There is no denying the fact that the year 2020 has completely changed the way we work. But as restrictions ease across countries, companies are grappling with how to welcome back their employees. Gone are those days when employees needed to report on time to the office. Now the question is – should employees even return to the office?
The year 2020 and 2021 have given us a new hybrid work model option – the new how-to-work method. As a leader, you need to unify the experience of working in the office with the remote working model. You can no longer say that remote work is not an option – a common reason that managers used to tell their teams pre-2020. Over the past year, we have seen that remote employees can be more or at least equally productive. The one thing that every company now must evaluate is how effectively they can evolve their work culture and give their employees the experience of both connectedness and flexibility.
The good thing is that there are several “Hybrid work models” for you to choose from, which will allow you to achieve success and create value simultaneously.
What is a Hybrid Work Model?
To put it clearly, a hybrid work model is a connected and flexible working environment where employees can work with a mixture of onsite (from the office) and offsite (from anywhere) locations. This arrangement will give employees an option to work entirely from their – offices, the comfort of the homes, any remote place on the planet, or a combination of any of these.
However, there is no one-size that fits all companies. Therefore, as a leader, you need to choose which hybrid model suits your business the best and, at the same time, fulfils your employees’ requirements as well.
Types of Hybrid Work Model
If you haven’t decided on an approach yet, let’s look at some of the typical hybrid models that leaders around the world are considering:
Work From Anywhere:
Michael Alexis, CEO of TeamBuilding, feels, “The most successful hybrid models will be ones where employees have the option to work from home full-time. More common models include allowing WFH two to three days per week or only coming to the office for partial days or meetings. The issue with the “50-50″ approach is that employees lose many of the benefits of remote work, for example, being able to relocate to a lower cost of living area or avoiding purchasing a second car for commutes.”
Several leaders are choosing the complete remote or virtual-first approach where employees will gain the flexibility of relocating or moving as per their wishes. This distributed workforce will not mean that teammates can never see each other. Companies can organize meetups once a year or as per the need. Also, employees who live in the same city can occasionally plan to meet their co-workers.
Alexis also explained what you should focus on while making your choice – “Some employees will prefer to come to the office every day, others will stay home, and others will do the blended approach if it works for them. The important emphasis is on “work for them” since that is what will keep your employees happy, engaged, and sticking around for the long term.”
Also, according to Academic Studies, employees who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic were, in reality, more productive. Completely remote work will reduce the costs of maintaining office space and will improve bottom-line results. In addition, it will further help you broaden your talent pool and strengthen diverse cultures.
Balance of Office and Remote Work:
The essence of this hybrid work model is to give the employees the flexibility to choose from where they want to work. However, there needs to be a strict policy as this model is dependent on individual needs, and this type of hybrid work model can be pulled in any direction if there are no guidelines.
Sarah Schultz, Strategy & Operations Lead at OfficeTogether, supports the idea of a flexible working model. She believes, “For enterprise organizations, shifting to a flexible workplace model is critical to attracting and retaining top knowledge workers.”
The best way to work this model out is to have a conversation with your employees and take in their viewpoint – what they want, how they want to work, and why. While people may prefer working from a home setup, the office space can still be used for collaboration depending on company, team, and employee needs. A survey or a poll can help you decide how you can plan your workdays in the office.
Schultz explains, “There are a few factors to keep top of mind when thinking through a hybrid-remote model. For example, most employees will only want to be in the office 1 – 3x/week. In fact, at OfficeTogether, we’ve found that the majority of our customers’ employees are only in the office 1x/week. You can also track popular days to ensure that teams are meeting in-office to promote face-time and intentional collaboration.”
Remote Work is Allowed, but Office Comes First:
The Office-first hybrid work model will require your employees to return to the office; however, they can take the option of working remotely on certain days. In addition, the office environment will help maintain healthy relations between co-workers, effectively develop networks, and collaborate across teams.
Tina Hawk, Senior Vice President Human Resources at GoodHire, expresses her concerns about employee mental health due to continuous remote work. She says, “While a hybrid model can help in facilitating productivity, there are a number of mental health considerations which must first be made. To start with, *ostracization* is a common theme in poorly executed hybrid teams. Those working from home will oftentimes feel isolated from their peers, and even more so if those peers are working from the office. These barriers can create prolonged lulls in collaboration which leave remote workers feeling disconnected from the company, its workers, and its culture.”
However, it is essential to make sure that this hybrid work model should not infringe on the flexibility of your employees.
So, Which Hybrid Work Model Will Suit You?
More and more companies are seeing the benefits of remote working models – increased employee productivity, reduced office rentals, more flexibility, to name a few. However, you need to define clear guidelines and strengthen the new work environment using continuous feedback to ensure that your employees are valued equally no matter where they choose to work from. Hassle-free interaction and efficient teamwork are crucial for a successful hybrid remote working model.
Each company must consider the pros and cons of each model to create a positive work environment where employees feel appreciated. Some roles may even require employees to come to the office every day. Such employees mustn’t feel demotivated or bitter towards the rest of the workforce. Company policies must be expanded to create a sense of inclusiveness among all employees – remote or office.
Hawk describes the reason behind this, “Managers must ensure that there are no discrepancies in how remote workers are treated compared to office workers. This involves equal treatment in terms of salary, working hours, and support from management. Without these fundamentals, the hybrid model will crumble beneath itself. There should also be parity with regard to information accessibility. Inequitable treatment can create prolonged tensions in the workplace which may permanently fracture communication.”
Any change in how a company operates needs to be complemented with the respective advanced digital workplace technologies and the right tools to ensure that your employees always stay connected. Remote work is no exception. Therefore, it is vital that you know how your employees are spending their work time in order to keep inefficiencies and underutilization at bay. A familiar example here is those employees that may not be honest and sincere towards utilizing the time effectively during work hours. Using an automated time tracking tool that tracks employee time and projects will provide you with real-time insights across different teams and make your Hybrid Work Model a success.