In March 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the U.S., the nation witnessed a seismic shift towards remote work and virtual healthcare. Work and wellness became virtual activities– telehealth utilization spiked, and the workforce settled into their home offices – more than 50 million Americans, largely in white-collar jobs, began working from home. And in just two months – from February to April 2020, overall telehealth utilization for office visits and outpatient care was 78 times higher.

However, three years later, we find ourselves in a unique position as the spikes in remote work and telehealth are stabilizing into a hybrid model that offers the advantages of both worlds.

Post-Pandemic: Are Things Back to Normal?

The initial surge in remote work and telehealth has subsided, but it has not reverted entirely to pre-pandemic norms. According to EY, 42% of company employees are now adopting a hybrid work approach, compared to 40% pre-COVID-19. On top of that, 87% of companies say the pandemic has permanently changed the role of the physical office for their organization.

This shift reflects the growing acceptance and recognition of the benefits of instances where remote work can be beneficial. Similarly, the healthcare industry has identified virtual solutions as effective and efficient for certain services like appointment setting and behavioral health.

Colliers Insight
James Bailey
“Several factors contribute to the rise of hybrid models in both work and healthcare settings, such as tech advancements, evolving space needs, and workforce demographics.”

What’s driving these hybrid models?

Several factors contribute to the rise of hybrid models in both work and healthcare settings, such as tech advancements, evolving space needs, and workforce demographics. Today’s multi-generational workforce, including the presence of Generation Z (Gen Z) and Baby Boomers, plays a significant role in the adoption of hybrid models. By striking a balance between virtual and in-person interactions, organizations can leverage the benefits of both worlds and create a future that caters to the diverse needs of their employees and patients.

Generational Preferences Driving the Return to Office – Except the Doctor’s Office

Gen Z employees, despite being characterized as digital natives, have made it known they value in-person interactions and crave face-to-face feedback from their managers as they start their career journey. Recent surveys indicate that Gen Z employees express a desire to return to in-person work full-time or hybrid, and only 19% of respondents said they would prefer to work from home full-time.

Meanwhile, telehealth usage tends to increase with age. While younger age groups still utilize telemedicine, older generations demonstrate higher rates of adoption due to their medical needs and preferences. Among 18–29-year-olds, 29.4% reported using telemedicine in the past 12 months compared to 43.3% among those 65 or older. Telehealth’s growth is a reflection of what today’s patients value: convenience and efficiency. This correlates to the shift toward medical office buildings for care delivery, which are typically located in easily-accessible hubs near retail with ample parking. 

Technology Enabling Virtual Aspects of Hybrid Models

The implementation of telehealth within hybrid healthcare models has proven advantageous in various ways. It has significantly reduced patient wait times, lowered costs for healthcare providers, and increased overall efficiency for physicians. Furthermore, advancements in technology, such as generative artificial intelligence (AI), have revolutionized primary care. Companies like Carbon Health have introduced AI-enabled notes assistants in their electronic health record software, streamlining patient care and administrative tasks.

As the world adapts to the ongoing challenges and changes brought about by the pandemic, hybrid models have emerged as a viable solution for both workplaces and healthcare. The preferences of different generations, coupled with technological advancements, are reshaping the way we approach these domains. The integration of remote and in-person elements allows us to strike a balance that optimizes productivity, connectivity, and individual preferences.