The global pandemic has led to new challenges and opportunities in the work-life balance of a hybrid workplace. The winners will be those who most clearly understand the needs of their customers, work together to identify multiple solutions, prototype, replicate and bring new ideas to the market.
Many business leaders have already shared their first impressions of the hybrid workplace strategies and their expectations of how the future of work will look. We’ve reviewed some key concepts in this area and have outlined strategies and practices you can use to implement hybrid work in your company. But first, let’s look at the expectations many employers hold for hybrid work.
Thoughts about the hybrid workplace
As we’ve mentioned in our previous research, the future of work is hybrid: 52% of U.S. employees prefer to combine work at home and in the office, saying that it positively affects their ability to be creative, solve problems, build relationships, and spend time with their families. Global surveys show that 72% of corporate leaders plan to offer a hybrid model. 13% of survey respondents say they expect to reduce their real estate footprint next year, suggesting that organizations will continue the trend to move to a hybrid workplace.
Successful organizations know that the resilience of their organizations will help them move forward, learn, and stay competitive. For starters, over 50% of U.S. companies plan to adopt new roles for existing premises as part of their return to the office; for example, converting cafés into a vibrant social space and collaborative office plan that better supports new hybrid work models.
How can you implement a hybrid workplace in your organization? Let’s consider these seven basic approaches to creating a comfortable mixed workplace.
Learn about the hybrid workplace benefits for employees
Gensler’s survey shows that a better balance between home and office leads to greater overall job satisfaction. Structures such as 3-2-2 (three days in the office, two days away, two days off) may soon become the new norm, as a part of hybrid workplace strategies. The ability to work from anywhere (home, office, a favorite coffee shop, or coworking space) will be vital as continuing challenges such as lockdown orders and green policies make commuting less viable.
“I jump right into work when I’m ready. And leave when I’m done. There’s zero friction between working and not.” Wade Foster, Co-founder, and CEO of Zapier
Some prefer working from home because it offers more privacy and productivity. Others, often those with up to five years of experience, are less productive and feel like they’re ‘losing out’ on face-to-face communication. Others prefer working from the office because it has better internet. Therefore, a hybrid workplace is the best compromise for each team member.
Intertwine digital and physical experiences
Bridging the gap between personal and remote participants can become pretty complex. A hybrid workplace means there will inevitably be someone remote, regardless of whether teams coordinate their working days. However, this can be improved. Integrate physical spaces and technologies with equity, engagement, and ease with these three key concepts in mind.
Designing an engaging digital-physical space for employees means thinking like a filmmaker: light, camera, audio, and content. Some solutions in use include corner or mobile desks, extra lighting, extra speakers, in-room microphones, and easy-to-move markers and displays.
“The use of unified communications tools independent of medium, platform, application or device make face-to-face interaction possible, and allow for the company culture to remain strong.” Dr. Louis Hutchinson
If you want more physical involvement from remote employees and your budget allows it, pay attention to examples from the “Modern Family” or “Brooklyn 99” TV series. There, one character had an iPad on a moving cart that could easily be moved inside the building to interact with other colleagues.
Improve employee experience
The hybrid workplace provides smoother work that can change just as needs change. It speeds up innovation, improves a corporate culture that may have been impacted by repeated lockdowns, and ensures that real estate usage is constantly optimized.
“At HRForecst, we have optimized our own space by designing an open area that supports a hybrid workspace and sync & async collaboration and improving digital team skills.” Christian Vetter, Co-founder, CEO of HRForecast
Workplace technology should be intuitive. You don’t have to find a “like” button on Instagram or figure out how to post new content on LinkedIn – it’s obvious. The same should be with hybrid work tools.
Offer a selection of experiences. Some employees choose hybrid workspaces by convenience; others may want to do so by quickly viewing the floor plan for clean spaces, allowing them to customize the application to their liking.
Increase daily productivity. The best software will detect an employee in the office, give them simple instructions for their desired floor and desktop, and send tips on registering for an open spot on their smartphone.
Balance the work of “We” and “Me”
Research published in the MDPI journal shows that those who work from home have decreased by 37%. As a result, leaders focus their attention on strengthening the cooperation of the hybrid workplace.
Cooperation does not solely mean group work; it also requires solitude. Effective collaboration occurs when people come together to work in a team and then disperse to focus individually, process their ideas, and complete tasks. Too much time together and lack of time for individual concentration can lead to groupthink, so the pendulum shouldn’t sway too far in any one direction; designing offices to focus on “we” and not balancing the need for “me” space may cause unwanted productivity shortfalls.
“It is about workplace flexibility. It’s about giving our associates the opportunity to be who they are as an individual, whether that is a community member, a spouse or parent, or anything in between. That flexibility has come to be very important for our associate base.” Amy Freshman, Senior Director, Global Workplace Enablement and HR of ADP
The office we return to should offer people a better experience than the one they have at home, so employees need the right mix of spaces for the work they need to do.
Design for flexibility
People expect flexibility from their workplace. Thus, customize your real estate portfolio: make sure it allows you to adjust the office’s size easily and change the configuration of the space as conditions change.
Use data to understand how your people use space, identify trends and patterns, and improve workspaces that best support their needs. Optimal desk booking software can help employees determine the availability of hybrid workspace strategies.
“Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device. This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24/7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries, and continents. ” Michael Dell, Founder. Chairman and CEO of Dell Technologies
Flexibility in space and resource management will be a significant factor in the success of the hybrid workplace strategies. The optimal hybrid workplace requires a staffing strategy that can meet the different needs of employees. Managers with access to leadership and training will also be needed to understand how to manage people, provide equal opportunities, and provide feedback in the hybrid workplace.
Focus on the well-being and safety of employees
Employees who enjoy their workplace are 16% more productive and more attracted to their company than competitors. Hybrid workplace strategies require managers to provide answers to employee questions, such as wellbeing. Strict pandemic clean-up protocols regulate social distancing, technology, and automation to help create a safe workplace environment.
80% of company health programs in the United States have failed. Why? Because they focused on the benefits of coffee shops and fitness centers, not on what their employees valued much more – good air quality and access to natural light.
“Make sure you have a stress-free zone at work (yes, even your home office). Look for a break room. No need for a fancy setting. All you need is some soft lighting and something comfortable to sit on. Put together a nice relaxing playlist and listen to it.” Dr. Tasha Holland-Kornegay
From biophilic office design and flexible working conditions to virtual and personal team building, choose a workplace strategy that supports your employee’s emotional wellbeing. Relieve their anxiety in the workplace by offering a program that instantly shows the availability status of each room and desk, helps them find their colleagues, and book a workplace where they are most comfortable.
Effective measurement of job satisfaction
To create a hybrid workplace strategy that works for both people and profits, you need to measure results and make data-based decisions. Regular job satisfaction surveys, combined with technology that collects hyperfocal employment data, will give you the information you need to match needed resources and offer a great workplace experience.
“We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly has never worked out of an office, and never will.” Richard Branson, Founder, and Chairman of Virgin Group
The mixed workplace technology is not a hybrid just because of these new modes of operation. It is also a hybrid of different activities, experiences, spaces, and strategies. But when you put the needs of your people at the center of it all, you know you’re going in the right direction.
Organizations that choose the “wait and see” approach risk disappointing their employees, who find that the old office structures do not support the new ways of working that have grown steadily more common following lockdown procedures. This, in turn, jeopardizes the competitive advantages of bringing people together. People whose organizations move forward and create modern, adaptable hybrid workplace models can change and thrive, attract and keep the best talents, and benefit from ongoing and future innovations. Tomorrow’s office will need to take advantage of these new models in order to stay competitive going forward.
When we all return to the office, it will be unusual, it will be different – and that’s good.