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Hybrid Working: What is it and how does it impact work?

From Team '23

Tempo Team

Where and how we work has undergone a rapid transformation in the last four years. Even still, it continues to change and evolve constantly. Through the coronavirus pandemic, individuals learned the ability to work from anywhere. As a result, many organizations and companies adopted policies for permanent hybrid work along with how-to manage a hybrid-working environment. 

According to Forbes, “As of 2023, 12.7 percent of full-time employees work from home, while 28.2 percent work a hybrid model.” The same study forecasts that by 2025, 32.6 million Americans will work from home.

One of the biggest advantages to a remote work set-up is an increase in the balance of work and life, cites a Pew Research study, which in turn has significant benefits to the company’s team and culture. Choosing a hybrid work model optimizes productivity and also allows employees to thrive, which is critical to success, and thus, the bottom line. 

What is hybrid work?

The idea of hybrid work has expanded over the last two years to encompass various combinations of in-office and remote work. Typically, hybrid work models support employees’ ability to decide how to combine in-office and remote work hours. However, some organizations create policies, which determine more precise in-office schedules. For example, a manager may set a number of days per week or per month in which each employee may work from home and from the office. 

Regardless of the model specifics, to be successful and sustainable, hybrid work must be able to support not only productivity, but also collaboration, employee engagement, and inclusivity. Some other key challenges that organizations need to address with hybrid work policies include ensuring the security of devices, connections, and collaborations. When creating a new corporate culture, it is important to make sure remote employees feel as connected and as a part of the workplace team as those who are working in-office. 

What are the different hybrid work models?

Management consultants, workplace, human resource and other industry experts are still defining several different types of hybrid work models, as they continue to change and evolve. While hybrid and remote work was already in place at some organizations prior to the pandemic, for some organizations, hybrid work is a completely new experience. 

Now that various hybrid working models must be sustainable permanently, policies and procedures need to be created and implemented for all levels and roles. This includes simplifying guidelines and policies for all employees. This includes leadership, executives, knowledge workers, sales teams, and customer-facing teams such as support desks and staff members. 

Creating policies that maintain flexibility, but also ensure that expectations and structures are maintained is crucial to the success of any hybrid model. Therefore, hybrid and remote work policies need to be clearly written and communicated to all employees. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common hybrid work models below. 

The Remote-First Model

With the Remote-First Model, the majority of the organization’s workforce is doing their job remotely or virtually. Work can be done from anywhere without any geographical limitations. In this time of challenging gap in skill level, organizations can benefit from the ability to attract, acquire, and retain talent from anywhere. This is a significant benefit.

An article in Inc. outlined the key differences between “remote-first” and “remote-friendly.”  The article states, “It's the difference between empowering employees to work remotely and merely allowing them to work remotely. There's also a big operational difference as remote-first companies build their processes, systems, and culture around remote workers (rather than in-office workers) first.” 

With the remote-first model, organizations must implement specific policies, processes and procedures to optimize success. GitLab, an early adopter of the remote-first model, proposed that with remote-first, there needs to be “a deliberate, organization-wide approach to pressure test culture, values, and workflows to guarantee that every element first serves the distributed workforce and not the vestiges of office-first workflows … In the virtual-first workplace, everyone from top to bottom (and especially leadership) should ideally be out of the office.”

Building the optimal digital workplace is key for hybrid and remote work success, including collaboration and communication. In addition, with the remote-first model, all work and employee-related processes must be addressed – including hiring, interviewing, onboarding, mentoring, training, and assessments.  

Many organizations whose employees worked in office prior to the pandemic transitioned to an all-remote model in the last few years. Large enterprises that moved to remote-first include Twitter, Upwork, Shopify, Pinterest, GitLab, and BaseCamp. 

The Office-Occasional Model

The office-occasional model is one where employees primarily work remotely while working in the office from time-to-time. However, what the model looks like in practice may vary widely from company to company, depending on need. Organizations can create an office-occasional model that allows employees the flexibility to work where they prefer. For example, in some organizations, employees only travel to the office once or twice a month for collaborative work, or in-person meetings. At other companies, employees have the option to work in the office more often. 

The office-occasional model represents a middle ground solution between remote-first and office-first models. However, because the model can vary so widely, organizations must create specific policies and clearly communicate them to their employees so that everyone has a clear understanding of expectations. 

This model can provide a lot of flexibility for individuals who prefer to work remotely the majority of the time.  There are many ways to implement this type of hybrid model. For example, at some companies, employees are expected to work in the office on specific days (for example, every other Monday, or every Tuesday and Thursday.)

The Office-First model

With the Office First model, the organization’s office locations serve as the primary workplace location, while employees have the flexible option of working remotely. 

The benefits of a hybrid working environment

Organizations regardless of size and industry can clearly see the benefits of implementing a hybrid working environment. What initially started as a temporary fix due to a worldwide lockdown in the early days of the pandemic, is now a standard option and benefit for many enterprises. 

In particular, organizations now find it easier to fill positions and even recruit individuals with specific skill sets if they can offer a hybrid work option as an incentive. 

Along with offering a flexible and versatile option for employees, some of the other main benefits of hybrid work models include the following: 

  • Better work-life balance

    • Employees who work for an organization with a hybrid model (part time from home) find that they have a better work life balance. As a result, people find it easier to incorporate more time on personal interests and have the flexibility to schedule-in things like self-care into their day, which ultimately makes them a happier, healthier and more loyal employee. The remote or hybrid work option additionally helps part-time caregivers who need more flexibility. 

  • Less commuting

    • Employees experience less stress when a long commute is eliminated or reduced. Many individuals find they’re more productive on the days they work remotely. Employees also save on expenses related to commuting and work travel. 

  • Opportunity for more team-building 

    • A hybrid working environment allows for team building opportunities even with colleagues who work in a completely different location. The most successful remote team building activities are engaging and typically feature video conferencing for face-to-face communication.  

    • When an organization is exclusively hybrid, it’s important for them to be all the more intentional to create these team building and mentoring opportunities.

  • Increased productivity 

    • Hybrid employees have flexibility to work autonomously and work at the times that work best for them. With asynchronous work, remote employees can take advantage of the flexibility and work at their optimal times of day. Hybrid work offers a balance of in-person collaboration and interaction with remote work activities. 

  • Other benefits

    • Attracting talent. One of the main lessons learned over the last few years is that people appreciate more agency regarding how and where they want to work. In particular, organizations now find it easier to recruit individuals with specific skill sets if they can offer a hybrid work option. In addition to filling these positions, companies find employee retention is higher. In a new study from Forbes, “56 percent of workers would consider leaving their current job if their employer stopped allowing remote work.”

      • With remote work, organizations also aren’t restricted to a particular geographical location to hire talent. They can hire anyone from anywhere.

    • Cost savings for organizations. By moving to even a partially remote staff, organizations are able to cut their office space and real estate budgets by moving to (at the minimum) a partially-remote staff. When less office space is needed, other overhead expenses is reduced. 

    • Supports sustainability. Because organizations are using less energy, hybrid work can significantly lower the carbon footprint of some companies, a study from the National Academy of Sciences found.  

 How does a hybrid model impact productivity?

To obtain the full benefits and advantages from a hybrid work environment, organizations need to make sure they’re creating clear and detailed guidelines for success. This includes training for management at every level on how to manage a team in various stages of remote work. Without this, remote workers can feel increased stress and be less productive, a new study from WFH found

“Steering a distributed team is a skill in itself, and few managers have been given the tools (or the lead time) to pull it off. Middle managers are often left to figure out and execute a game plan in today’s remote work world—an increasingly tricky business, Professor Nicolas Bloom from WFH Research told Fortune in 2022.

How to implement a hybrid work model

Organizations must create and follow guidelines for their hybrid work models. Then, they are responsible to clearly communicate the procedures and expectations of the environment to their employees. 

To be effective and successful, hybrid models must have the following characteristics:

  • Be inclusive, flexible, and equitable.

  • Establish management training at every level of the organization and refresh regularly.

  • Embrace a hybrid work culture starting from leadership down.

  • Maintain safety and security with advanced technology to create the best experiences for all workers in a digital workplace.

With these parameters in mind, organizations can take the following steps to develop and implement a hybrid work model to meet the needs of their employees and their business. 

Step 1: Determine what employees need.

Companies need to take into account employee preferences and needs. Without listening to their employees, organizations risk a wave of employees leaving for companies with more flexible hybrid work policies, or ones with better communication and management. 

Companies must provide support through communication, technology and management to make sure hybrid work model is optimal for all employees.

Step 2: Create clear policies and procedures.

Companies may decide to use one hybrid model, or a combination of models. Regardless of the model chosen, the organization needs to clearly communicate policies and expectations to employees. If the model involves in-office requirements, they may consider adding some flexibility as needed.

Procedures for security must be part of the hybrid work model, as CPO Magazine stated in a discussion on cybersecurity for remote employees. For example, some organizations are implementing zero trust security for all employees no matter where they are working. Organizations have the responsibility to protect their internal data, their employee, customer data and information, as well as identities, content, and other information. 

Step 3: Make office communication easy.

In a hybrid work environment, employees need multiple ways and opportunities to collaborate and communicate with teams and their leaders. The organization should provide training and technology to make it easily accessible to hold face-to-face conversations with video conferencing for team meetings or training. It’s best to choose technology solutions that also integrate other tools including Slack, Microsoft Teams, and offer shared calendars and planning options. It’s important to make sure that remote workers always feel connected and have the same opportunities as their hybrid or in-office colleagues. 

Step 4: Train employees on the hybrid working model.

All employees, whether they are new hires or just new to remote/hybrid work need to be trained so their work experiences are effective, engaging, and productive. This includes managers at every level.

Step 5: Ensure employees have all necessary tools needed to succeed.

It’s critical to ensure that all employees know exactly how to use digital workplace technology so they can succeed. Organizations are responsible for making sure they’re implementing everything needed for a successful digital workplace, including devices, digital tools, and other technology solutions. Access to this technology should be equitable regardless of where an employee physically works. 

Is a hybrid model right for your office?

Organizations of all sizes are adopting permanent hybrid work models. Certain models may work better at some organizations than others. For industries that employ a large number of knowledge workers, the remote-first hybrid model was in place even before the pandemic. 

However, organizations that viewed remote work as a temporary solution, can’t ignore the benefits for companies and the workforce. With the persistent talent shortages that challenge many firms, organizations may find it necessary to offer a permanent hybrid work option to stay competitive. This means adapting to the evolving work model. As Salesforce cautioned, “In a business climate where nine out of 10 companies plan to adopt a hybrid workplace model, companies must reinvent the processes and tools they previously relied on — such as in-person meetings, company-wide emails, and strategy offsites — to adapt to the digital age.”

Conclusion

The way we work has likely changed permanently. Wherever we see workplace evolution is a good thing, even though it requires additional training and adaptation. The most successful and optimal hybrid work models offer employees flexibility and support with multiple ways of working and collaboration for today’s circumstances. Company procedures must acknowledge and support their employees’ need for work-life balance and ensure their remote-only workers are fully supported. 

Organizations that implement hybrid work models need to embrace and celebrate a work culture centered on employee engagement, well-being, and allows for feedback, assessments, and opportunities, no matter where they are working.