How to Create a Successful Hybrid Work Model
Nearly every company was forced to implement some form of remote work when the pandemic hit in 2020. As businesses re-opened, employees clamored for greater workplace flexibility and sparked new discussions about what companies should consider in the future. The shortage of labor made those discussions even more critical. Permanent remote and hybrid work featured prominently.
The concept of hybrid remote, sometimes just referred to as hybrid work, has been a hot topic in recent months but it's hardly new. In the past decade, there has been an increase in companies opting for hybrid teams rather than full time office-based positions. These companies realized that despite the benefits of a remote environment, such as increased productivity and lower costs, there are also drawbacks. In an attempt to bridge the shortcomings of a fully remote workforce and the traditional office setting, they adopted a mix of both.
Yet, managing a mixed workforce also brings challenges. To succeed, a hybrid remote company needs well-thought-out processes and systems to prevent things such as an imbalanced flow of communication, often favoring the on-site personnel over those who are remote. This can lead to remote workers feeling isolated or disconnected from colleagues.
Companies considering a hybrid work or fully remote strategy should make sure they first understand the pros and cons of each approach.
The Hybrid Workplace as an Alternative to Fully Remote Work
The biggest challenge associated with remote work is the idea that employees may miss the connection and team-building sentiment that comes from in-person interactions. Video conferencing just doesn't feel the same as a traditional meeting or working at a desk beside peers.
But the demand for remote work is intensifying, with a growing number of employees saying they will leave their current employer if asked to return to the office full time. In fact, a YouGov survey showed 70 percent of the 1,684 workers polled said they would "never return to offices at the same rate," with most saying they would prefer to work from home at least some of the time.
Companies looking to compromise and bridge the gap are turning to the hybrid remote work model. Hybrid remote work sounds like a good alternative, combining the positive effects of remote work with the face-to-face collaboration of an office setting.
"There is no perfect way to work these days — fully in-office, fully remote, hybrid — but we continue to see a majority of employees preferring a hybrid outcome," said Joe Du Bey, founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Eden Workplace, a workplace management software company focused on supporting hybrid companies.
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According to Du Bey, the hybrid work model creates the flexibility today's workers seek and helps minimize turnover. "In a hybrid organization, your company avoids being a victim of the Great Resignation," he said, adding that it represents the best of both worlds.
The Challenges to a Successful Hybrid Workplace
If hybrid allows for a happy medium to be reached between remote and in-office work, it also comes with its own set of complexities. The two most frequent mistakes companies make are:
- Lack of communication: Companies that seek to avoid a lack or imbalance of communication need to conduct regular (at least monthly) sentiment surveys to understand how team members, far and near, feel about the work environment. They make it a priority to catch issues before they impact workforce well-being, while they can still intervene to boost engagement and retention.
- No plan to address unequal access: Hybrid workplaces can complicate workflows. On-site team members may have greater access to tools that remote team members don't have at their disposal. Businesses that are ill-prepared and don't set up their remote team with enough support are more likely to see a significant drop in performance.
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Tips to Simplify Hybrid Remote Work
There are ways to implement a hybrid remote work model successfully. Here are five tips to help:
- Outline and articulate the work model: As processes continue to shift and adapt to changing trends in the workplace, there is no one-size-fits all model for remote work, including fully remote companies, distributed workforces and hybrid remote teams. Ask what model works best for the company and employees. Once there's an answer to that question, communicate it to employees and make sure expectations and processes are articulated clearly.
- Identify the roles eligible for hybrid work: Determine which jobs or roles are suitable to be performed outside the office, but remain flexible when testing the model. "Enacting clear policies creates living documents that should be updated accordingly if some roles work best remote or distributed after some trial and error," said Anna Dearmon Kornick, head of community at San Francisco-based time management software firm Clockwise.
- Determine how often hybrid workers report to the office: Determine specific days or the frequency at which hybrid workers should report to the office, if at all. Will everyone report to the office on the same day? Will employees have the flexibility to come and go as they please? Will the company alternate or rotate staff who come into the office on a schedule? Those are important aspects of the work policy that employees must know upfront.
- Create policies for hybrid work: Hybrid work policies should also include when, how and how often work arrangements can be changed. For instance, how much notice should eligible employees give management if they intend to move out of the area or vice versa?
- Articulate expectations for work availability: Perhaps most importantly, companies need to define how, when and where work should take place. "For example, ask yourself, should everyone work the same working hours, regardless of personal responsibilities, time zones and personal preferences? And are there certain hours during the day everyone should be available for synchronous communication?" said Clockwise's Dearmon Kornick.
In the end, the success of a hybrid remote work environment depends on how prepared the company is. Leaders who clearly articulate their expectations, the reasons behind them, and remain open to discussion and change will be the ones better placed to win the talent war in the years ahead.