The implementation of hybrid office space is emerging as an increasingly popular trend across most professional industries.
Due to various health mandates, stay-at-home orders, social distancing and occupancy limitations, countless businesses worldwide have had no other option than to transition all able employees into remote workers. Many have required their team to shift from conducting work in the office to working from home.
That said, as conditions start to improve and, in some areas, restrictions begin to lift, companies and employees alike are faced with the dilemma of whether all workers coming back to the office full-time is in everyone’s best interest.
In fact, according to a May 2020 survey, 55% of US workers want a mixture of home and office working.
One reasonable compromise to this problem is the emergence of the hybrid office.
What is a hybrid office, you may ask? We’re happy to provide some context!
This article will break down everything you need to know about the hybrid workplace structure, including:
What is a Hybrid Office?
In a hybrid office scenario, employees split their professional time between working remotely and conducting business in the office, with the latter focusing on non-remote occasions, such as conducting in-person meetings and the like.
Remote work has become a standard norm across the business world since the onset of COVID-19 debilitated global operations for most industries. It was paramount for businesses to adjust accordingly to remain afloat, relying heavily on employees’ ability to work remotely.
Perhaps surprisingly to many, the work from home structure has been unexpectedly successful without diminishing productivity or efficiency, even without employees coming in every day.
This achievement is likely the result of advancements in communication technology that allow workers to remain connected despite being in different locations.
This interconnectivity, coupled with file-sharing services and shared drive software, further facilitates the decreased necessity of a full-time physical office work environment.
According to an article from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, UK employers expect that the portion of remote workers will double from 18% pre-pandemic to 37% post-pandemic.
Similarly, employment expert Alicia Tun predicts that, in 10 years, there will be a 60/40 split of in-office and remote work in China.
Across the world, employers continue to realize the various potentials of instituting a hybrid workplace.
That said, the likelihood of the office workplace diminishing entirely is minimal. After all, having an established workplace isn’t solely about work. There is an in-person social element that just isn’t the same as conversing with team members through a screen.
However, now there is a transitional shift occurring, placing the office as a secondary location to perform work or conduct meetings. In this sense, many view a work from home structure as their primary locale of operations.
Is a Hybrid Office the Future of Work?
Now that both employers and employees have had the opportunity – either willingly or unwillingly – to realize the benefits and potentials of a work from home structure, the ability for companies to conduct business via a hybrid workplace is more plausible than ever before.
This enhanced understanding, paired with widely available technology that can fill in any gaps on productivity, communication, or collaboration, not only facilitates the operations of remote workers but is now fundamentally altering how businesses perceive the future of work.
Below, we’ll outline some of the most compelling reasons why hybrid work is the way forward for a comprehensively successful business.
One of the most significant reservations that most employers and management had when confronted with the necessity of workers conducting their roles remotely was that it would come at the cost of operational efficiency and productivity.
However, the world has had over a year now to adjust to this new professional normal.
Businesses have had the opportunity to quiet or address any potential issues that may have initially arisen. At this point, the assumption that working remotely diminishes productivity is simply false.
That said, as we outlined earlier, there is a social element that is lacking in a strictly remote working environment.
With this in mind, hybrid work supplies the best of both worlds, combining the productivity of remote workers with the necessary avenue for in-person collaboration and communication associated with a physical office environment.
Improved Employee Morale
A hybrid working structure promotes greater autonomy through employees only coming in for a certain number of days a week, with the flexibility to choose where they can work from the other portion of the time.
This increase in operational freedom through telecommuting grants employees the flexibility to adjust their lives accordingly around work, and sometimes vice versa, promoting a higher sense of employee morale and overall satisfaction.
Happy employees make for a well-running business, reduced employee turnover, and a workforce intrinsically motivated to work that much harder to ensure the business’s success.
Reduction in Business Costs
Increased productivity and employee morale are both direct impacts of implementing a hybrid work structure.
However, an indirect consequence that will make you, as a business owner, particularly happy is reducing business costs associated with these benefits.
If your employees are happy, there’s less likelihood, as we mentioned above, that you’ll experience higher than usual rates of turnover.
This consistency will limit the expenses associated with finding suitable applicants and training them.
Additionally, with increased productivity, employees will produce higher-quality work for clients and partners, leading to an increase in your business’s overall profits.
How to Set Up a Hybrid Workplace Model
Implementing a hybrid work policy empowers employers and employees to conduct themselves and their work with greater flexibility. However, how do you get from point A (working full-time in the office or at home) to point B (a hybrid working structure)?
Three fundamental building blocks for a thriving hybrid culture include:
1. Setting Clear Expectations & Guidelines
Be transparent with your workers on how many days they are to be present in the office and how many days employees work from other locations. Set a standard block of time in which they are required to work in the office to facilitate their training and onboarding requirements.
If there are mandatory meetings that require an in-person presence, make these occasions known as well so that workers can plan their schedules accordingly.
It’s also crucial to outline how many hours of work staff are expected to put in per day when working outside the office. A common rule of thumb utilized by businesses is to establish the same working hours outside the office as in it.
Essentially, brainstorm all the possible questions or scenarios that might come up and include the answers as guidelines for your overall policy. These management regulations may differ across departments, so ensure that each sector of the business has its own well-established set of rules.
Investing in Solid Communication & Project Management Tools
Since employees won’t be in the office full-time, organizations should devote resources to ensuring that they have the necessary tools for communicating effectively regardless of if team members are in the same location.
Platforms conducive to accessible connectivity, such as instant messaging, file-sharing, and video conferencing services, can do wonders to boost collaboration and facilitate communication across a hybrid workforce. They also ensure that employees are adequately equipped with everything they need to perform their jobs.
These tools may also include digital solutions for booking or reserving areas of the physical office, such as a conference room, for future meetings when it is necessary for everyone to be together in the same place.
Additionally, utilizing digital calendars and project management software is essential for teams to have complete visibility into their specific tasks as well as the overall project.
These tools provide insight into what is deemed a priority, the expected deliverables, and what work is necessary to ensure project goals are completed on time.
Emphasizing the Importance of Security
This last point is especially crucial. We live in a time where technology is no longer an afforded luxury but instead an incredibly necessary means of maintaining operations and performing work responsibilities.
However, this heavy reliance on digital tools means that your business is vulnerable to hacking and security breaches. While there is no one-stop-shop to deter this completely, there are tools and services to make accessing this information more challenging.
In this sense, it is vital to have compulsory security guidelines in place that all employees must follow. Outline these instructions in your policy to ensure that teams have a comprehensive understanding of how to follow these various regulations.
For remote workers, ensure that the network they are using to conduct work is secure and trustworthy to avoid any potential infringements. All accounts should be password protected with strong passwords and, in some instances, double verification may also be necessary.
We live in an era where work-life balance is of the utmost priority, with employees having higher expectations surrounding the accessibility and flexibility of their employers and workplace.
Hybrid working solutions offer an ideal compromise between having the autonomy to work where you want while still maintaining certain expectations and conducting particular occasions in a physical office setting.
Since the onset of COVID-19, businesses had no other alternative than to experiment with either a full or partial remote working structure. However, much to their potential surprise, this transition has benefited workers and employers alike.
Now that this model has proven to be productive and effective, other elements, such as improved employee morale and a reduction in business costs, have also risen to the surface, serving as motivation for employers to consider hybrid working more seriously.
So long as it is implemented correctly, this flexible employment structure can be an incredibly promising strategy to promote a business’s overall success.