Remote, Hybrid, or On-Site – How Do Polish Companies Operate One Year After Changes in the Law?

Are companies benefiting from the new labour laws, or was home office only a temporary trend?

Remote, Hybrid, or On-Site – How Do Polish Companies Operate One Year After Changes in the Law?

We had seen changes in attitudes toward remote work for years, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that the slow evolution turned into a true revolution. As a result, we lived to see, among other things, an amendment to the labour law. Are companies taking advantage of the new regulations on a wider scale, or perhaps home office was just a fad?

What effects have the changes in the law brought?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to instantly get used to new working conditions. Today, however, with the home office no longer a health necessity, the question of efficiency of remote and hybrid work is increasingly being raised, including in the context of recent legal regulations.

The current regulations governing remote work went into effect on 7 April 2023. According to them, remote work involves performing work entirely or partially at a location designated by the employee and agreed with the employer in each case [1]. From the very wording of the provision, it is clear that everything is an individual issue. The employer still retains the option of refusing this form of performing work. The situation is slightly different for pregnant employees, parents of children under the age of 4 and those caring for a family member, among others. Here the employer, as a rule, must grant the request for remote work [1].

The issue of place of work is also essential – it is always indicated by the employee (importantly, it does not have to be the same as the place of residence). In contrast, when it is the employer who decides where you work from, then this is not remote work [2].

Thus, the legislator leaves room for discretion on a number of issues – from whether the given company introduces remote work, to the number of days of work in such a model, to the place of its performance.

Divided opinions of employers and employees

The legal changes came into effect at a time when opinions on remote work divided both sides. An example of this is the opinion on the effectiveness of the hybrid model, which, after the pandemic, most often replaces completely remote work. It turned out that as many as 87% of employees found such a model effective, while almost as many, 85% of employers, expressed the opposite view [3].

So it seems that the choice of hybrid after the pandemic was the result of listening to the voices of employees. collected data on this work model in early 2023. It came from a variety of sources and reports, but proved remarkably consistent [4]:

  • 62% of job applicants would only apply for the position if they were given the option of choosing the form of work,

  • 44% of candidates said they would never apply for a job offer without the option to work remotely,

  • more than 80% of employees said they expected from their current employer the flexibility and ability to manage their work model independently.

The six most important advantages of the hybrid model

Although just after the “pandemic revolution”, employers were reluctant to accept the lack of direct control associated with remote work, when the new law was introduced, they were able to see the advantages of this model as well.

Advantages of the remote/hybrid model according to employers [4]:

  • savings in office operating costs (office space, electricity costs),

  • lower costs of potential claims and premiums for accidents on the way to work,

  • increasing the flexibility of business operations and services,

  • opportunity to hire specialists from all over Poland, opening the company to new talent,

  • ability to retain a valuable employee when there are changes in their lives (such as the need to relocate),

  • lower sickness absenteeism.

Employees, on the other hand, mainly pointed to the savings in time and money they would have to spend on commuting. This advantage was noticed by as many as 78% of respondents. Half of those surveyed, on the other hand, said that remote work enabled them to better focus on their tasks [5]. The argument of work-life balance, which is easier to maintain through remote work, is also often raised [4]. However, this is correlated largely with the first and most important advantage – the lack of commuting.

A series of challenges in the workplace

Since both sides see so many advantages in the new work model, the situation should be clear. However, the advantages are only part of the picture. This is because both sides also face challenges when working remotely. And often no small ones.

For employees, experts point to aggravated psychological problems, feelings of isolation and loneliness, and lack of social support. Some also point to a correlation between remote work and the risk of faster occupational burnout [5].

Employers, on the other hand, have to reckon with the need to provide employees with the right equipment and tools enabling remote work. There are also challenges related to data protection, hindered communication, problems with managing teams (especially integrating them) and difficulties with onboarding new hires [4].

And what about productivity?

Given the advantages and disadvantages, it is worth taking a closer look at the effectiveness of such a work model. Unfortunately – for the time being – there is no conclusive data on this subject. Shortly after the pandemic, data emerged showing that remote work increases worker productivity by 4.6%. However, subsequent analyses were not so clear-cut – a study in the IT industry showed a 10-20% drop in productivity after switching to remote work.

In contrast, researchers at Harvard University took a look at a state institution (the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office), where productivity increased by 4.4% [6].

In the face of contradictory data, the voice of experts recognising that productivity still depends on good management rather than on a particular work model sounds rational [7].

Everyday realities in companies

One of the biggest challenges in the new reality is managing a distributed team. In such a model, communication is more difficult,regarding not only current projects, but also general company guidelines. Sometimes remote workers are deprived of knowledge, resulting, for example, in confusion when dividing tasks.

Many companies struggle to create a corporate culture, and it is harder to integrate a team around a common goal. Training often faces obstacles related to technological exclusion (e.g., slow connection, poor transmission quality). The dynamics in the team is also disrupted – it is more difficult to introduce healthy competition and recognise behaviour worth rewarding.

The scale of the challenge is huge in organisational terms, and it takes time to change procedures, implement new tools and develop the right managerial competencies. However, some companies have decided to shift their work model to new tracks. Four years after the pandemic and a year after the legal changes, 33% of Polish companies have introduced the possibility of remote or hybrid work [6]. Much more often – in as many as 88% of cases – the hybrid model is chosen, which generally provides for two or three days of employee presence in the office per week (42 and 46% of employers, respectively) [8].

Still, 41% of companies do not plan to abandon the on-site work model at all, with one in four indicating that they cannot do so due to the nature of the business [6].

Possible changes in remote work

What’s next for remote work? Unfortunately, as with the answer to the question of whether remote work is more effective than on-site work, one has to wait for specific forecasts. These, so far, are divergent. Studies have shown that as many as 92% of companies say they want to modernise their offices with a new work model in mind [9]. 73% have planned (or are planning) to introduce more hot desks, or desks not assigned to an employee, by the end of 2025. 72% want to technologically optimise meeting rooms to facilitate teleconferencing [9].

In contrast, a survey of CEOs shows the opposite trend, with as many as 64% of those surveyed predicting a complete return to the on-site model by 2026[5]. On the other hand, there are voices expecting further changes to the extent of flexible selection of project teams in place of traditional full-time positions [10].

Thus, it can be seen that changes are still taking place, and what is more, they are so new that it is difficult to clearly determine the direction they will take. Instead, based on the declarations of companies, experts and employees themselves, it is possible to identify the needs emerging in the face of these changes.

How to respond to the new needs of the team?

Regardless of the choice of work model, three trends can be identified.

Psychology and occupational burnout

These issues are raised by experts in remote work and recognised by managers themselves. The solution may be to take advantage of the growing opportunities in this area: courses, training (including managerial training) or tools that facilitate contact with a psychologist.

One solution is the MultiLife platform developed by Benefit Systems. The employee gains access to apps, training and content to support mental well-being. Through the platform, they can also contact a psychologist.

Team building

Another issue often raised is integrating distributed teams. Here, the selection of tools is key, not only communication tools, but also those that support recognising and rewarding the employees. It is also important to provide employees with equal access to knowledge – investing in a modern intranet or online training will allow knowledge to reach on-site and remote employees simultaneously.

Benefit Systems has created solutions for companies that care about team building. The MyBenefit platform provides not only state-of-the-art cafeteria solutions, but also a system that includes rewards and incentives, employee surveys, a high-quality intranet and many other options.

Work-life balance

According to employees, one of the key advantages of remote work is regaining the time previously spent commuting. Employees have recognised the need for work-life balance as well as flexibility of working time or model. One of the most effective tools for supporting work-life balance is the right mix of benefits.

With solutions such as the MultiSport card, the employer can provide employees with many opportunities for attractive leisure activities. Another option could be a cafeteria system within MyBenefit, allowing for purchasing cinema tickets or booking weekend trips, for example.

For many employees, remote or hybrid work is now one of the key needs. One, but not the only one – which is worth remembering. This need is often linked to the lack of proper approach to work-life balance at the company. Therefore, only comprehensive care for well-being, based on genuine understanding of what the team actually needs, can result in greater efficiency. The right solution is to implement a comprehensive well-being strategy at a company level.

And what will be the future of remote work? Since it is difficult to predict what will happen in this area, it is necessary to keep your finger on the pulse at all times.