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How to Organize Desk Sharing in Your Company (5 Things to Consider)

We’re in the midst of an unexpected transition (for example, companies choose to go the cloud, whereas they were forced into remote/hybrid), it’s worth studying a few real-world hybrid work model examples. These examples provide a valuable look into how some of the biggest businesses in the world approach the shift to hybrid work.

Vast changes to the status quo at work seem to be common for tech businesses. In fact, the recent switch to remote and hybrid work comes on the heels of another massive transition — the move to cloud computing. Today, building your app on top of AWS, Azure, or GCP is the default, similar to how offering hybrid work options is now the norm (that is, if you want to attract the best talent).

In the early stages, both transitions seemed unlikely. After all, how can a company safely keep its data outside of its data centers and its employees away from the office? Would building in the cloud and working remotely even work (pun intended)? Sure, this experiment worked for some small workloads and a few remote teams but is it scalable?

In the end, cloud computing’s benefits far outweighed its costs. The same is happening with hybrid work.

First, let’s quickly set a framework for categorizing hybrid work models.

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Categories of Hybrid Work Models

You can find all types of theoretical hybrid work models out there, but for this article, we’re focusing on two practical criteria:

  • Workplace prioritization, i.e., is remote or office work the default, or is it an even split between both?
  • Decision-making process, i.e., who makes the decisions, creates the schedules as well as other hybrid work guidelines?

Workplace Prioritization Models

  • Remote-first, with optional or mandatory office visits. With this model, remote is the default way of working, but the office is still open for everyone. Depending on the company and what its employees want, visits to the office may be optional or mandatory (once a week or every other week, for example).
  • Office-first, with optional or mandatory remote work. This is the opposite of the previous approach. Here, most employees work predominantly from the office, with the option or obligation to work from home once in a while. Companies with an office-centric model usually have a baseline, e.g., 3 mandatory days a week onsite, and allow employees to decide where to work from the rest of the time.
  • 50/50 split between office and remote work. For example, some businesses opt to have people working in the office one week and go remote the next.

Decision-making Process Models

  • Company executives/C-level management. The company’s top executives get together, analyze employee surveys and productivity data and decide on the most important hybrid work arrangements (work schedules, policies, etc.). Enterprises often adopt this top-down model, as we’ll see below with Meta and Microsoft.
  • Department heads or team managers. Another option is to let team leaders decide the specifics, like how many days a week team members should be in the office. This is a flexible approach that takes into consideration the needs and productivity requirements of different teams. Amazon currently uses this model.
  • Individuals. Each team member decides if and when to work remotely or in the office. Companies like Salesforce and HubSpot have created different options, which employees can choose from (i.e., remote workers, office workers, etc.) for maximum flexibility.

6 Hybrid Work Model Examples in Action

We’re starting with the more top-down, centralized models (like Meta) and moving towards the more liberal ones (like HubSpot).

#1 Meta (Facebook) — office-first, top-down decision making

Meta has been trying to lure employees back to the office since before it was called Meta. Their initial assumption was for everyone to return to the office by January 2022, but Omicron made that impossible.

Here’s what we know about their hybrid work policy:

  • Back in 2021, they told their employees that they expect them back in the office at least 50% of the time. This is a perfect example of top-down, centralized decision-making.
  • Currently, they have an “office deferral program” for employees who want to push their return to the office back 3 to 5 months.
  • The company’s announcements indicate that the office will be the norm, with remote work being an exception. All of Meta’s statements so far assume that most employees will be willing to work in the office at least 3 days a week.

To learn more about Meta’s return to the office strategy, check out this blog post by their CIO Atish Banerjea.

#2 Microsoft — balanced between the office and remote work, top-down decision making

In March 2021, Microsoft published a blog post about the philosophy and practice of their hybrid workplace. Here’s what we know about their hybrid work model, based on that post and their other announcements:

  • Any employee can work remotely up to 50% of the time. This decision was made by the company (top-down) after talking to many employees, analyzing the data, and creating a flexible work policy.
  • They decide when it’s safe to open an office based on local COVID-19 cases. Each office location is rated on a scale of 1 to 6. During stages 1 and 2 everyone works from home. During 3, 4, and 5, employees are encouraged to work remotely, while the office is open with limited capacity. In the final stage, the office is open without restrictions.

It’s also worth noting that Microsoft execs have spoken out against remote-only work. The company published research based on communication data of 61,000 of their employees between December 2019 and June 2020, which concluded that remote work has the ability to increase short-term productivity but harm long-term creativity and innovation.

#3 Amazon — Balanced between the office and remote work, decision making at the team level

If you’re looking for hybrid work at scale, look no further than Amazon. In 2020 alone, the company hired over 500,000 employees, becoming the second-largest employer in the US.

It’s no surprise that their transition to hybrid is challenging, as CEO Andy Jassy said in the company’s flexible work announcement.

  • Amazon will adopt hybrid work in 2022, but won’t set a baseline for everyone to come to the office (like 3 mandatory days a week). Instead, they’re leaving that decision to team leaders. Put simply, Amazon is opting for more flexibility and personalization by delegating hybrid work responsibilities to team directors.

“None of us know the definitive answers to these (hybrid work) questions, especially long term…we’re going to be in a stage of experimenting, learning, and adjusting for a while as we emerge from this pandemic.” – Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon

#4 Salesforce — 3 options for employees, decision making at the individual level

Besides building the category-defining CRM, Salesforce is also famous for regularly being rated as one of the best companies to work for. It’s no surprise that their hybrid work policy gives a lot of power to individuals:

  • Salesforce offers employees a choice between 3 options:
    • Flex: 1-3 days in the office for collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.
    • Fully Remote: For employees who don’t live near an office or whose job doesn’t require one.
    • Office-based: Only for roles that require a physical presence in the office. According to the company, this is the smallest segment of their workforce.

Lastly, their President noted that this shift is an evolution of culture, not just a workplace change.

“An immersive workspace is no longer limited to a desk in our Towers; the 9-to-5 workday is dead; and the employee experience is about more than ping-pong tables and snacks.” – Brent Hyder, President & Chief People Officer at Salesforce

#5 HubSpot — 3 options for employees, decision making at the individual level

Similar to our previous entry, HubSpot is a technology company famous for its CRM platform. They built a great page, explaining what hybrid work and culture mean to their company.

  • Like Salesforce, HubSpot also offers 3 options, which employees can choose from:
    • Home: for people who work from home almost exclusively. These employees can come to the office 1 or 2 times a quarter.
    • Office: for employees who work on-site 3 or more times per week. They have a dedicated desk for their tech and personal belongings.
    • Flex: this is their true hybrid option for employees who come to the office 2 or fewer days.

“Our culture is not tied to locations, it’s rooted in our values, our amazing people, and our mission of helping millions of organizations grow better. No one should need to come into an office to experience or enjoy HubSpot’s culture”. – HubSpot’s hybrid culture principles.

#6 Gravity Payments — complete freedom for employees to choose between remote, on-site, or hybrid

Gravity Payments is a credit card processing company, which became famous after its CEO slashed his pay by $1m to ensure a $70,000 minimum wage for his employees. This focus on employee wellbeing also translates into their work policy, which is entirely employee-driven. Here’s what their CEO had to say on the topic:

“Instead of making a top-down decision as a CEO, I asked our staff how they want to work. Just 7% wanted to go back to the office full time, while 31% wanted an office-remote hybrid and the remaining 62% wanted to work from home all the time. So I told them: sounds great. Do whatever you want.” – Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments

It’s worth noting that Gravity Payments is by far the most liberal and smallest company on the list. They have around 200 employees, while the next smallest (HubSpot) has +3000.

How to Create a Hybrid Work Model for Your Business

As you can see, there’s lots of variety when it comes to hybrid work models and even the biggest companies in the world are still learning and experimenting. Here are a few common tips and ideas we found in many hybrid work strategies:

  • Talk to your team members. The last 2 years were unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Things changed so much that your team members might be dealing with issues you hadn’t even thought of. That’s why you need to talk to them about what they’re struggling with, what’s working, what isn’t, what they’re missing, and so on. Also, asking what can be done to ensure they feel safe post-COVID is essential.
  • Create a workplace safety policy. Again, you need to ensure everyone is safe before returning to the office. Microsoft’s safety guidelines are a great example since they use local COVID-19 case data to encourage or discourage people from coming to the office. You don’t need to be so detailed, especially if you have just one office, but you still need to write a clear safety policy and distribute it to employees.
  • Define what a successful hybrid transition means for your business. Is it an increase in productivity, employee well-being, office space usage, better hiring options, stronger company culture, or a combination of many factors? You don’t know what you can’t measure, so defining success early and gathering feedback continuously are both essential.
  • Keep an open mind. For a while, we’re all in experimentation mode. The model you start with might not be the best for your goals, so don’t be afraid to switch things up. Like Brett Hautop (VP of Workplace at LinkedIn) says: “I think everybody realizes that we’re all figuring this out together…Only when people aren’t afraid to be around each other will we know the true amount of time they’re going to spend at home versus the office.”

Continue reading on how to build your own hybrid work policy.

Use Technology for a Smooth Transition to the Future of Work

The last commonality between the companies in our examples is technology. Just like us, these companies know that technology is at the heart of making a smooth transition to a hybrid work environment and elevating workplace collaboration.

That’s why we built OfficeRnD Hybrid — our complete hybrid workspace management solutions. Here are a few of the things you can do with it:

  • Create a visual floorplan of your office. A visual floorplan lets everyone in the company see which desks and rooms are available in real-time.
  • Allow your employees to easily book desks and meeting rooms with any device. Working without dedicated desks can easily get hectic, so it’s crucial for everyone to book a desk before coming to the office. Combine this with a simple hot desking policy to start the hybrid work experiment on the right foot.
  • Show team members who else will be in the office. In a world where almost everyone can work remotely, the office’s biggest perk is community. People who want to return to the office often yearn for in-person teamwork and collaboration, so knowing who will be there is vital for them.
  • Integrate with your communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Google Calendar, and more.

You can try these and all other OfficeRnD Hybrid features with our 14-day free trial (no credit card required).

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