik, R. (2022). “Make it possible for more people to work at home!” representations of employee motivation and job satisfaction in Danish and Norwegian newspapers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Frontiers in Psychology, 13. Doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.972562

Deci, E.L., and Ryan, R.M. (2000). The "What" and "Why" of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychol. Inq. 11(4), 227-268. doi: 10.1207/S15327965PLI1104_01.

Deci, E.L., and Ryan, R.M. (2008). Self-determination theory: A macrotheory of human motivation, development, and health. Canadian psychology/Psychologie canadienne 49(3), 182.

Herzberg, F. (1959). The motivation to work. New York : Wiley.

Published 13. December 2022

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