Since the global COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the way people and organizations look at work and workplace has changed dramatically. People understandably want (and demand) the flexibility to work from home, along with the ability to access the human connection and collaborative environment the office uniquely provides.
Hybrid work offers the best blend of flexibility and in-office connection, and has become a workplace norm providing significant benefits for employer and employee alike.
Creating a hybrid workforce means that organizations must optimize the benefits of location-agnostic work via the right policies, processes, and enabling technology. Companies still need their offices to serve as an essential locus for meetings, collaboration, and team building.
But hybrid work is a fluid and evolving concept. Finding the right balance between at-home and in-person work is a constant calibration and adjustment, as this post will explain. Having a clear understanding of how hybrid teams work enables workplace leaders to make the right decisions when creating their own solutions.
Getting Hybrid Work Right from the Start
There’s been a dizzying amount of change and continuous adjustment in the corporate culture of the workplace since early 2020.
San Francisco-based Salesforce, for example, said in early 2022 that “the 9-to-5 workday [in the office] is dead,” but a year later (March, 2023) Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said the company preferred its people to return to the office because “some people do better in the office.”
Apple has had a similar evolution, moving from “let people decide for themselves where to work” in 2021 to asking employees to return to the office 3 days per week.
The hybrid work model has “won the day” as the best way to balance flexibility and in-office connection. Needless to say, “hybrid work” can mean different things to different people/organizations. The role of workplace leaders is to ensure that employees have the support they need to work productively and collaboratively no matter where they’re sitting.
Being ready to adjust and course correct your approach to the hybrid work model is essential because what works for one company may not work for another. As Apple CEO Tim Cook famously said, hybrid work “is the mother of all experiments.”
This blog post will ask and answer these questions:
- What is hybrid work, anyway?
- What are some common hybrid work models?
- What technology tools are needed to enable hybrid working?
- How can organizations effectively implement hybrid work, including the creation of an office environment that supports hybrid work?
- How can a hybrid work approach be measured so organizations can drive continuous improvement?
What is Hybrid Work? The Workplace Model Explained
Hybrid work is a flexible scheduling policy that enables people to have a balance between working from home and working in the office. There are a handful of ways to structure your hybrid work model but the common denominator is always some combination of remote and in-person work.
Hybrid Work vs. Remote Work
Remote employees work from home all of the time and may not even have the option to go into the office. While hybrid workers spend part of their time working from home, they also spend time working in the office and some hybrid employees have the flexibility to choose where and when they work. The downside of remote work can be its negative impact on the 3 Cs of (human) connection, collaboration, and community-building, which the office is uniquely situated to support.
What are Some Common Hybrid Work Models?
A Gallup poll revealed that 6 in 10 employees prefer hybrid work over other arrangements, but hybrid work itself can be a flexible concept. Companies might choose a number of hybrid work models, such as asking workers to come into the office 20% of the time or 40%, but measuring that occupancy over a month or a quarter. People could also have structured schedules where they work at home three days a week and in the office two days, or some other hybrid work configuration.
If your company wants to utilize the hybrid workplace model long-term, a structured schedule can help your team succeed. Structured hybrid work allows you to focus on your organization’s long-term goals around in-office connection and collaboration while accounting for employee needs around flexibility.
There are a few ways to set up a structured hybrid work schedule:
- Fixed Days Hybrid Model: Require that everyone comes into the office one, two, or three days a week. If your all-hands staff meeting takes place on Tuesday, for example, that may be a good day to have everyone together for in person collaboration.
- Team Rotation Hybrid Model: 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.
There can be a range of approaches within these two structures so if you aren’t sure where to start, check out more on all the different types of hybrid work models here.
So What is The Best Hybrid Work Schedule?
The most common hybrid work schedule seems to be 2-3 days in-office a week. In fact, according to our research, over 67% of leaders said they mandate employees work from the office two or three days a week. Having a fairly equal balance between remote work and in-office work seems to be the most favorable option for companies truly seeking to build a hybrid culture.
What are The Benefits of Hybrid Work?
1. Connection and Collaboration from Anywhere.
The pandemic proved that people can work productively from home and the office, as long as organizations support them with the right policies and enabling technology. Collaboration can happen too, no matter where people are located, as long as they have the right tools to support connection.
2. Talent Acquisition and Engagement.
More employees, especially top-tier talent, are looking at hybrid work and scheduling flexibility as a fundamental “must-have” for a better work-life balance. When Gallup asked U.S. employees how they wanted to work, hybrid was the preferred choice of the majority of workers (51%), with fully remote being the least preferred choice at only 18%.
Hybrid work helps organizations recruit, retain and engage talent. People have gotten used to flexibility and don’t want to lose it. That said, hybrid work also enables companies to improve their bottom line by reducing real estate footprints.
3. Reduced CRE Footprints and Related Costs
Hybrid work also enables companies to improve their bottom line by reducing their need for commercial real estate. CRE footprints needed to be much bigger pre-pandemic, when the office was the default workplace and people had designated desks. Today, with hybrid work and space management concepts such as hot desking and hoteling, organizations can both reduce space needs and optimize the space they have.
4. More Productive Workforces
Productivity isn’t about where you are or how many hours you put in – it’s about the results you achieve in the time you have at work. Managing people’s results and supporting them with what they need is a far better way to ensure employee productivity than managing people’s time. Anyone can “punch into” a workplace and still mentally “punch out” – that unfortunate scenario can happen both at the office and at home.
In order to support productivity, a hybrid work policy should do the following:
- Give people a sense of autonomy and control over their work schedule
- Support people’s health and well-being
- 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
4. Promoting Employee Health.
Hybrid work affords employees more time and energy to exercise, make better eating choices, seek medical care when needed, and better care for their families. These benefits can have a profound effect on individual mental health and improve employee job satisfaction too. They can also help employers better manage their investments in health insurance and other wellness-related benefits.
How Can Technology Help with Hybrid Work Challenges?
Hybrid work, however you define it for your organization, faces a number of key challenges that must be considered and solved for with technology tools. Here are some of the biggest challenges, with their technology solutions:
1. Defining and Coordinating Uncertain Schedules.
Among the biggest challenges to hybrid work is the difficulty of coordinating a distributed workforce where people have the option to work from home or in the office. Giving your teams and your people visibility into who is coming into the office and when is a key ingredient of success. Nobody wants to make a tough commute into an empty office to sit on Zoom calls all day. Folks can sit on Zoom at home and avoid the maddening commute.
Hybrid Workplace Technology Solution: When it comes to scheduling office visits and collaboration, you’ll need to empower people with technology tools (like Robin) that allow them to book desk and meeting space and see who else is coming in that day. This tech-enabled visibility and space booking capacity is foundational for office connection and community-building.
2. Making Meetings Efficient and Inclusive
Hybrid work brings complexity to business meetings because attendees participate both in the office and remotely, but everyone should have an equal opportunity to meaningfully participate. If the meeting experience for remote team members is second rate, you’re doing everyone a disservice. It can be challenging to create equitable experiences for both hybrid and remote workers but in order to create better workplace and employee experiences there needs to be a concentrated effort to make things work.
Hybrid Workplace Technology Solution: First, make it a seamless and easy experience for people to book meeting space and notify attendees (in-office and even remote workers) about any changes. In addition, have the tools and technology in place (including microphones, cameras, screens, digital signage, etc.) so all meeting attendees have a positive, inclusive experience.
3. Managing Resources Efficiently.
Space management, especially at a time of hybrid work, is about determining how to accommodate people’s needs for flexible schedules, while ensuring there are enough desks and meeting spaces. Doing that well requires workplace leaders to account for fluctuations in office activity in order to rightsize office space so you are using space most efficiently. Implementing hot desking and hoteling may help you accommodate people’s needs with available space.
Hybrid Workplace Technology Solution: Space utilization data and workplace analytics, which are provided by a workplace experience platform, should be monitored and discussed regularly in order to maintain an appropriate and ongoing balance between available space and people’s needs for space.
4. Finding The Right Hybrid Work Approach
When it comes to hybrid work, there is no one-size-fits-all. What works for one company won’t work for another. Without one standard approach to flexible work, it can be difficult for organizations to determine what policy or structure will work best for their teams. That's why measuring how a certain approach is working is so critical.
Hybrid Workplace Technology Solution: When implementing hybrid work, workplace leaders need to be continuously measuring its performance and making strategically-aligned business decisions based on real-time, relevant data. If you have the right workplace experience platform, you’re enabled not only to execute your workplace strategy but also to measure success against your goals (employee engagement, retention, productivity, space utilization, etc.) through detailed data analysis. This workplace data and analytics become the real-time “directional” signals you need to reach your own success.
If you don’t know something, ask your people. Use tools that support hybrid work that also provide your leadership team members with insights – via workplace analytics – that can be used to measure, make changes, and support better decision-making.
Rolling Out a Hybrid Model
Implementing any company-wide policy can feel overwhelming. 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 hybrid working model.
It all starts with considering the needs of your people and your physical space. Think about which people need to be in the office and the activities they’ll need to accomplish. To begin, take the following steps:
- Evaluate your physical space and rearrange desks or workstations as needed
- Re-outfit meeting spaces to accommodate flexible work
- Invest in more technology to facilitate hybrid collaboration
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.
What is a Hybrid Work Environment?
A company operating within a hybrid work model transforms its physical work environment to accommodate a flexible balance between remote and in-office work. This change has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, as employees increasingly seek a workplace that combines the benefits of remote work with the advantages of on-site collaboration.
In this hybrid work environment, the physical office space plays a crucial role in supporting employee needs. Companies need to evaluate their existing office layout and adapt it to the new demands of hybrid work. This involves rearranging desks or workstations to accommodate flexible schedules and ensuring there are enough meeting spaces to facilitate collaboration. Meeting rooms should be equipped with the necessary technology to seamlessly connect in-office and remote employees, such as microphones, cameras, screens, and digital signage.
To effectively manage the physical office space in a hybrid work model, companies should embrace data-driven decision-making. Space utilization data and workplace analytics become invaluable tools in understanding how the office is used, helping to rightsize office space and optimize resources. This involves regularly reviewing and adjusting office layouts in the short-term, quarterly, and annually to align with changing employee needs and occupancy patterns.
By transforming the physical work environment to support hybrid work, companies can create a dynamic and adaptable space that enhances collaboration, accommodates flexible schedules, and aligns with evolving needs. This approach ensures that the physical office remains a valuable asset, even in a world where remote work is a significant part of the work culture.
How to Create a Hybrid Work Environment in Your Office
Configuring the office to support hybrid work and the needs of your people is an evolving effort but it's a critical part of managing hybrid teams effectively.
Your office occupancy will vary, of course, due to hybrid work. You might have 65% occupancy on Wednesday, for instance. and 19% on Friday (especially if Monday is a holiday). This means you’ll need to be flexible with your physical office space in order to accommodate the flexible work schedules of your people. Here’s how to do that:
- Set up a mix of spaces, including a mix of meeting rooms (different sizes, for different purposes, etc.), to support not only variable space occupancy, but also the different ways people work and collaborate. You might have a space specifically for brainstorming meetings, with interactive white boards, and conference rooms for larger meetings or social gatherings. Spaces for snack breaks and relaxation are also necessary.
- Use your office utilization data to build out your office space, making necessary adjustments to the space in three phases: the short-term (daily and weekly), mid-term (quarterly), and long-term (annually and beyond).
- Communicate with your people about the adjustments you’re making and how they better accommodate peoples’ needs for space. By doing so, you build engagement around your hybrid work strategy and also encourage more feedback around this new company culture.
Measuring Your Hybrid Work Model
In order to understand if your hybrid work approach is succeeding, you'll need to put a plan in place to regularly review and measure how your plans are working. Here are six steps you can follow to better measure the progress of your workplace strategy.
- Define success: Envision what success looks like for your organization and its people. Determine core values, growth needs, and success at individual, leadership, and organizational levels.
- Identify metrics: Break down the vision of success into measurable steps. Use key performance indicators (KPIs) or milestones to measure progress and ensure alignment with the workplace strategy.
- Engage employees: Understand what employees want and need from the workplace. Gather continuous feedback through surveys, meetings, and other channels to incorporate their perspectives into the strategy.
- Review KPIs: Establish a structured process to regularly evaluate KPIs and progress. Define meeting cadence to discuss KPIs and make adjustments based on data and analytics in a timely manner.
- Consider intangibles: Recognize that not everything essential can be measured. Analyze qualitative aspects like human relationships, organizational culture, employee collaboration, and overall mood/stress levels to gain a holistic understanding of success.
- Embrace change: Be adaptable and responsive to changes in the workplace. Develop change-ready mindsets and leverage workplace analytics, KPI reviews, and employee feedback to make necessary adjustments and remain aligned with evolving needs.
By following these steps, organizations can effectively implement and monitor their workplace strategies, ensuring continuous improvement and hybrid work success.