The Future of the work environment is hybrid.
What started out as a preserve of startup culture quickly gained adoption in the mainstream, and now some big companies have embraced this new reality, including Ford, Salesforce, and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.
The covid-19 pandemic accelerated this adoption, and now It is common to have hybrid work as an acceptable part of company policy.
About 52% of workers in the US prefer a mix of working in the office space and at home. Global research tells us 72% of corporate leaders plan to offer a hybrid model, and only 13% say they expect to decrease their real estate footprint in the next year, suggesting that organizations will continue to leverage their workplaces within to support a hybrid work future.
This article will dive deeply into what a hybrid workplace strategy is, its benefits, and how to create a hybrid work environment.
Hybrid work is an approach that combines remote work and working in an office environment. It varies in flexibility and supports a variety of different work schedules. It allows employees to choose where and how they work, enabling them to design a plan that works for them.
Hybrid workplaces gained popularity in responding to the recurrent Covid-19 waves. Employers wanted to make sure that employee well-being was maintained. According to Mckinsey, the hybrid workforce model evolved from a temporary public health strategy to a default norm for most workers in the US.
The hybrid model does not fit every workplace or industry. It suits employees whose work is computer-based and doesn't need to be performed on-site. This model helps organizations embrace new technology and design a work schedule for different teams. Also, for multinational companies, this model helps coordinate work for remote employees in different time zones.
Hybrid work models help measure employees' work by productivity and output rather than the in-person hours spent in an office space. They include:
In this model, the organization focuses mainly on employees working remotely while bringing team members together for more significant activities and possibly giving team member access to shared physical workspaces.
This model lets employees choose their working hours and locations based on priorities. Larger hybrid organizations can allow employees to travel between physical offices during the year.
This model is suited for building an inclusive work environment, allowing employees to adapt to their family needs. It builds trust between managers and employees that work can be done and doesn't require facetime with managers. The only drawback of this model is that management can struggle to manage it with visibility.
One company that is using this model is Cisco.
This hybrid strategy is the most common and is mainly employed by mixed teams. It is based on hybrid work arrangements, where the manager sets the time and day when employees can work remotely or within an office setting. It's popular with companies offering financial services.
American Express is leveraging this model.
In this model, employees are expected to be in the office, but the team members have a flexible schedule each week or month where they can work remotely.
Google tried to implement this strategy but faced strong employee resistance. Even though Google's official policy remains an office-first hybrid model, 10,000 employees have requested to be fully remote. The company has reported about 85% of applications for remote work have been granted.
Hybrid work is a new norm for many organizations and has benefits. They include:
Greater autonomy and flexibility increase employee satisfaction and happiness and improve employee well-being. Focusing on a whole workforce and better work-life balance can help create a successful hybrid workplace leading to a cohesive team.
Several factors contribute to boosts in productivity, increased freedom to choose work hours and location; fewer interruptions at home than in the office; repurpose commuting time; and the opportunity to come into the office when in-person collaboration is best.
The Covid-19 waves shocked the corporate environment and affected many activities. Hybrid workplaces have allowed for office spaces to be designed to emphasize safety and employee well-being. A fluid work schedule that allows the mixing and matching in the office will enhance social distancing and improve sanitation. Being health secure ensures increased performance and greater productivity.
Companies or businesses are always looking for ways to reduce overhead costs. They may develop real estate strategies that will help them minimize office space. With a hybrid model, companies can have lower overheads. Employee engagement will increase, which can improve efficiency leading to less turnover and also reduced overhead costs.
Companies embracing hybrid working are situated well for the Future should demographic changes affect their workforce. Given the split between in-office and fully remote, organizations using a hybrid workplace can shift to offering greater remote or in-office work based on future needs.
The hybrid work model came into existence in 2020, and though abrupt, it was necessary. Now companies have seen its success and are trying to adopt it. According to Forbes, "The hybrid workspace enables as much productivity as possible without costing our employees too much personal time, sacrifice, or ability to control their workday."
So what are the best practices when developing a hybrid workplace policy?
Keeping your employees engaged will ensure that whatever hybrid model you choose will succeed. Communication is key. Try to explain the value of the selected model and have an open communication channel to allow for employee feedback. Involving your employees will ensure that there is team collaboration, and it also helps solve problems quicker.
Try and utilize technology that allows for video calls. Schedule a zoom call for those offices that may be located in other regions. You can also have in-person meetings in conference rooms to follow up on the status of various departments within the company.
Regularly monitor the goals set and improve employee performance with performance goal management techniques depending on the hybrid model you pick.
Communicate leadership and development opportunities that are available within your company or organization. Train managers and employees so that they may learn all the content that allows them to grow. This also allows you to retain top-talent employees.
Guide most employees to ensure they are adept at the hybrid workplace strategy, which will help them better balance new aspects leading to highly productive outcomes.
Creating a hybrid work environment that is successful can be a head-scratcher. So how do you manage to build a hybrid workplace that can sustain a strong company culture and transfer in-office experience to remote employees?
Here are some steps you can follow:
1. Communicate with the team and form a plan.
Like many organizations, the first step before transitioning to a hybrid model is talking to your team members. The objective is to understand what kind of work environment people in your company want. This will form a basis on which you can structure requirements and policies.
Survey individuals in your company and ask them how and where they work best and what type of work arrangement most appeals to them. After that, analyze the results and form a plan to transition to a hybrid model.
2. Adress the challenges
Before implementing your plan, identify all potential problems arising from your chosen work model.
Identify all potential issues, and discuss solutions with your workplace planning team.
3. Create a hybrid work policy.
After developing a solid plan, you should be able to start creating a workplace policy that reflects the hybrid model. Ensure that the approach is comprehensive and includes rules of the work setting, procedures, and clear guidelines.
Ensure that you include explicit language that explains policies and expectations. This will help identify positions that qualify for remote work, locations, and times where remote work can occur. Also, determine where and when office and remote work often takes place.
Lastly, ensure all requirements are available such as communication and data security requirements.
This process will require you to think of and provide guidance on all different strategies that may arise for in-office and remote workers.
4. Creating a solid communication plan.
Open communication is essential during the transition to a hybrid model. Ensure you keep your employees informed on decisions affecting their work arrangements.
Send regular emails to your team members to update them during the transition. Keep your doors open, and solicit feedback as the plan comes together. Inform staff of critical milestones and any hiccups that may arise.
It would be best to clarify how you will communicate with staff once the transition to a hybrid model is complete. This should include information on how management will communicate with teams and how teams can communicate with and support each other.
5. Integrate new technology.
Transitioning to a hybrid workplace will require additional investment in technological infrastructure. Ensure that your tech infrastructure is sufficient when employees are working in the office or remotely.
Hybrid workplaces may require you to have reliable solutions for video communication, cloud storage, cybersecurity, email, and office suites.
Consult with your IT team to discuss whether the tech infrastructure is sufficient or needs scaling.
6. Revise your office space.
If the objective is to focus primarily on remote work, then you need to revise the function of the office. You need to know what it will be used for, whether you need the same space or can downsize it.
On a cost-savings basis, it will be economical to downsize and look for a smaller space if it appears redundant for your team members going forward.
7. Maintain Company culture.
Usually, company culture is built in office spaces by connections between co-workers, but this will be disrupted once you change to a hybrid model.
Try to protect your culture, and it's important to reiterate its importance to your staff. Put your values and cultural pillars in writing and emphasize that they still apply to all teams in a remote setting. This will also help remove any unconscious bias toward remote employees.
8. Assess your employee's level of satisfaction.
A significant transition to a hybrid workplace model can take a while, and for it to be successful, you need to keep in touch with your employees to know how they are feeling and responding to the changes.
Implement an engagement survey that will solicit qualitative and quantitative feedback on how the hybrid model is. When you get the results, assess them, identify areas needing attention, and find ways to address them.