The world of work is transitioning once again… This time, working from home is shifting to a hybrid workplace model: splitting time between working in the office and working remotely.
As offices reopen, many employees who embraced working from home aren’t jumping to give it up. Others are chomping at the bit to get back into an office with their coworkers. Now that these hybrid models are approaching full swing, it’s time to figure out how to make them work best for you and your employees, for however long it may last.
Pick & Choose: Decide Your Company’s Hybrid Style
The first step is to figure out which hybrid model is best for your company. Regardless of which model you choose, the likelihood is that most co-workers will be working apart for the foreseeable future, so it’s best to be prepared.
- Option 1: Work location is fully optional and flexible. This means employees can choose to work from home or in the office.
- Option 2: A specific time split is required. This means employees must come into the office for a mandatory amount of time each week.
- Option 3: Everyone is expected to work from the office unless a specific situation deems it necessary for someone to work from home.
So, how do you decide? Ask yourself a few questions: Who needs to be in the office? Which meetings need to be in person? Is a particular team more successful when the members collaborate on a daily basis?
Important Considerations as You Hybridize
Some new hires (or newly promoted employees) may have an easier time settling into new roles by working where the leadership is based. Use role-specific criteria to figure out where each of your employees needs to be–and how often. To protect remote workers from feeling disconnected from their office-occupying counterparts, you can also host company-wide events, weekly or monthly meetings, staff bonding days, or office parties, which can keep the company culture alive and keep employees connected.
At the same time, remote employment affords the opportunity to take advantage of a massive pool of talent at the tips of your fingers… the keyboard! Now that remote work has become a norm, you can seek the best of the best to add to your team without the location limitation.
Cozy & Corporate: Make Space for Something New
Next, it’s time to rearrange your physical office space to function according to the evolving needs of your team. If coming into the office is optional on a day-to-day basis, it’s likely that a good chunk of the time spent there will be for the sake of coworker interaction or team-based work, such as collaborative brainstorming or creative sessions.
(Mostly) gone are the days of individual offices for each employee. Keep a few spaces for workers who need the seclusion of a quiet cubicle. For the rest, have an open-concept or conference-style space with bigger work areas, where groups can gather and strategize together easily. Changes to your physical office don’t have to require a construction crew… Moving some desks around and adding some new amenities could be all that’s needed.
People & Politics: Keep Your Employees in Mind
Prioritize team connection to avoid disunion between office workers and remote workers. If you’re allowing a hybrid workforce, you must plan ahead to avoid a divided team. Marginalized workers are not conducive to a successful hybrid model. To make sure no one feels disenfranchised, commit to incentivizing equally and ensure that promotions, office perks, and recognition is given to both types of workers.
Employees watch their leaders – so model what you want from them! If you choose to have a hybrid workforce, have managers work remotely sometimes to show that everyone can be productive and successful from the office or at home. If the leadership is concentrated in the office, it may indicate to employees that that’s where they really should be, which is counter to your hybrid goals.
Freedom & Function: Find the Balance Your Business Needs
Part of the benefit of hybrid work is that it allows for some flexibility in supporting a healthy work-life balance. Some families eliminated childcare expenses by working from home; some watched mental health improve with the new setup at their own place. So, consider allowing employees to work around the common 9-5 schedule (assuming they are accessible for communication and collaboration when needed).
Allowing your workers flexibility, however, doesn’t mean you should launch into a free-for-all. Success requires clear expectations and communication, enforced rules, regular evaluation, and feedback to and from your team. Coincidentally, none of these things require in-person interaction.
Getting the most out of the hybrid workplace model requires effective leading. Create new policies about attendance, approval processes, or work hours–whatever your office needs to find a balance of support, accountability, and independence–and then be ready to adjust as time goes on.
No two businesses are the same, and hybrid simply might not be the answer for yours. But it begs the question: work is what we do… but where is best to do it?