As we move into 2022, many employees and managers wonder whether they will return to the office or continue working remotely. With social distance, lack of office space, and anxiety that some may feel before being face-to-face again, the future of office work may look very different.
Two years have shown that it’s unnecessary to work entirely at home, or entirely in the office five days a week. There is a golden mean, a.k.a. the hybrid workplace. However, do hybrid models work for everyone? Let’s review the benefits and pitfalls in the hybrid workplace.
Types of hybrid workplaces
According to a recent Accenture study, 83% of people say they’d prefer a hybrid workplace model because it promotes a healthy and flexible work environment. In addition, 63% of top-ranked companies are already implementing a “work from anywhere” approach to employees.
If you’re still unsure how and where to start your hybrid workplace, here are the most common types you can consider. However, before deciding what suits you best, review your plans to maintain an effective work environment.
Remote hybrid workplace
The remote hybrid workplace model consists mainly of remote employees who occasionally visit a physical workspace (such as an office or coworking space). In-person meetings typically occur when discussion and collaboration are more conducive in the physical office than in the digital workplace, such as brainstorming, meeting with clients, or cooperation with the work team.
Mixed hybrid workplace
A mixed hybrid work model is when some of your employees work entirely in the office, and the rest work remotely. This is often the case when companies have employees who can only work in a physical workspace, such as surgeons and builders, and the rest of the office staff can work from home (psychologists and therapists, for example).
In-person hybrid workplace
In-person hybrid model comprises employees who report to the physical workplace but can work remotely. Some employees may prefer this model because they don’t have to worry about a stable Internet connection and access to the technology and knowledge they need to work. It’s also beneficial for newbies who need more guidance and mentoring.
Split hybrid workplace
This model of a hybrid workplace means your team works in shifts. One part of your team works remotely on certain days, then goes into the office for the others, trading off with other employees. For example, 50% of your team can visit your physical workplace on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, but work remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and vice versa.
That’s all great, of course, but what positive changes does a hybrid workplace entail and what potholes are there to avoid?
What are the benefits of hybrid work?
Eric Brynjolfsson and Nick Bloom are academics who’ve been working on the future of post-pandemic work. During ServiceNow’s virtual Knowledge 2021 event, they shared their thoughts on the benefits and pitfalls of the hybrid workplace. They also mentioned what companies can do to create a safe, fair space for all employees.
According to them, today’s business needs to reinvent work processes, business models, new products, and services. The workforce needs to develop new skills, which can take years, or even decades.
Clearly, these changes will take time; however, a hybrid workplace can provide the best of both worlds between remote and office work. Employees can skip the road and have more time to focus on their work and come into the office only to think about new ideas and connect with their colleagues.
Benefits of hybrid work for employees
- Encouragement of a stronger work-life balance
- Reduction of the anxiety that employees may have about returning to the public workplace
- Achieving a fair workplace for employees who take care of family members
- More time for purposeful and collaborative work.
Benefits of hybrid work for organizations
- Lower office costs
- Access to more talent in different places
- Adapted workforce that can switch to completely remote if needed
- Hybrid workplace as a flexible solution to staffing, location, and other challenges.
As for the development of employees, they’ll need more opportunities to connect with senior executives and not feel inferior to those in the office.
For example, new employees will need training videos that will teach them how to perform their tasks and keep up with other team members. Or, for instance, sales department will need to use powerful CRM, and your social media manager will need access to Instagram Scheduler or an individual calendar for future publications.
Given these issues, let’s look at the pitfalls of a hybrid workplace.
What are the pitfalls of hybrid working?
Hybrid workplace models also have several disadvantages we need to mention, despite the advantages.
Cons of hybrid work for employees
When the biggest part of the world moved to remote, employers feared that productivity would fall. But that didn’t happen – instead productivity rose. However, there are some disadvantages worth mentioning.
Employees are concerned that their office colleagues may believe that they are not giving it their all because they are out of sight, so they compensate by working late or staying available outside of regular business hours. This can result in:
- Remote work preventing employees from being promoted.
- Remote workers working longer, which can lead to burnout.
Maintaining a balance between the days on which employees should be in the office and letting them choose whether they can be completely office, or fully remote, may improve the situation.
Cons of hybrid work for organizations
Leading a team can pose complex challenges to managers, whether those teams are remote or office-based or both. Some companies have resorted to tracking their remote employees with invasive surveillance technology. However, this isn’t the right way to adapt to future work.
- Make sure your employees have all the tools to work effectively wherever they are.
- Coordinate with the IT department to ensure the security of the company’s data and manage the inevitable mess of different personal devices connected from unpredictable locations.
- Make sure marketing, design, and other teams use safe tools from reliable sources.
- Invest in renovating existing office space to meet the needs of flexible workers.
- Recognize the necessity to purchase tools, including HR management software, invoicing tools for professional transactions, accounting software, etc.
You’ll need to pay attention to the redevelopment of office space to accommodate remote and office workers. Hybrid workplace requires advanced functionality, including charging sockets, conference screens for seamless communication with remote partners, and powerful Wi-Fi available wherever you may be in the building.
Despite these difficulties, good management can facilitate the hybrid workplace model by adapting the company’s team-building activities to ensure that they can reach employees by organizing regular social events accessible to all, regardless of geography.
How to successfully implement a hybrid working environment
Irrespective of the model you choose for the hybrid workplace, here are some essential implementation tips:
Find out if everyone feels involved. Hold weekly scheduled meetings, formal or informal, for both the team and senior managers. Communicate with a larger group of people, at least every month. For example, we here at HRForecast sometimes practice compatible lunches during which we talk about everything but work.
Be flexible about employees’ individual schedules. Many people are used to exercising in the middle of the day or caring for children. Others may not want to use public transport during rush hour and therefore prefer to work later.
Focus on the results, not the hours. Focusing on the result rather than the hours spent is more productive. John Pencavel, a professor of economics at Stanford University, found that productivity per hour drops sharply if a person works over 50 hours a week when extra hours would be pointless. Those who work up to 70 hours a week only get the same amount of work as those who spend 55 hours.
Invest in hybrid workplace software. Hybrid work assumes that all workers are equally involved. Therefore, we advise ensuring that all your employees have equal access to information.
The right tools to create a hybrid workspace for collaboration
Like in a Dolly Parton song, the traditional workplace, “Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living,” is changing. Thus, transforming office work into a hybrid workplace is a way to ensure well-being and productivity. Strong internal communication is essential. Without this, employees are less likely to share innovative ideas with management, ask colleagues for support to speed up the workflow, or inform team members about a stressful situation that may affect their productivity. Effective communication is becoming increasingly essential in the digital and hybrid workplace.
To sum up
Mixed office-remote work will be the predominant workplace model in the post-pandemic world. However, there’s currently no standard operating procedure for companies to follow, making trial and error inevitable.
Companies need to know the nuances of hybrid workplaces to make a successful transition to this new standard, or to create a company that can attract talent with the expectation of flexibility. There will be an exciting year ahead for future work. It’s unclear what will work and what won’t, and which model will prevail. But you can still weigh the pros and cons to help decide which solution to choose.