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Pádraig O’Moráin: Hybrid working meets our need for belonging and independence - while getting the job done

When you miss the gossip, the arguments and the jokes, you miss almost all the richness of the corporate world

As one who thinks remote working is a very good thing, I was struck recently by a realisation that surprised me. It’s that almost all the memories I have of working in a variety of places over a long time are what could be called ‘in-office’ memories of talk and jokes and rows, all that stuff.

And then the question: If I had worked remotely all that time what would have been left?

Work, of course – but I don’t usually go back over the details of work I’ve done or not done.

I see faces, hear voices, laughter mostly, sometimes heated arguments. Recalling them I could, pretty easily, go through a list of all my workplaces starting with school holiday jobs.


Putting it together over the decades there are the jokers, the heroes, the deadly serious, the (sometimes deadly too) funny, the angry, the kind, the addicted, the principled, the rogues, the competent performers and the pure chancers, those who deluded others and those who deluded themselves. Don’t ask me how many of the boxes above I tick.

Could that phantasmagoria have happened on Zoom or Teams (and I’m a fan of both)? Generally speaking, people don’t say to you in the corridor after a remote meeting, voice lowered, out of the side of their mouth, ‘I wouldn’t believe a thing that fellow says. Total chancer. Wasn’t he the one who . . . '

But when you miss that you miss a lot of the richness of the corporate world. Let me rephrase that: when you miss the gossip, the arguments and the jokes, you miss almost all the richness of the corporate world.

This isn’t what one’s employers want to hear. Nobody ever says in a job interview when asked why they want the job, ‘I hear this is a great place for the craic.’

The Microsoft New Future of Work report published last year suggests that hybrid working – in the office some of the time but not all the time – is the most popular option for workers. It gives them the best of both worlds – they get the richness of physical connection on site but they get to balance that with that with the rest of their lives.

From a psychological viewpoint, the hybrid system accommodates our need for belonging and our need for independence. It makes space for enough of both while still getting the job done.

It isn’t a bed of roses. Some people work longer hours remotely than on-site; some feel disconnected and some feel conflict between the demands of work and home.

Some managers find it hard to organise people working in different parts of the country or the globe.

One manager who said, ‘I am a naturally caffeinated person – I am ready to go into meetings and bring energy’ complained that the remote working system ‘is simply exhausting as I have to look at the camera for nine hours’.

For most people I expect the solution lies in a balance between remote and in-office working; not all one and not all the other. For others, depending on the kind of work they do, maybe it’s in the four day week

For those who live too far from the office to be able to commute, working remotely for four days a week is better than working remotely for five days a week – for that they may be willing to miss out on all that in-office non-work stuff I mentioned fondly above. And I guess a friendly office culture can compensate a lot for the loss of that, even online.

The traffic jam is well built up on our road by 4pm with worker bees heading for home, yawning, and reduced for entertainment to watching me put out the bins.

No wonder hybrid working has such support among those who have experienced it.

Still, I’m glad I got to have those experiences I called a phantasmagoria in offices where we got to strut our hour upon the stage, in places with more actors than a real theatre.

  • Padraig O’Morain (Instagram, Twitter: @padraigomorain) is accredited by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy. His books include Acceptance - create change and move forward; his daily mindfulness reminder is available free by email (