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Defining the Future of the Office: What is Hybrid Work?

hybrid work, image of home and office
Sabrina Dorronsoro
Published on

“Work from anywhere” is the new mantra for many. As employers and their teams consider how best to utilize their hybrid offices, remote work has become the new norm. Remote workers have realized the many benefits of a flexible schedule and no commute. By empowering workers to make their own decisions both on-site and off-site, businesses can give them the ability to be as productive as possible in a hybrid environment.

Creating a hybrid workforce means optimizing the benefits of remote work while minimizing the costs of the office. But many companies still need their offices to serve as valuable spaces for meetings, collaboration, and team building. Finding the right balance between at-home and in-person will take time, and we’re already seeing people give it a shot. Having a clear understanding of hybrid work will allow leaders to make the right decisions when creating their own solutions.

Getting It Right from the Start

Salesforce has stated that “the 9-to-5 workday is dead,” and we know that Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and a host of other tech companies are making the shift to a new, hybrid workplace. This means that companies need to be able to keep up with the rapidly changing workplace. 

Making sure employees have the support they need to successfully work in their roles will give businesses an edge when making adjustments to their hybrid policies. The best arrangement for one company may not be right for another. 

Getting hybrid work right is essential because if you get it wrong, it’ll cost you. So let’s break it down: What is hybrid work? What does it look like? How do you know if you’re doing it right?

What Is Hybrid Work? The Workplace Model Explained

Hybrid work is a flexible policy that empowers people to choose where (and when) they work, typically a balance between home and the office. People may have set schedules where they work at home three days a week and in the office two days, or choose to do either full-time. This means teams who used to gather in the office now work as hybrid teams, connected by technology rather than shared office space.

Improving productivity and workforce satisfaction can go a long way in determining how work gets done. In essence, a hybrid work scheduling policy can offer the best of both worlds. A Gallup poll revealed that 60% of remote-capable employees prefer hybrid work over other arrangements. Utilize global workplace trends to make decisions about your hybrid work strategy.

Why Convert to Hybrid Work?

There’s more reason than ever before for companies to convert to a hybrid work model. People now understand that they can work well together, no matter where they are located – as long as they have the right tools to support them. 

This makes companies that don’t offer hybrid schedules less attractive to the best talent. More employees are looking at hybrid work as a fundamental aspect of their work-life balance. Converting to hybrid work allows companies to improve their bottom line while also nurturing and reinforcing a more adaptable workplace culture. Some of the benefits include…

Flexible Scheduling

Flexibility to choose one’s schedule allows each person to work based on when they feel most motivated or creative, even if it’s 3:00 a.m. Letting your teams choose schedules based on their working styles and preferences is not only more productive, but it boosts job satisfaction and improves employee experience.

Understanding employee needs and values gives employers the ability to effectively manage their workforce without compromising efficiency. Flexibility promotes better work-life balance, too. That’s a big plus for people who have caretaking responsibilities. What’s more, everyone spends less time commuting to and from the office with a hybrid work model – time that quickly adds up.

Productive Workforce

“Productivity” isn’t about where you are or how many hours you put in; rather, it’s about what you accomplish. Employees who are motivated are more likely to produce successful results. This makes it essential to consider not only the amount of time it takes for employees to complete a task but also the quality of their work. 

For employers who aren’t properly prepared, changes to production capacity can be hard to handle, and needed adjustments can sometimes come too late.

A hybrid work policy should:

  • Give companies a chance to consider what practices, processes, and tools are required for effective communication and collaboration
  • Open doors to more cost-effective real estate management
  • Reduce overhead expenses like janitorial staff and office supplies
  • Boost quality and diversity in recruiting by eliminating geography as a factor
  • Give people a sense of autonomy and control over their work schedule
  • Support people’s health and well-being

Companies that want to have a productive workforce should consider how the opportunities presented by hybrid work can deliver better results. By measuring workforce productivity over time, employers can make sure they’re making the best decisions.

Health Management

Managing health risks and mitigating the spread of germs is an ongoing task for employers. A restrictive workforce model can further compound this. Sick employees have more options and feel less pressured to come to work. This allows employers to manage risks and adjust schedules based on real-world events. 

Hybrid work allows employers to consider the risks of having individuals in the office and make policies accordingly without compromising their bottom line. Hybrid work also affords employees the time and energy to exercise, make better eating choices, and care for their families. This can have a profound effect on individual mental health and improve employee satisfaction.

Creating a Hybrid Work Schedule

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 60% of businesses that allowed increased telework because of the pandemic plan to keep those remote work arrangements permanent. 

If your company wants to utilize the hybrid workplace model long-term, a set schedule can help your team succeed. This allows you to focus on your organization’s long-term goals while accounting for employee needs.

A chart showing office usage by day

There are three ways to set up a hybrid work schedule:

  1. Company-Wide Policy: Require that everyone comes into the office one, two, or three days a week. If your all-hands staff meeting takes place on Tuesday, that may be a good day to have everyone together in person.
  2. Cohorts: Divide up the workforce into cohorts that alternate in-office days. For example, one cohort comes into the office on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the other group comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you’re concerned about having sufficient office space or keeping workers socially distanced, this solution is for you.
  3. Let Your People Decide: Leave it up to your people to choose when they work from home and when they come into the office.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try mapping out your organization by department and function. Some tasks can be accomplished in any setting, while other projects benefit from in-person collaboration. 

Making the Switch to Hybrid Work

There are many issues to consider when making the switch to a hybrid work environment. Companies that want to build lasting solutions capable of evolving with the changing business environment should take the time to consider their options when adopting a hybrid model.

Here are some considerations that should be made when making the switch to a hybrid model:

Consider Employee Strengths

Although hybrid work offers many benefits, it’s not for everyone. While new employees may feel confident going into this situation, older employees may need more help adjusting. 

Taking the time to provide needed training or support to individuals who need it will allow you to reinforce your commitment to them while ensuring projects are completed correctly. When working within a hybrid environment, employers must be sure to consider the strengths of each employee and set their policy expectations accordingly.

Focus on Collaboration

For maximum creativity, employers should consider the importance of collaboration. Distributed teams attempting to coordinate need support systems in place that allow them to communicate and share ideas in real time. 

Businesses that can’t support hybrid collaboration won’t be successful. Hybrid models require people in both in-person and remote situations to work together on projects where ever they are. It’s essential for employers to give them the support they need.

Think About the Long-Term

When building your hybrid workforce, don’t look at it as temporary. It’s becoming the norm and is likely here to stay.

If you want to get your hybrid model right the first time, you’ll need clear long-term goals and expectations. Set expectations and align responsibilities, so your teams can respond accordingly.

Listening to your teams’ feedback is the best way to identify what’s working and what isn’t. Try, try, try again until you find a solution that works.

Technology for Hybrid Work

There are certainly benefits to having all your teams in one location: you know where everyone is, and you can communicate with everyone at once. But workplace management software allows workers to stay connected, whether they’re onsite or at home. A workplace management platform allows you to:

  • Create digital seating charts and floor plans
  • Reserve and assign workspace
  • Quickly locate team members
  • Track analytics to understand your space usage and plan for the future

With workplace management tools, People can quickly book a desk, saving them valuable time when they arrive at the office. And reserving conference rooms or adjoining workspaces makes in-person team collaboration seamless.

Implementing a Hybrid Work Policy

Implementing a new company-wide policy can feel overwhelming, but no worries. Here at Robin, our entire mission is to help companies and teams make the most of every aspect of work and the working environment. We’ve put together a wealth of resources to help you develop a smart, successful return-to-office plan.

Our top recommendation: Phase it in.

There’s too much to consider to expect a cold-turkey transformation from the old office to a hybrid workplace. You’ll need to think about which people need to be in the office and the activities they’ll need to accomplish. Take the following steps:

  • Evaluate your physical space and rearrange desks or workstations as needed
  • Re-outfit meeting spaces to accommodate fewer people, and more technology to facilitate hybrid collaboration
  • Plan and communicate your health screening protocols to anyone entering the office

For most companies, these are the most basic requirements for successfully adopting a hybrid work policy. By taking the time to consider the specific needs of your organization, you can embrace the strategy that works best for you.

A 4-Phase Policy for Creating a Hybrid Workforce

Once you’ve developed your hybrid work policy, it’s time to begin the process of putting it into action. It’s important to make sure you’ve accounted for any unique challenges that might make it more difficult to allocate space for your hybrid employees without causing disruptions to operations.

Now you’re ready to phase in your return:

  • Phase 1: Stick to essentials – give access to only the people who must be onsite, while everyone else works remotely. Test out your setup.
  • Phase 2: Make necessary improvements, and assign some pilot teams to work in-office, at least part-time, to test your plan.
  • Phase 3: Gradually move to greater flexibility, working with managers to set up the best working arrangements for their teams.
  • Phase 4: Welcome to your new normal! Embrace your new company culture and use the data you’ve gathered to make adjustments as needed.

Having a well-thought-out plan in place can mean the difference between success and failure. Make sure to allow enough flexibility in your plan, so you can make changes as needed and add to your thriving workplace culture. 

Managing your Space and Improving Workplace Experience

Effective space management is key to switching to a hybrid model. Desk booking software like Robin makes it easy to connect people with the people and spaces they need to succeed. 

A comprehensive set of tools can help you adopt a hybrid workforce and better support your teams. To learn more about the hybrid work technology you need and how Robin can help, schedule a demo with us today.

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AI, Automation and the Future of Workplaces