Highway or byway: hybrid work or return to the office?

In our series ‘Highway or byway’, we envision the future of mobility – separating hypes from trends. In this episode, we’ll explore the impact of the pandemic on corporate mobility. Is working remotely a lasting trend, the highway, or will we quickly return to the world of 2019, the byway?

The verdict: Highway. In the near future, employees will expect to be able to choose from a broader package of flexible mobility solutions. Although personal relations will continue to play a key role, hybrid work will have an everlasting impact on business. Hybrid work will accelerate the trend towards flexible and smart corporate mobility.

Two people in meeting

    Highway or byway?

    After spending most of the past two years working remotely, the idea of commuting to the office on a daily basis again feels absurd to many of us. Which impact does this change in mindset have on your mobility policy? We outline a future vision on smart corporate mobility.

    Unintentionally, the pandemic became the biggest home working experiment ever. A study conducted by professional services company Accenture in May 2021 shows that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model over commuting to the office every day.

    “Management is often inherently resistant to change, but new employee expectations are forcing business owners to adapt,” says Pieter Goossens, Global Business Development Manager at Athlon. He believes the transition to hybrid work will follow the same path: “After working two years remotely, employees are accustomed to their new flexibility and home working situation. Work is no longer a place you need to go to.”

    The numbers confirm we’re already living in the future of work. According to Accenture, 63% of high revenue growth companies have already enabled “productivity anywhere” workforce models. This way, employees have the option of working remotely or on-site.

    The metaverse can’t replace a business lunch

    Working from home and videoconferencing have already become commonplace. But with new technologies and habits consolidating even further, the impact on business and mobility might increase in the next few years.

    “A renewed focus on work-life balance and sustainability will dominate the future of mobility”

    Companies like Microsoft and Meta are building ‘immersive spaces’ to hold meetings in virtual or augmented reality in the so-called metaverse. When that happens, fully digital offices could become the new normal. “However, I don’t think we’re entering an era where everything will become virtual, personal connection will always remain important in business. COVID-19 is a catalyst for existing trends towards flexibility, but in sectors like retail, construction or even finance, the office will continue to play a key role in business relations,” says Goossens.

    “Nevertheless, the trend towards flexible offices is irreversible,” The market is shifting. For example,  Belgian telecom operator Proximus is selling two office towers in Brussels and switching to a hybrid setup.

    Flexible mobility in the era of hybrid work

    We believe a renewed focus on work-life balance and sustainability will dominate the future of mobility. COVID-19 transformed our relation with mobility. The idea to use your car for short distances is becoming absurd. A recent McKinsey survey suggests that Micromobility options – lightweight vehicles such as bicycles, e-scooters, and mopeds – are on the rise.


    Key takeaway: to attract and retain talent, you have to adapt your mobility policy. 

    While preferences will differ in each European country, micromobility is here to stay. Ask your team if they are interested in a bike and the answers might surprise you. Take Luc and Thor, for example, two colleagues of the International Sales Team at Athlon. They bike to the office twice a week, even though they have a comfortable electric Mercedes. They changed their mindset following Athlon’s 5-step-mobility-plan.


    “In a post-COVID world, choice remains key to every mobility policy,” says Goossens continues.  “At Athlon, even before the pandemic, we consider the trend of decision power shifting from employers to employees. This implies a very different approach when it comes to corporate mobility, a tough assignment for fleet managers. With Athlon Flex your employees can choose how and what they lease. Ranging from a family car complemented with an electric bike to a high-end EV.”



    An evolution, not a disruption

    We’re witnessing huge societal changes driven by the Covid crisis. But at the same time, we believe personal connection can’t be replaced by virtual reality or fully digital offices. Nevertheless, hybrid work opens the possibilities for mobility options transcending the traditional company car.

    “The pandemic accelerated existing trends but did not fully disrupt the workplace,” Goossens asserts. As a fleet manager, you can leverage this momentum into an opportunity for flexible mobility. In fact, your employees will expect you to do so.

    We believe that to remain competitive in the search for talent, you’ll need options ranging from traditional premium (EV) vehicles to flexible contracts maybe even in combination with an electric bike. This way you can help your employees opt for the right mobility solutions as well as make a sustainable impact that will create a world in which future generations can live happily.