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Hybrid Work Models and Schedules: Examples, Benefits and Challenges

hybrid work model, hybrid work schedule, hybrid workplace
The Robin Team
Published on

There are many benefits of a hybrid work model. A hybrid workplace can help create a more positive employee experience and can be an attractive benefit for job applicants. The arrangement gives employees the flexibility to choose the environment they need to get work done, and can even help companies lower the overhead costs associated with having all employees onsite.

But how should organizations decide on the logistics of their work schedules? Learn more about different models for managing a hybrid workforce.

What is a Hybrid Work Model?

Many organizations are realizing they can offer employees flexibility and still maintain their productivity levels. Hybrid work is a framework that blends onsite and remote work. Employees may work from a central office, at home, or on the go, whether that’s at satellite locations or co-working spaces.

A recent report by Accenture found that 83% of people prefer a hybrid work model - specifically, one where they can work remotely at least 25% of the time. Another study from International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that a majority of employees preferred hybrid work arrangements over fully remote or fully in-office models.

Types of Hybrid Work Models

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for hybrid work – every industry and company will have different needs. Here are a few common hybrid work models:

1. Office-centric Hybrid Work

In an office-centric hybrid model, employees spend most of their time working onsite. However, the company offers remote work as an option when needed. For example, there may be one designated day each week when employees can choose to work from home. 

The major advantage of this model is connection and engagement. With the majority of teams onsite most of the time, employees can develop stronger connections and feel a sense of belonging. For new employees, it can be easier to complete training and onboarding in an in-person setting, as well as develop relationships with their colleagues.

The challenge of an office-centric model is that hiring managers may miss out on job candidates who are highly qualified but can’t relocate to wherever the main office may be located. Other hybrid models that offer more flexibility, however, can minimize this issue. 

2. Remote-first Hybrid Model

With a remote-first work model, the expectation is that most employees will work offsite most of the time. They may have the option to work from a company office, but hiring decisions are made without regard to where employees are located. A remote-first company needs to invest in the technology and equipment that allows employees to complete all aspects of their job from home.

A benefit of this model is that it can significantly cut overhead costs by reducing physical office space – or eliminating it altogether. However, employees may feel disconnected from the company at large, and it can be challenging to communicate organizational culture without a consistent in-person component.

3. Flexible Hybrid Work

A flexible hybrid setup allows employees to decide when they want to work from an office, and when they prefer to work remotely. The office is open five days a week, so in theory, an employee could be onsite each day if they want.

In practice, employees will likely work from the office when they need to collaborate with colleagues in person. When they have independent tasks or projects, they will probably choose to work from home.

The key advantages here are flexibility and autonomy – workers have control over their work schedules. This can help with employee retention and satisfaction. Letting employees decide where they work communicates that their employer trusts them. This setup also boosts employee productivity, since team members can choose the workspace that best suits their needs on any given day. 

The challenge here is often logistical. It can be difficult to schedule a team meeting or simply check in with employees without clear guidelines about when they’ll be in the office. It can also potentially lead to management issues if certain employees get more in-person interaction with their supervisors than others. 

4. Fixed Hybrid Model

A fixed hybrid work model is a great solution for companies that want to offer flexibility but still value face-to-face engagement. Unlike flexible hybrid work, a fixed hybrid setup puts some guidelines in place regarding remote work.

For example, a company might require that employees work onsite three days per week, with the option to work remotely on the other two days. Or they might dictate a specific weekly schedule: employees need to be in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays but can choose their work location for the remainder of the week.

This schedule can be company-wide, or it can vary by team. A marketing department, for example, may find that they need three or four onsite days per week to complete collaborative work, while a team of budget analysts can mostly work independently.

Companies with limited space may choose to stagger their in-office days, with half the staff onsite on Mondays and Wednesdays and the other half working onsite on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This hybrid model helps management teams allocate resources better since they’ll be able to predict office utilization.

It also creates more opportunities for team building and employee engagement across the organization. However, if a company chooses a model in which their whole workforce is onsite one or more days per week, they won’t be able to take advantage of the lower costs that come with reducing their office square footage.

There’s no paint-by-numbers way to make hybrid work actually work. That said, learning about different hybrid work schedules, their respective benefits, and how to implement them yourself will get you closer to finding the best arrangement for your company. 

What is a Hybrid Work Schedule? 

We know what different hybrid work models mean but what does these flexible work schedules look like exactly? A hybrid work schedule is a policy that allows employees the flexibility to work from home on some days and from the office on other days. Instead of being full-time remote or full-time in-office, employees and their managers can determine the ideal mix of remote and office work for their needs and preferences. 

Done correctly, hybrid work schedules offer the flexibility and ability for deep work that remote work enables while still getting the team-building and collaboration opportunities that in-person work facilitates. 

5 Types of Hybrid Work Schedules

Unlike 100 percent remote or in-person work arrangements, hybrid work schedules have a considerable amount of nuance. There are many companies that offer hybrid work in vastly different formats. Let’s look at a few of the most common ones:

1. Split Schedule

Split schedules refer to arrangements where employees are in the office for a set number of days per week. They work from home the rest of the week.

The “splits” are set by the company or by individual managers based on their teams’ needs. For example, a company could have a 3/2 split where employees work in-office for three days and at home for two days each week. You could have a 2/ 3 split, or even 4/1 and 1/ 4 splits.

Split schedules offer more predictability for employees and companies. Employees can plan their work around the splits, and companies will know how much office space and desk availability is needed for each day. 

2. Team-Driven/Bottom-Up

In this arrangement, the company allows teams to determine how many days—and which days—they’ll be in-office. Some teams benefit from more collaborative time, and will opt for a greater number of days in the office. Others will want more heads-down time and choose more remote work. 

The benefits of this arrangement is that it allows teams to work in the ways that make sense for them, while giving companies predictability as to when each team will be onsite. The downside: if managers don’t plan their teams’ schedules cross-functionally, getting different teams on the same page can be difficult. 

3. Company-Driven/Top-Down

This version of hybrid work is the exact opposite of the bottom-up approach. In this case, the company determines which days everyone will be in the office and which days are remote. Leadership can decide this on a team-by-team basis, or create a blanket policy for everyone. 

While this makes overall planning easier for the company and creates predictability, it can mean suboptimal arrangements for certain teams that might benefit from more in-office work or more remote time. 

4. Staggered Schedules/Shifts

Hybrid work doesn’t only refer to the days employees come into the office or work remotely. It can also refer to the times they do so. Some companies are creating hybrid arrangements in which some employees are onsite for a portion of the day, and work remotely for the rest of the day.

This requires careful planning, but can be beneficial for employees to get collaborative time during “core” hours while spending the rest of the day working as they see fit. While this arrangement doesn’t always make sense for “knowledge workers,” it’s common in fields such as healthcare or education. 

5. Total Flexibility

In a completely flexible hybrid work arrangement, employees can choose when and if they’ll come into the office. That means some employees may opt to be fully remote workers with few exceptions, while others choose to work almost entirely in the office. 

This version of hybrid work empowers employees and managers to find the right balance for their work, but it can make office space management more difficult. Even choosing the right office space gets harder, as you may have less insight into how many people will be in-office enough to make it worth it.

The Benefits of Hybrid Work Schedules

What do businesses have to gain from rolling out a hybrid work model and schedule? Here are a few key benefits.

  • Access to more talent. According to research from Gallup, nine out of 10 remote-capable employees say they prefer flexibility in their work arrangements. Hybrid will attract these candidates. 
  • Cost savings. Hybrid work environments lend themselves to a smaller office layout, reducing rental or ownership costs. In addition, companies can save on utilities, overheads, travel stipends, and other traditional office perks. 
  • Higher employee productivity. Additional research from Gallup showed that 51 percent of employees and managers noticed higher levels of productivity in a hybrid environment.

How do Hybrid Schedules Benefit Employees?

Employers aren’t the only ones who benefit from hybrid work. Employees do too. Here’s why:

Improved work-life balance

Gallup showed that 71 percent of employees and managers report having an improved work-life balance with hybrid work.

Less team burnout

Employees in hybrid workplaces tend to be less burned out, as they spend less time commuting and more time working in ways that make the most sense for them.

More individual control

Hybrid workplaces enable more control for employees, so they can make their own decisions on when to go into the office for collaborative work and when to work remotely for heads-down focus time. 

Learn how to create an office environment your employees will want to come back to with our report, “Employee Motivators: How to Get People Back in Office.” No mandates required.

3 Core Challenges of Implementing a Hybrid Work Schedule

Lacking the predictability of pure-play in-office/remote work, hybrid work scheduling doesn’t come without challenges. If you’re considering implementing hybrid work, don’t go into it without understanding the potential downsides and challenges. Here are a few to consider.

1. Bias Toward In-Office Employees

In our research report, “Productivity and Proximity in the Hybrid Workplace,” we found that 62% of leaders use in-office time as a somewhat or very important factor in deciding which employees would get a promotion or salary increase. 

It’s critical for leadership to stress the importance of reducing bias toward employees who choose to work remotely more often. Promotions and salary increases should be based more on performance and results than who had more face time with their manager. 

2. More Coordination Issues

Hybrid work allows managers, employees, and teams to determine their ideal mix of in-person and remote work. This allows for meaningful time for collaboration and community building, while giving people the space they need to do independent work.

That said, hybrid does require more coordination and scheduling to ensure the right people are in the same places when they need to be, with the appropriate space to work.  It also means that hybrid meetings will have to work equally well for in-person and online audiences. 

3. Difficulty With Culture Building

When individuals and teams aren’t on the same schedule or in the same places as their peers or managers, people can feel disconnected. There’s a tendency for people to work in silos. Managers often have to spend more time putting all of the pieces of a project together, as individual contributors may not always be clued into what others are doing. 

The informal conversations that serve as glue for an in-person team don’t happen as regularly, so it’s critical to keep communications and project management at the forefront. 

How to Develop and Implement a Hybrid Work Schedule

Coming out of COVID, your company’s “new normal” is likely some version of a hybrid workplace—your employees, managers, and leaders already have an informal hybrid work schedule. That said, you can’t rely on informal processes to remove friction and get optimal results. Here’s a process to develop and implement a hybrid work schedule:

  1. Ask managers and employees to share their preferences. While not everyone’s exact needs can be met, you can get a sense for how teams are already handling hybrid work, even if there aren’t set formal policies. This will help you shape standard policies and align them to the existing culture.
  2. Identify clear roles and responsibilities. Determine who will be responsible for managing the hybrid work schedule for each team. Be sure HR and IT teams are kept up to date with their expectations for supporting the hybrid workplace as well.
  3. Find the right mix of top-down and bottom-up policy. Set clear expectations for performance and baseline expectations for core work hours, communication expectations, remote work equipment, and security protocols. Allow individual teams and managers to work closely with their employees to find what makes sense for their team, giving everyone a sense of ownership over the arrangement.
  4. Ensure cross-functional teams collaborate when setting in-office hours. While each team should have leeway on their work schedule, teams that need to collaborate more should ensure they’re onsite together as much as possible. Check in with managers and leaders to understand how well teams are communicating and working together. 
  5. Get the right tools and systems in place. Hybrid work requires more management around room scheduling, communication, desk booking, and community building activities. Find a platform that gives you what you need to ensure you’re providing a seamless and manageable hybrid experience. 
  6. Provide training for managers and employees. The practice of hybrid work is always evolving, and there’s no one best way to do it. Continuously identify areas that need improvement and provide training around practices like project management, communication, meeting deadlines, adopting new tools, etc. so you can hone your approach to hybrid.
  7. Consistently evaluate progress. Setting a standardized hybrid work model isn’t a one-and-done task. You’ll have to constantly gather feedback and measure results with workplace analytics to understand where you need to provide support and what’s going well.

A Solution for Managing Hybrid Work Schedules

Hybrid work can have massive benefits for employees and companies, but only when there’s clear communication, employee buy-in, and robust hybrid work solutions that provide a foundation for all of it. 

If you want to get a handle on all things hybrid work, use an office management platform like Robin. Robin makes it easy to plan, measure, and iterate on your hybrid work scheduling based on continuous employee feedback and detailed analytics. 

Start with Robin, for free.

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