The workforce has been slowly making a shift to remote collaboration over the past few years. A trend that is now quite popular in the technology sector, remote workforces have benefited both the employee and employer. Recently, COVID-19 forced office spaces to adapt to full-time remote work or a hybrid model to keep employees safe. Companies had to quickly adapt to home office setups, remote collaboration, and video-based team meetings.
As teams learned how to adapt to a hybrid work arrangement, companies started to see exciting results. Outside of the office setting, remote employees have shown that they can be more or equally productive (95% of employees think so, and 94% of employers agree). In addition, remote workers have found improved mental health with flexible work. More than half of employers pointed to cost savings as a significant telecommuting benefit on top of happier employees leading to increased retention.
A hybrid environment can be an excellent solution for workplaces that require person-to-person interaction or in-office work. Different teams respond best to tailored strategies, so consider what works best for your colleagues. Whether it is improved morale or a lessened commute time, we will help you consider the benefits of a hybrid schedule as well as what guidelines may work best for you.
What is a hybrid work environment?
A basic hybrid work environment is a schedule in which employees work some remote days and some in-office days. How these home days work is dependent on the team and what kind of coordination is needed to be productive. Some of these models for a hybrid team also have flexible hours and variant office schedules rather than specific and fixed schedules.
The types of hybrid work models
A hybrid workplace can work in many different ways with unique work calendars. What will work for your office workers will depend on your workflow and teams.
An office-centric hybrid means that your team still spends most of their days in the office. Often one or two days a week are allowed to be remote, sometimes exclusively Thursdays and Fridays. The office-centric hybrid works well for workers who will need access to office resources or prefer collaboration to be in person. This method is also excellent for workplaces that deal directly with clients most days but need some days to work on paperwork or project setup.
Fully flexible hybrid
A fully flexible hybrid means that employees are empowered to choose which days they would like to work from home (WFH) and which days they will be in the office. This model can be challenging to manage, especially if office work is necessary. Ensuring that the office responsibilities don't get piled onto specific individuals can require extra oversight. For workplaces that require no client or office interaction, this is a choice to consider.
Remote-ish (or remote-friendly) hybrid
Remote-ish means that not all of your employees can work remotely. For example, if you have a development team and a sales team, perhaps only the development team can work remotely as they don't have face-to-face client interactions. It is also common for this structure to require employees to schedule work from home days with their boss or only allow remote work during certain times, such as Tuesday to Thursday.
In the hybrid remote-office model, respondents get to choose which type of remote schedule works best for them. Talent that prefers to be in the office can choose to do so, while those that prefer remote work due to distractions that interrupt deep work have that option. Choosing a hybrid remote-office option can help address many variant employee needs but should be monitored carefully to ensure that there aren't balance issues.
Remote (or virtual)-first
Remote (or virtual)-first models mean that employees clock in through the internet almost all of the time. In the case of a remote-first workplace, companies may not even have an office. Choosing to be remote-first usually happens as part of the business model when you create a company, but businesses can certainly transition to it as well.
The benefits of a hybrid work model
We already mentioned some of the benefits of hybrid working, such as cost savings and improved employee health, but there are many other things to consider. Whether it is to attract a wider pool of talent or to provide a safer work environment, there are various reasons companies are considering hybrid work.
Keeps employees safe in a post-COVID world
As we have unfortunately experienced first-hand, there are health hazards to working in the office. While COVID-type pandemics hopefully won't be common, things like the flu and common cold spread every year through the workplace. Allowing employees to feel more comfortable working from home, especially when under the weather, can help slow the spread in our offices of common diseases. Because of the safety measures taken during COVID, it may be true that certain nasty flu strains may have gone extinct!
Get the benefits of in-office and remote work
80% of employees consider telework a considerable job perk. It cuts down on daily commute time, reduces stress, and gives employees a better work-life balance. With all of those benefits, remote-only workplaces often have a very different company culture. While Microsoft Teams meetings have proven effective, they aren't quite the same as touching base with your team in person. Hybrid work models allow for employees to get the best of both working worlds.
Your hiring pool is more diverse
When you start considering a hybrid model for your workplace, a huge benefit is the increased hiring pool. As you allow for fully remote workers, you open the doors to a vast collection of talent. Some companies even have remote overseas teams, bringing diverse perspectives to your company and expanding your influence.
Employees want freedom and flexibility
For many reasons, employees have found the freedom and flexibility of remote work empowering and positive. 70% of employees say that telecommuting options will be important in choosing their next position, according to Global Workplace Analytics. A separate survey by Flexjobs saw that 81% of respondents said they would be more loyal to their employer if they had flexible work options. The benefits for occasional remote work are endless. Whether it be cooking in your own kitchen or doing house chores over lunch breaks, remote work can be a game-changer for employees.
Lower overhead costs
Companies see significantly lowered overhead costs when they move to remote work. Consider the cost savings of an office in terms of just energy consumption. Many companies that move to hybrid models also eventually downsize their office space or move to a less-populated area to save on rent pricing.
Help employees prioritize their wellbeing
Research has shown that employees are less stressed when they get to work remotely, even just occasionally. A study by Owl Labs saw that 72% of respondents agreed that working remotely would make them less stressed, and 77% said it would help them better manage work-life balance. Being able to cut out the commute and avoid daily office politics can help workers focus on their work and health. A Morning Brew/Harris poll saw two-thirds of remote employees say that their lifestyle has gotten healthier, whether they eat more nutritious snacks or cook wholesome meals during lunch.
Common Challenges in Hybrid Work Model
While the hybrid work model has many benefits, it is crucial to predict potential challenges. Communication can be difficult without the correct tools, company culture is harder to manage, and arranging meetings across time zones can get complicated. By acknowledging these hurdles and coming up with plans to reduce their impact, you can avoid some of these issues altogether!
Time Zone Differences
If your workplace moves some employees to fully remote working, you may have employees in different time zones. While hiring across the country or globe gives you access to the top talent in your field, it can come with some interesting scheduling issues. When trying to do inter-office meetings, time zone differences will sometimes be challenging to overcome, especially if some employees are on opposite schedules.
To try and combat these issues, have employee time zones easy to look up. Many meeting tools automatically will translate the time of a meeting to someone's time zone for convenience, but it can be helpful to check in with them first to ensure that they won't be asleep at that time! Some employees may have to be flexible when it comes to meeting times to accommodate overseas colleagues.
Communication Is Harder
Without the right tools, remote work can make communication difficult. Many employees are used to chatting quickly in someone's office or the break room when grabbing coffee. To make sure that employees can still easily get in touch, implement a standard, simple communication method. For example, many groups have started using Microsoft Teams chat as a way to check in. Email alone often doesn't suffice, especially because inboxes can get so overloaded.
The Distributed Team May Feel Invisible
Those who end up working remotely may feel like their hybrid colleagues have forgotten them. To prevent your distributed team from feeling like they are out of the loop, encourage regular team check-ins, and create a communication workflow that keeps that team included. Frustration can arise from remote employee and in-office employee communication gaps, so clearly communicate to your team how to prevent these issues and best practices for keeping everyone involved.
How to transition to a hybrid work model
Now is a great time to transition to a hybrid work schedule. Many employees have gotten experience with remote work due to COVID and have a setup at home ready to go. There are a few steps your company should make before jumping straight into a hybrid model to correctly prepare, such as providing your team with communication tools and clarifying your goals.
Build a Virtual Community
Company culture can be hard to foster when so many employees work remotely. Rather than hosting in-person events, consider virtual happy hours. Another option is non-work-related communication channels. For example, create Slack or Teams channels for just casual jokes and chats. Encourage pet pictures, life updates, or music sharing to keep employees interacting on a personal level. With that in mind, make sure to also set expectations for the tone of these channels.
Reshape Your Goals and Objectives
When your team transitions to hybrid work, your goals and objectives may change with it. Tailor your new verbiage to address the new work model. Once you have finalized your new goals and objectives, make sure to put them in a consistent, written, easy to find location so that employees can see them often and quickly.
Use Asynchronous Communication
Flexibility often includes asynchronous work times, especially if you start hiring new talent outside your current city. Finding regular and documented workflows that allow for asynchronous communication will be vital in employees' communication. Along with creating communications best practices, make sure to include rituals for your team where you regularly sync up, such as weekly chat reports, meetings, or just daily check-ins.
Invest in Necessary Equipment and tools
Having the correct tech stack is crucial to making the switch to hybrid work. Your tools for communication and meetings should be consistent, and all eligible employees should have the tools they need to work hybrid. Once you have those platforms picked out, consider one of the many different remote-work products that have gained popularity. For example, WorkChew helps give your workers the ability to reserve workspaces at their favorite local joints!
Make hybrid work easier with WorkChew
WorkChew lets your employees treat themselves as they work remotely through a program that allows for safe, socially distanced reservations at local restaurants and hotels. Workers can spend their remote time free from distractions while refueling, allowing them to stay productive while switching up their environment. The program provides discounted eats while they work, along with a host of other benefits:
WorkChew got its start by providing socially distanced, safety-regulated workspaces for employees. While COVID-19 is still present, WorkChew is ensuring that the restaurants and hotels they partner with are keeping up with top-tier safety standards. These standards not only keep your employees safe but keep them free from the distraction of a loud nearby table.
Online reservation system
You can make all reservations online, claiming the spot before heading out the door. The online reservation system is fast and painless, meaning a quick location change is easy and doesn't require multiple phone calls that further interrupt workflow. Just with a few clicks, your workforce can grab a seat.
Contactless ordering for food
Food is all ordered through the WorkChew web application or QR Code, meaning that the employee can order instantly without too much interruption. Contactless ordering is safer for the employee during the pandemic and keeps the employee from flagging down a staff member whenever they need another coffee or menu item.
Hybrid work environments have significant benefits for staff and employers. 78% of CEOs interviewed in a PWC CEO panel survey said that the shift towards remote collaboration would continue, and 67% of health industry CEOs said they think that the change towards low-density workplaces will continue.
As more and more companies start to transition to these more flexible models, our workplace tools will evolve to help make remote work more accessible and collaborative. Now is a great time to make the shift as employees are transitioning out of the pandemic. Make sure to pick a hybrid model that is right for your team and their needs and provide them with the tools and tech stack necessary to seamlessly move between office and home.