As companies continue to figure out their “new normal,” we’re seeing some key hybrid work best practices emerge. In this article, we’ll examine eight of the most important best practices for a successful hybrid work strategy, share tips on making your own hybrid working plan stick, and show how you can get started today.
8 Best Practices For A Successful Hybrid Work Environment
There’s a lot that goes into creating a successful hybrid work environment, but most of the best practices can be put into three buckets:
- Workspace management: how you use your office space to facilitate effective hybrid work
- Communication and culture: how you build a consistent culture and forms of communication even in a fluid flexible work arrangement.
- Technology and tools: how you use technology to make employees, business leaders, and teams more effective, whether they’re in-office or working remotely.
Successful hybrid work starts with the “place” itself. Managing the office appropriately and ensuring all of its benefits are equally distributed is the starting point for hybrid culture. Here’s what you need to know.
Prioritize Space Management
We’ve talked before about the benefits of space management. Essentially, the design of your office and usage of space can have a notable impact on productivity and adherence to any “minimum days in-office” clauses in your hybrid work policy.
That means the cubicle farm and the “open office” are out. Flexible spaces that enable different types of work are in. The Gensler Research Institute’s U.S. Workplace Survey 2022 showed that employees want to come back to offices that make them more productive and facilitate different kinds of work. It should be just as easy to find a space to run brainstorming sessions as it is to find somewhere quiet for heads-down work.
As a quick refresher, here’s what we suggest to make space management a force multiplier for your hybrid model:
- Evaluate your office space. Determine what kinds of spaces you can build given capacity limits, size, floor plan, existing spaces, and technology requirements.
- Understand your employee preferences for what types of spaces are needed. Figure out what would incentivize people to come in and supply it.
- Create spaces for different workstyles and types of work. Huddle spaces enable impromptu meetings. Meeting rooms equipped with audiovisual tools facilitate meetings that work for remote and in-office employees. Quiet areas allow for focused work.
- Find technology that makes the office easier to use for everyone. Audiovisual equipment, desk booking software, wayfinding displays—all of these and more (see our “Technology and Tools” section below for more) provide experiences that old school offices can’t.
- Go beyond “corporate” spaces. Gensler’s research showed that younger employees are attracted to offices that take their influences from hospitality settings. Workspaces that feel more like coffee shops or even hotel lobbies might entice your Gen Z employees to come in more.
Ensure Equitable Use of Shared Spaces
Ensuring equitable use of shared spaces—meeting rooms, huddle spaces, phone booths, conference rooms, etc.—in a hybrid work environment requires a combination of clear policies, technology, and mutual respect amongst employees. Here’s how to do it:
- Establish clear guidelines on how and when shared spaces can be used. Make sure these guidelines are easily accessible to all employees.
- Have a policy about how far in advance rooms can be booked so no one can monopolize them long-term. You could implement a 'first come, first serve' rule for spaces that don't require bookings and encourage people to be mindful of overuse.
- Limit the length of meetings or use of shared spaces to prevent overuse by certain teams or individuals. Implement a check-in system for conference room bookings to ensure that if someone doesn’t show up within a certain time period, the room becomes available again.
- Integrate your booking system with other commonly used tools, such as the company's calendar software, to avoid double-booking and provide visibility on space availability.
- Regularly review room booking data to identify issues like certain teams dominating the use of spaces or rooms being booked but not used.
- Encourage employees to respect their colleagues' bookings and only use shared spaces for the allotted time. In the early days of your hybrid approach, keep a close watch on shared space usage and hold people accountable when their behavior doesn’t meet your standards of respect.
Communication and Culture
Policies and workspace design won’t get you very far unless you have a communication plan in place to ensure everyone knows the expectations, standards, and reasons behind your hybrid model. Follow these best practices to be sure your culture and productivity don’t suffer.
Build and Communicate Clear Hybrid Policies and Expectations
One way hybrid teams can lose their footing is by failing to implement and communicate clear policies on things such as:
- When people are expected to be in-office vs. when they can work remotely (read more on hybrid work schedules)
- Policies around shared spaces
- Hours of availability for remote workers
- Productivity metrics
- Channels of communication
- Desk usage
- Project management
There’s some nuance that has to be appreciated, however. Hybrid policies in the form of top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates are likely to get pushback. Leaving policies completely up to team leads or individuals will lead to lack of consistency.
The executive team should collaborate with people ops and department leads to create fair and equitable policies around goals and expectations for hybrid employees. They should allow team leads some flexibility to create policies—within that wider framework—that work for their employees. Once those flexible work policies are in place, they should be documented, published where everyone can access them, and regularly updated as teams and leadership adapt and learn what works best.
Of course, communication has to go both ways. Give hybrid workers access to open channels for feedback. Give them the opportunity to make note of what’s working and what’s not so you can alter your approach as needed.
Create a Unified Culture
Return to office is the big thing right now, and that sometimes creates a tendency to favor in-office employees. But don’t forget: A hybrid work model is a combination of remote working and in person work. No matter where employees work, they matter equally.
Creating a unified company culture means giving everyone equal opportunities for training, promotions, and other benefits, no matter where they spend most of their workdays. It means making major announcements that affect everyone at the same time—not telling the in-person crowd first and then letting things out to remote employees.
A truly unified culture will prevent resentments from breaking out and ensure people feel empowered to work in the way that best suits them, not what gives them the most visibility or favor.
Get Team Building and Social Events Into Your Plan
One of the downsides of fully remote work or even a balanced hybrid workplace is that employees can sometimes feel disconnected from their colleagues.
Leadership and team leads should be proactive about providing opportunities for face time. That could come in the form collaborative working sessions or fun team building events that allow camaraderie to develop naturally. This will help keep employees engaged and feeling a part of the team, rather than an atomized unit.
Technology and Tools
Successful hybrid offices are people-driven and tech-enabled. The right tech will make employees and people teams much more successful when creating a new hybrid environment or work model. Keep these best practices in mind as you consider new tech for your hybrid workforce.
Build a Strong In-Office Tech Stack
Your hybrid office tech stack can be the difference between an office that’s easy to use and one that makes people prefer to stay home.
- Desk booking software to reduce underused desks and repurpose those spaces
- Real-time meeting calendars to ensure people can find open meeting rooms quickly and room scheduling systems to make it easy to book time in them
- Room displays for fast and easy wayfinding
- Video conferencing equipment that’s reliable so hybrid meetings can run smoothly
While you can purchase many of these tools as standalone offerings, you’ll have to figure out how to integrate them into a cohesive whole. A platform that combines all or most of them into one will reduce your total cost of ownership and time to deployment.
Use a Workplace Experience Platform To Track Progress
A workplace experience platform acts as a central hub that streamlines your hybrid office operations and logistics. These platforms put all of your office data at your fingertips to show you patterns in space usage, attendance rates, and more. They’ll also show you which spaces are popular and which ones are underutilized, giving you a data-driven way to continuously improve your office.
A good workplace experience platform will integrate with your HR, productivity, and BI tools so you can measure the effectiveness of your hybrid strategy at the business level. Being able to tie increases in productivity to office attendance, or increases in employee satisfaction with new spaces will help you get budget for further investment.
Provide Ongoing Training
Whether you’re still rolling out your hybrid work model or you’re well into it, the fact is that hybrid is still relatively new for most companies and employees. It’s going to take time and plenty of trial and error to train people on the technology that makes a hybrid work model tick, how to run effective meetings when one or more people are calling in, how to use the desk booking system, etc.
It’s critical for workplace leaders and people teams to identify areas for improvement and invest in continued training. Without it, your policies will fail to reach widespread adoption as people try to find workarounds to what they find difficult or frustrating.
Hybrid Work Best Practices - Putting It All Together
You know some of the most crucial best practices for a thriving hybrid workplace. How do you make sure your company stays the course?
Here’s how to put the pieces together and keep them there:
- Proactively report on success. Use workplace analytics and data to prove the efficacy of your hybrid work strategy and prove to leadership that investments in tools, space, and people are paying off.
- …but be honest about what’s not working. Hybrid work is still new. No one is expecting perfection out of the gate, but it’s equally important that you proactively flag issues—like poor meeting room etiquette or low attendance—so you can show you have a plan in place to address them before they spiral out of control.
- Give employees a voice. Data and analytics are the foundation of a strong hybrid work strategy, but there’s always a place for just talking to people. Give everyone who uses the office a judgment-free place to voice concerns, ask questions, or share what they love about the new way of working.
- Make sure flexibility is balanced with accountability. Hybrid work gives everyone the flexibility to work in ways that make them and their teams successful. You want to nurture that, but also make it clear that things like required in-office days, meeting room rules, and other agreed-upon policies are not optional. Take corrective actions if certain teams or individuals aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.
- Treat it like an experiment. You won’t know what works for your employees and company until you try things. Use best practices as a starting point, but don’t be afraid to alter them and try things a new way. You have the data to see if an experiment yields good results, so try new arrangements and iterate your way to the best workplace possible.
Create A Successful Hybrid Work Environment
It’s one thing to know the best practices behind a successful hybrid workplace, and another to put it into practice. Getting buy-in from leadership and adoption from employees and managers starts with a clear plan and a willingness to adapt to your unique circumstances.
It comes down to being flexible, offering a variety of experiences, providing compelling reasons for employees to make the commute, and putting the right hybrid work software in place so you can operate as efficiently as possible.