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Over the last 2 years, the way we work has changed forever. And today, hybrid work — a workplace model where employees work partly from the office and partly remotely – is emerging as the de-facto standard going forward.

And there’s a good reason for that:

Hybrid work offers the possibility of combining the best parts of remote work (work-life balance and flexibility) with office work (collaboration and socialization). That’s why even companies like Meta, Microsoft, and Amazon are embracing it.

In this article, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about hybrid work. Specifically, here’s what you’ll learn:

Let’s dive in.

What is Hybrid Work?

Hybrid work is a workplace model where employees work partly from the office and partly remotely. Some companies enforce hybrid work schedules with a baseline for being in the office (e.g., 3 days a week), while others allow for more flexibility by letting employees choose when to come to the office.

As such, hybrid work is one implementation of the growing flexible work trend. Again, hybrid (like remote) isn’t really new, it just became adopted at scale in the post-pandemic world.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of hybrid work models you can implement:

  • Traditional hybrid models, where employees have a set baseline and schedule, e.g., 3 mandatory days at the office per week. While this is hybrid work by definition, it’s not truly flexible, since employees are limited when it comes to tailoring their schedule to their personal and professional needs.

“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

  • Soft hybrid models, where companies don’t set baselines or mandatory schedules, but instead let employees decide when to work in the office and when to work remotely. This is the true blend of hybrid and flexible working.

Another important aspect of this new workplace paradigm is who makes decisions about schedules and mandatory office time.

Traditionally, upper management decided these questions, but more and more companies realize that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach for all roles. That’s why even massive corporations like Amazon leave each team to make these decisions:

“For our corporate roles, instead of specifying that people work a baseline of three days a week in the office, we’re going to leave this decision up to individual teams. This decision will be made team by team at the Director level.” — Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon

The Benefits and Challenges of Hybrid Work

As hybrid becomes the dominant way to work in many industries, it’s important to analyze what we know about its’ benefits and potential challenges.

Let’s start with the benefits.

Hybrid Work’s Benefits

For employees, the most important perk is the ability to combine the best parts of remote work with the best parts of office work:

  • Remote workers have more flexibility and a better work-life balance.
  • Office workers get more opportunities to collaborate and socialize, as well as learn and grow as a professional.
  • Hybrid workers can come together in the office, while also tailoring their schedule, depending on the type of work they do and their personal needs.

For employers, hybrid offers a huge opportunity for reducing their real estate footprint. Real estate costs are typically one of the biggest overhead costs. Since hybrid work typically involves hot desking or hoteling (i.e., unassigned seating), you can drastically improve space utilization and reduce your overall real estate footprint.

It’s important to note that these cost savings don’t happen automatically. You’ll likely need to redesign your office to create a more collaborative environment, as well as designate spaces for different purposes like focus work or brainstorming sessions.

These spaces are called office neighborhoods and we’ll talk more about them later in this guide. For now, bear in mind that such spaces offer a chance to radically change the way we think about the office and massively improve the employee experience.

The last benefit of hybrid work (and flexible working models in general) is that it gives companies a chance to access a broader pool of potential employees. Today, job candidates don’t want more flexibility — they expect it. That’s why offering candidates the chance to work in the company’s workspace or from their home office is essential for hiring the best talent.

Hybrid Work’s Top 3 Challenges

As with all other work models, hybrid comes with its own set of challenges.

The good news is that they can all be overcome and the benefits we just discussed far outweigh them. Here are the top 3 most common challenges in a hybrid work environment:

  1. Transitioning to hybrid work. It’s difficult to change your routine and habits to accommodate a new work model. There’s no way around that, but you can make the transition a lot smoother by talking to your employees and using technology. On the one hand, you need to know how everyone envisions their future workplace. When it comes time for implementation, a simple, easy-to-use hybrid work software can make the adoption of this new work model much smoother.
  2. Hybrid meetings. Meetings with both on-site and remote employees can be tricky. It’s easy for in-person participants to take over the conversation, which leaves online participants feeling left out. Fortunately, there’s a simple fix here — remember to acknowledge remote participants and ask for their opinion periodically. You can even include this rule in your onboarding handbook or hybrid work policies.
  3. Ensuring equal opportunities for all employees. We all have a bias towards people we see daily. In fact, MIT’s research found 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.” The solution here lies in setting clear individual goals and evaluating everyone’s performance based on them. That way, we can let data and results guide us, rather than our subjective perceptions and biases.

While these challenges are almost universal, there are others that you might encounter in your hybrid work journey. For more detail on the topic, check out our article on the 7 legitimate challenges of hybrid work and how to overcome them.

What Research and Surveys Say About Hybrid Work

As we said, hybrid work’s current adoption is unprecedented.

However, there has been a steady stream of research papers and surveys that shows common patterns among employees’ and employers’ opinions on hybrid work.

Here are a few of these insights:

  • Gallup’s study of over 140,000 US employees found that hybrid work is the future for most offices. According to the survey:

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

“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.”

  • This research paper published in the National Bureau of Economic Research indicates that after the pandemic, 20% of workdays will be supplied from home compared with just 5 percent before.
  • Gensler’s survey of over 10,000 office workers in the US, UK, France, and Australia found that people value in-person collaboration very highly, especially after working remotely for months.

“Based on how people are currently working, we can see how a hybrid model is affecting user behavior. Those who are at home full time are spending significantly less time collaborating…Even though many employees had been working at home for six months at the time of the survey, the majority of workers still see in-person collaboration as critical to their jobs.”

“One of the most interesting findings from this survey is that regardless of reopening plans, only 1% of the HR leaders surveyed expect all of their employees to work full-time in the office.”

In short, lots of employers and employees believe that hybrid work is the future. More importantly, almost everyone agrees that the pre-pandemic, 9 to 5, all week in the office way of work is a thing of the past.

Real-World Examples of Hybrid Work Models

Now that we’ve covered the theoretical part, let’s get practical.

First, we’ll start by examining how 3 companies — Microsoft, Amazon, and Salesforce — are implementing their hybrid work models.

First, Microsoft’s employees can work remotely up to 50% of the time. This decision was made by the company (top-down) after talking to employees, analyzing the data, and creating a flexible work policy. In short, this is an example of a balanced hybrid work model, with the decision to go hybrid and set a baseline being made top-down.

In contrast, Amazon adopted hybrid work without setting a baseline for everyone to come to the office. Instead, they’re leaving that decision to team leaders. Compared to Microsoft, Amazon is opting for more flexibility and personalization by delegating hybrid work responsibilities to team directors. This method takes into consideration the fact that different teams have various needs and cultures, so there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Lastly, Salesforce takes flexibility and personalization to the next level by offering employees 3 different types of work options. Employees can choose between them, based on their work needs and personal preferences.

  • 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.

As you can see there are tons of flavors of hybrid work. However, it’s also worth noting that many companies’ plans to go hybrid have been postponed due to COVID. By the time they get to implementation, their opinions and strategies might change.

6 Steps for Implementing Hybrid Work in Your Organization

The important thing to take away from these examples is that there’s no universally right or wrong hybrid work model. It all depends on your company culture, habits, and business needs.

At the same time, we can outline a few steps that pretty much all companies embracing hybrid work need to take into consideration. The first one’s probably the most obvious — talking to your employees.

Step #1: Talk to your employees and assess readiness

All 3 of the companies we just looked at, as well as most others, start here. It’s logical to begin by talking to employees about hybrid work, so you can assess where they stand on the topic.

This can be done via surveys, questionnaires, or one-on-one interviews. The important thing is to understand people’s challenges, opinions, and reservations about hybrid work.

After that, you can assess the executive team’s readiness and confidence in this new work model. Only then can you create a strategy that works for both the business as a whole and its employees.

Step #2: Implement the technological backbone of your new workplace

Technology can make or break your hybrid work experiment. It’s essential to agree on the necessary tools you’re going to use for office space management (like OfficeRnD), collaboration, video conferencing (like Zoom or Teams), document management, and more. If you want some ideas, check out our article discussing 21 useful tools for hybrid teams.

As far as organizing your new hybrid office, there are two fundamental capabilities that your tech should provide:

  • Employees should be able to easily book desks before coming to work via desktop or mobile devices.
  • Team members should be able to see who else is in the office during the week.

There are lots of other features that you may need from your hybrid work software, but these 2 are essential for making the transition smooth and encouraging collaboration.

Step #3: Implement hot desking or hoteling

Hybrid work usually requires some form of desk sharing, be it hot desking or hoteling.

Hot desking is reservation-less seating. People come to the office without booking a desk and find an available one after they arrive.

In contrast, hoteling involves using a desk booking system, so that employees can reserve a workstation before coming to work. We believe hoteling is a much better alternative since employees have the freedom of choosing where to work, without the possibility of arriving at an office with no available workspaces.

Step #4: Invest in a Workplace Experience Platform

Similar to offering flexible work options, having a great workplace experience is a must for employers who want to hire and retain the best talent.

In other words, you need to build and maintain an ideal environment where people can thrive. This environment includes your digital workplace, your physical office, and your hybrid workforce.

In practice, improving workplace experience starts with understanding your workplace technology, facilities, and company culture, as well as the links between these 3 elements. This allows you to combine and analyze these elements holistically.

On that note, a Workplace Experience Platform can help you understand these elements and bring people together in vibrant, collaborative, and flexible workspaces.

Step #5: Re-assess the experiment periodically with workplace analytics and pulse surveys

As with all other experiments, some of your initial assumptions about the hybrid work arrangement will likely be wrong. That’s normal.

Like Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said:

“First, none of us know the definitive answers to these (hybrid work) questions, especially long term. Second, at a company of our size, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best. And third, we’re going to be in a stage of experimenting, learning, and adjusting for a while as we emerge from this pandemic.”

That’s why it’s essential to periodically assess how your new workplace is being utilized and how employees feel about it.

As far as workspace utilization is concerned, OfficeRnD Hybrid has you covered. Our Advanced Workspace Analytics allows you to monitor space usage and understand how your teams are utilizing the revamped office.

Pulse surveys are another valuable tool here. They’re short and regular sets of questions sent out to employees (e.g., once every two weeks). Implementing them can help you gather and analyze employees’ opinions on the new work model. Plus, since they’re short and easy to complete, they don’t take much time away from everyone’s workday.

Step #6: Create office neighborhoods

Once you’ve tried and adjusted to the hybrid approach, a whole world of new opportunities opens up.

One massive opportunity to transform your office is embracing activity-based working — a way of working that puts the emphasis on culture creation, collaboration, and employee experience.

The foundation of activity-based work is office neighborhoods — areas of your office organized in a way that supports different work needs.

For example, you may set up quiet areas, where people can focus and get individual tasks done. Conversely, you can also create collaboration neighborhoods, with lots of whiteboards, sticky notes, and other useful tools for brainstorming sessions, meetings, and other team activities.

Again, the opportunities really are endless. Creating neighborhoods that fit your company’s work style and accommodate everyone’s professional needs can provide a massive boost in productivity, collaboration, and wellbeing.

How to get started with Hybrid work?

Hybrid Work SoftwareSo, as you can see, going hybrid is both beneficial and potentially difficult. That’s why we build OfficeRnD Hybrid — hybrid workplace management and employee scheduling platform that makes transitioning to hybrid work simple.

You can try OfficeRnD Hybrid for free with a 14-day trial (no credit card required).

Lastly, if you want a more detailed presentation of OfficeRnD Hybrid that’s tailored to your business, book a demo with our team.

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