The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way organizations operate. Many are scratching their heads, trying to figure out what this new corporate jargon actually means.

What is hybrid work? The hybrid work model is a flexible work model, where the mix of in-office and remote work can vary based on employee preference and job requirements.

The hybrid work model approach better supports the diverse needs of employees, as well as enables employers to respond more quickly to changing company landscapes.

Accenture’s Future of Work Report, based on a survey of over 9000 global employees, notes that:

83% of workers identified hybrid as being optimal in the future…An important workforce segment is emerging: a group of people who can be productive and healthy anywhere, whether they’re remote, onsite, or both.

However, this model also requires a more sophisticated approach to managing workflow across teams, locations, and time zones. To effectively manage a hybrid workforce, organizations need to adopt new strategies that support collaboration between remote workers and those in the office to stay productive.

Read on to learn more about what the post-pandemic, hybrid work world might look like for you and your employees.

So, What Is Hybrid Work?

Employees and employers alike often use the terms “hybrid work” and “remote work” interchangeably. While they are similar, the two phrases have some key differences.

Hybrid Work VS Remote Work

It’s important to have a solid understanding of what sets the two apart. Otherwise, you may create confusion for your talent pool of prospective employees.

Hybrid Work

Hybrid work is the combination of onsite and off-site work. How much time is spent working remotely vs. commuting will vary from company to company and the adopted hybrid work policies.

hybrid work for dummies banner

That said, with hybrid work, there is always the option for staff to work with colleagues in person, even if a company doesn’t require in-person attendance.

Remote Work

Remote work is done exclusively from home or another suitable environment chosen by an employee, such as a quiet coffee shop. Fully remote companies do not require nor do they typically provide the option for their teams to get work done in person.

If employees at a fully remote company miss office culture, they may choose to utilize a coworking space. However, this is usually at their own expense rather than an amenity provided by their employer.

Types Of Hybrid Work Models

There are two main types of hybrid work models you can implement – both with unique pros and cons.

A Traditional Hybrid Model

Traditional hybrid models have a set baseline and schedule, e.g., three mandatory days at the office per week. While this model is less rigid than the fully in-person work schedule of times past, it lacks the flexibility that many of today’s top talent seek during the job hunt.

If my kid has soccer on Thursdays and I have to be in the office all day on Thursday and can’t get him there, that may be hybrid, but it’s not flexible and isn’t working for me. — Colleen McCreary, Chief People Officer, Credit Karma.

A Soft Hybrid Model

A soft hybrid model lets employees decide when to work in the office and remotely. This approach leaves more room for allowing employees to make choices that align with how they work best.

It promotes greater ease in achieving work-life balance, allowing workers to set a hybrid work schedule that interferes less with their personal lives.

Utilizing a soft hybrid model is a great way to show that your workplace culture prioritizes well-being in a post-pandemic world.

The Birth Of The Hybrid Work Model And Its Rise In Popularity

The hybrid work model isn’t exactly new. It has roots that go way back…. to the middle ages! Many medieval homes belonging to the working class of that time period were “work homes.”

The standard work home consisted of an open, one-room floor plan with an area for eating, sleeping, and crafting goods. Creators used these in-home workshops to make goods such as shoes, pottery, and bread to support the family.

a woman in the middle ages

Following the industrial revolution, many moved away from home-based crafting and shifted to creating mass-produced goods in an employer-provided factory setting.

As communication tools advanced, providing the world with telephones and typewriters, the modern office as we know it took hold, along with the roots of the 9-5 structure that became the norm for years to come.

While creatives, contractors, and freelancers of all types have existed outside of that lifestyle, it wasn’t until the pandemic-induced shutdown that working from home became accessible again for the rest of the working world.

With restrictions easing and many companies missing the structure and strong company culture fostered by in-person office days, hybrid work gained traction as a sensible, balanced solution between fully remote work and full-time commuting.

And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Benefits Of The Hybrid Work Model

From an employee-centered perspective, the biggest strength of hybrid work is its capacity to combine the best parts of working from home with the benefits of working with an in-person team:

  • It promotes a better work-life balance than fully remote or in-office work
  • It promotes opportunities to collaborate, socialize, and network 
  • It reduces the costs associated with commuting 

There are benefits for employers, too. A hybrid setup may offer the opportunity to downsize and, in turn, cut down on the costs associated with maintaining a traditional office.

hybrid work advantages

Since hybrid work typically involves hot desking or hoteling (i.e., unassigned seating), there’s more flexibility in how you utilize the workspace.

More on that later.

However, it’s important to note that one of the main reasons why workers opt for hybrid over fully remote is that they miss collaborative environments and human connection. So, it’s important to think “outside of the box” of what it meant to have an office in years past.

  • Designate spaces that align with what today’s workers want from an in-person work environment.
  • These spaces are often called office neighborhoods.
  • Implementing office neighborhoods can go a long way in improving the office experience.

You can learn more on the topic by reading our article on the most significant hybrid work advantages.

What Challenges Does The Model Bring?

There are likely going to be hiccups as your company finds its footing with a hybrid working model. Hybrid work shakes up the routines and structures typically associated with the face-to-face workflow, which can be challenging at first.

Here are three major pitfalls that can pop up with hybrid working.

Staying Connected

Collaboration tools are critical to keeping things flowing smoothly in the hybrid world. As such, you’ll likely have to adapt to using new software and also ensure that you provide employees with adequate resources so that they can learn how to use it.

why employees value the office

While in-person collaboration is a large draw for the hybrid working model, your remote workers still need to be included. Otherwise, communication issues can create frustration and delays.

Things like video conferencing and project management systems enable those who can’t be on-site to stay connected to shifts in project prioritization, etc., without having to be in the same room.

Taking Over Meetings

When part of your staff is onsite, and the rest is attending remotely, it can be hard to maintain balance. For example, in-person attendees may inadvertently take over the conversation while remote participants fade into the background, observing but not fully contributing. This can have a negative impact on both company culture and employee engagement.

A solution is to remain mindful of how this pitfall can arise in hybrid work ahead of time. When you do this, you can carve space for your remote workers by asking them directly for their input during discussions.

Mitigating Bias And Discrimination

Depending on the type of hybrid model that your company uses, you may or may not have strictly enforced, structured in-person attendance requirements. If this is the case, and an employee chooses to work remotely more than they do in person, they may get judged for it. The judgment may not be overt, intentional, or even conscious – we all have biases. For example, MIT’s research discovered that

Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises, and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long.

A potential solution is to have structured, routine performance reviews based on clearly set individual goals. This way, it’s the tangible data and observable track record guiding our behaviors vs. our assumptions about what a person’s work preference says about their character.

We have a detailed article on the most prominent hybrid work challenges.

How To Adopt The Hybrid Work Model

Now that we’ve cleared up the “what is hybrid work” question, the most important thing to remember about the hybrid work model is that it’s flexible.

Depending on your company culture, habits, and business needs, there’s no single right way to implement it. However, as companies move toward hybrid work environments, they should consider a few key steps to promote a smooth transition.

Adopt A People-first Approach

It makes sense to talk to employees about the concept of hybrid work before creating a strategy. This way, you can identify workers’ challenges, opinions, and reservations about the topic.

mandate vs magnet

Employers should approach the return to the office strategically by not rigidly enforcing employees to come back to the office, but rather turn the workplace into a magnet that attracts workers to collaborate and thrive together.

Once you’ve done that, you will be able to work with executive leadership to create a strategy that works for both the business as a whole and its employees.

Get And Keep Your Hybrid Workplace Organized 

A key to a successful hybrid work environment is choosing the tools that will best serve your team. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with concepts such as hot desking, desk hoteling, and activity-based working.

To keep things organized, efficient, and flowing smoothly, software enabling team members to book a desk before showing up is essential. Your workers should also be able to view which of their coworkers will be in the office on any given day.

This will enable them to ensure that they’re able to collaborate with the correct people without the need for excess conversations about personal schedules.

Use Workplace Analytics And Pulse Surveys

It’s important to track and use data to asses how your hybrid work environment is functioning. Understanding which tools are genuinely valued and which ones are eating a hole in your budget due to being too clunky and difficult to use is a must.

workplace analytics

Pulse surveys are a quick, simple way to gain continuous feedback on how your team feels about the office environment. It’s equally critical to gain insight into how your office space is used so that you can make adjustments to your hybrid work environment and truly get the most out of what you’re paying for.

Analytics software can help with that. In addition, having a list of the most useful hybrid work tools helps a lot.

Well Known Companies Adapting To Hybrid Working

Chewy

We’ve never been a one-size-fits-all kind of place — and how we approach the ways that we work isn’t any different, said Lori Bradley, VP of talent and corporate HR, in an interview with Built In Seattle.

Chewy allows team leaders to work with staff to create work arrangements that balance personal needs, productivity, and collaborative efforts. The company also hosts events to promote collaboration, connection, and fun through their “Life @ Chewy” program, operated by their talent experience and facilities teams.

Canva

The company behind the popular design tool, Canva, has recently announced its plan to commit to a flexible work model for the long haul. They plan to toss out any remaining “formal” rules surrounding in-person attendance requirements.

81% of its teams stated that they would prefer to balance working from the headquarters with working remotely, even when restrictions relax in Australia. Employees are now only required to be present at the office eight times per year.

Figma

Figma is taking a more structured approach to hybrid working. While the company was initially debating how to move forward with rules surrounding attendance, they found that a lack of clarity surrounding expectations contributed to anxiety in their employees.

While their employees reported on a survey that they felt just as productive working from home, they also reported major “FOMO.” As a result of these findings, Figma decided to focus more heavily on improving communication in hybrid work (while also remaining mindful of the potential for too much communication to be draining).

Here’s another article on five popular companies that recently went hybrid.

What’s The Future Of Hybrid Work?

Experts believe that hybrid work is here to stay. In fact, Gallup’s study of over 140,000 employees in the US found that hybrid work is the path forward for most offices. According to the data:

Leaders and managers prefer hybrid work — and they have considerable hesitation about employees being fully remote.

As companies continue to discover what’s working and make the necessary improvements to office space, remote employees will likely be able to enjoy the perks of balancing corporate culture with the benefits of flexible working for a long time to come.

the return to the office and the future of work

Insight gathered in a survey of 258 HR leaders found that only 1% of the group had expectations of their team to return to the office full-time.

In fact, we recently attended the CoreNet Global Summit conference in Chicago where we gained valuable insider insights about the future of hybrid work. The most important ones are:

  1. The return to the office is dead as employers don’t push employees to come back to the office. They don’t rigidly enforce hybrid work policies and don’t track presence. It’s expected that that trend will remain unchanged.
  2. Employers will need to think of creative ways to promote in-person collaboration and boost employee engagement. That’s why people start talking more about intentional workplaces rather than hybrid workplaces. It’s all about places and not just lifeless spaces – employers will have to transform the office into a second home for employees to stimulate in-person collaboration and boost engagement and productivity. The traditional return to the office will continue to have a negative connotation.

FAQ

What Is A Hybrid Position In A Job?

A hybrid position in a job is one that combines work-from-home days with the option, or in some cases, a requirement to spend a certain percentage of time showing up to work on site. Some let their employees choose, with complete flexibility, while other organizations are more structured with attendance rules.

What Is A Hybrid Schedule For Work?

A hybrid schedule for work entails a combination of time spent working from a remote location and in-office days. It’s a company protocol that officializes that time. There are four main types of hybrid work schedules: cohort, staggered, set by managers, and DIY employee schedules. Many organizations differ in their requirements on how many days a team member must commute to the office. We have an extensive article on hybrid work schedules.

Is Hybrid Work Good?

Many employees and their employers find hybrid work to be good. With that said, like with most types of work, it has its pros and cons. Clear expectations, communication, and protocols can go a long way to keep hybrid workers from experiencing unnecessary stress when adapting. Plus, hybrid work is known to increase productivity.

What Are The Negatives Of Hybrid Working?

Depending on the number of days a company lets employees work remotely, a hybrid workspace may not be flexible enough to retain remote workers who prioritize maximum flexibility or simply prefer the ambiance of coffee shops over the office. In addition, for distributed teams, it could be more difficult to collaborate effectively in real-time. Another disadvantage of hybrid working is the transition to the model. Often, it is complicated and requires a lot of planning and the right software.

How Many Days A Week Do Hybrids Work?

How many days a week hybrids work depends on the internal structure of the employer and their unique protocols for managing attendance. These are called hybrid work policies. In some cases, employees working in a hybrid setup have a lot of wiggle room with the number of hours worked – so long as they are meeting their deadlines. In other hybrid workforce companies, hours are strictly monitored.

Do People Prefer Hybrid Or Remote Work?

Gensler’s survey of over 10,000 office workers in the US, UK, France, and Australia points out that people value face-to-face collaboration very highly, especially after working remotely for long chunks of time during the pandemic-induced shutdown. However, at the end of the day, different people prefer different business models depending on their own unique strengths and weaknesses as an employee.

How Long Will Hybrid Work Last?

As touched on above, it appears that hybrid work is here to stay. This makes sense, as it allows opportunities for employees to devote more energy to home life than a traditional 9-5 while also holding space for the increased productivity that can arise during in-person brainstorming.

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