Are you wondering, “What is hybrid work?” If you’re debating between going remote or going back to the office, you may be able to strike a middle ground. Hybrid work represents a way to keep employees happy and productive — while saving the company money.
But is it the right choice for your office? Read on to learn more about hybrid work!
The Need for Workspace Flexibility
Following months or years of remote work during the pandemic, employees are craving more flexibility. Working remotely offers easier access to family — and eliminates a commute. Time saved translates to a significant perk that many workers don’t want to give up.
As offices head back to in-person work, it’s time to consider a new office environment. Rather than mandating that employees come back, why not strike a balance? Hybrid work offers a compromise that may help you retain and attract employees.
Employees will appreciate the work-life balance as they gain more control over how they budget their time. Plus they’ll enjoy saving money on gas and lunches out by avoiding daily drives to work.
Hybrid work can benefit perceptions of the management, too. The option to work remotely may just build more trust between direct reports and supervisors. Permitting hybrid work creates happier employees who will grow as they gain proficiency with more digital tools.
What Is Hybrid Work?
A hybrid workspace is a flexible one. Employees have the option to work in a traditional office setting on some days. But they can work from home on other days.
The approaches to hybrid work vary. For instance, some companies do not require that employees adhere to a traditional 9 to 5 schedule. Employees with more time and better alertness earlier in the day can frontload their days and clock out sooner.
In other scenarios, this approach may not be feasible. This is particularly true if companies work with clients across time zones. They can still require employees to commit to set hours, but allow flexibility in terms of where they work.
As another example, some companies will stagger work assignments. This approach is more involved logistically. And it’s helpful to create an online calendar to show employees when they need to report to the office.
For instance, a company may ask that certain employees show up on Mondays and Wednesdays one week. But then they’ll need to show up on Tuesdays and Thursdays the next week.
The benefit of this method is that it confirms that certain coworkers will be in the office on set days. This can make it easier to find people when you have a question or need a signature on a form.
On the other hand, giving employees the choice to work remotely or in-person on a whim offers the most flexibility. For working parents with a sick kid at home, this can be a lifesaver. For employees needing more stimulation in an office setting, they can get it when they crave it!
Identify the Benefits of Hybrid Work
Why agree to hybrid work? The opportunity to build happier and healthier employees is significant — and that’s not all.
Flexible Work Environments
Hybrid work allows people to choose the work environment in which they feel most productive. For some, this will be at a home office, away from distractions such as loud coworkers, high thermostat settings, and gossip.
For those making frequent client calls or hosting video conferences, a quieter home workspace can be better. But in other instances, employees may prefer to have sensitive conversations in-person. For instance, a supervisor may want to let go or promote an employee during an in-person meeting.
Wider Hiring Pool
Another benefit of offering hybrid work is the ability to hire people regardless of their geographic location. If an employee’s spouse accepts a job in another town, you’ll lose that employee. But if your approach to hybrid work allows individuals to work fully remotely or define their schedules, more employees will be able to stay.
During the hiring process, you can cast a wider net, too. Some individuals might not mind driving to the office twice a week as long as they can work remotely on other days. For businesses in small towns an hour from city centers, hybrid work provides a life preserver when it comes to recruiting talent.
And in some industries, offering hybrid or remote work is essential for survival. The field of cybersecurity has 3.5 million unfilled positions across the globe, and these positions provide a critical protective service. Offering hybrid work in this field is a necessary incentive, and much of the work can be done remotely anyway.
Fewer Office Costs
When you have a growing business, you need the office space to accommodate it. This means you need to own or lease space and consider expanding. And in some expensive regions, you may pay up to $20 per square foot for space.
Offering employees remote work or hybrid work can help you save money on space. Once you see measure how frequently employees come in, you may be able to reduce your lease footprint — and save on utilities.
Opting for hybrid work may result in fewer sick days. Limiting exposure among coworkers during cold and flu season will help lower virus transmission rates. After all, densely populated office spaces with aging HVAC systems won’t exactly be pumping a lot of fresh air into the workplace.
In traditional work environments, employees will feel obligated to parcel out sick days. After all, they may only accrue one new day per month. Consider going with an unrestricted sick day policy in a hybrid workplace.
Ask employees to work remotely when they feel well enough but show symptoms, such as a fever, cough, or runny nose. And ask that they check in with their supervisor to avoid abusing the policy.
Additionally, by offering hybrid options, employees can reinvest their commute time into healthier habits. An article published by Harvard Medical School states that limiting stress and increasing exercise can strengthen immune systems. In other words, going for a morning walk or jog rather than sitting in traffic will provide an immunity boost!
Work Around the Challenges
While hybrid work represents a positive shift in the workplace, it does have its drawbacks. Be aware of the following hurdles as you work toward building solutions.
One of the biggest hurdles in hybrid work is maintaining consistent and clear communication. The convenience of stopping by someone’s office for a quick interaction disappears with remote work. That’s why reviewing communication expectations should be part of your new employee onboarding process.
Focus on training employees to use their email calendar to schedule meetings. Ask employees to update their calendar’s availability daily so coworkers are not dissuaded from setting meetings. And instruct employees to flag all emails until they’ve followed up on them.
Be aware that some people are better at communicating verbally than via email. Short messenger conversations may miss the target. Encourage a company culture where it’s normal and expected to reach out for clarification.
Set up standards of practice to ensure better communication, too. For instance, ask employees to confirm via phone any email requests to send secure information. Mandate weekly team Zoom meetings where each team member can speak.
Not all employees will have strong internet connections to enable fluid communication. Some employees may encounter issues with their Wi-F, particularly if they live in rural areas. As a company, offer stipends for internet upgrades.
Further, companies should supply all hybrid workers with laptop computers, docking stations, and monitors for a home office. Companies also should provide wireless headsets with upgraded microphones.
To go another step, make sure that all employees have access to a secure connection to company networks. You should provide a VPN, or virtual private network, to connect to an employee’s router. That way, employees can have their identities encrypted when using home internet access to do work.
While you’re at it, make sure that employees are making regular operating system updates. This includes updating drivers and security software.
Promotion and Advancement Equity
Are those who work remotely at a disadvantage when it comes to promotions? While that shouldn’t be the case, it may be harder for an employee to win over a superior across messaging apps. In fact, a Stanford study shows that remote workers were less likely to earn promotions.
Those who believe in a more traditional workplace may reward employees who show up more often. That’s why it’s vital to set out in writing your company’s policies on hybrid work and promotions.
Training and Employee Errors
Hybrid work can make training and onboarding new office workers a little trickier, as well. Establish remote teams to ensure that employees always feel connected. And schedule daily or weekly one-on-one chats between supervisors and direct reports to go over new memos or issues.
It may feel easier to pop over to someone’s desk with a question than asking it via messenger. This perceived barrier could contribute to more employee errors. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent these obstacles and create an effective hybrid work environment!
Consider Your Company’s Approach
Weighing the pros and cons of hybrid work should inform your approach to it. In other words, when you know that clear communication can be a challenge, look for strategies to overcome it. Similarly, you can find workarounds for technical issues and training processes.
You’ll want to determine your philosophy regarding hybrid work. Will you intentionally stagger employees’ days in the office? Or will you give employees complete control over when they work remotely?
Surveying employees to gauge their preferences is a wise first step. You could find, for instance, that the vast majority favor remote work. In that scenario, consider allowing complete freedom or letting employees work with managers to determine schedules.
Whatever your approach ends up being, plan how you will keep the communication going. Accountability is key! And one of the best ways to build camaraderie and strong communication is through hybrid teams.
With hybrid teams, you could define a group that checks in daily. You don’t need to mandate that certain employees show up on some days while others show up on different days. The goal of a hybrid team is to connect your employees, no matter where they’re working.
You may want to schedule company events to encourage in-person gatherings on specific days. For instance, host monthly lunches on the company’s dime. And host a holiday party each year, as well as other events, so people can meet and build rapport.
Use Technology to Streamline Communication
Ultimately, you’ll need multiple lines of communication. Some individuals may be able to collaborate if they’re in adjoining cubicles. But don’t make the assumption that certain people will be in the office at the same time!
Establish companywide best practices regarding communication. This can include setting expectations that employees respond to emails within 24 hours. Or it can mean asking employees to remain logged into their workplace messaging system while on the clock.
To make any of this work, you’ll need to invest in software to support better communication. And you’ll need more than one option depending on the mode of communication.
Use team messaging to support quick interoffice communication. Employees can set up different channels to address specific topics.
You can get ahold of people quickly for pressing questions. The recipient of the message can determine how time-sensitive it is. And the message sender won’t need to worry about interrupting someone when they’re occupied.
For instance, a new customer success manager (CSM) working at a software company may need more technical help from coworkers. A channel devoted to technical questions will enable more seasoned CSMs to respond quickly with answers.
Another channel could focus on specific customer questions. And another could focus on social meetups or conversations.
Platforms Specific to the Task
Video conferencing is another critical part of office communication, especially for hybrid teams. The video element helps make the experience more personable, too. Platforms like Zoom make it easy to communicate.
And if you want to create more consistency with your communication, make it easy. Create Zoom backgrounds that employees use on customer calls. Create templates for emails and other documents that are readily available.
You can integrate technology into the onboarding process, too. With WorkBright, you’ll be able to complete HR tasks with new employees remotely.
Have employees fill out direct deposit forms and complete modules from the comfort of their own homes. In doing so, you’ll be taking one small step toward embracing hybrid work.
Embrace a New Office Routine
What is hybrid work? You can think of it as the best of both worlds, blending in-person and remote work options. Using software and check-ins, you can maximize efficiency and teamwork.
Need more workplace tips? Check back for new articles soon!