The landscape of the workplace is evolving — transforming into a dynamic blend of in-office and remote settings.
This phenomenon is known as hybrid work and while in 2023 it’s super popular, a lot of people still ask “what is hybrid work?”
In this increasingly popular approach, employees are no longer bound to the confines of a traditional office nor fully immersed in a remote setup.
Instead, they find themselves straddling the line between the two, operating in a space that offers the best of both worlds.
Quick Answer: Hybrid work is an arrangement in which employees have the flexibility to work both remotely and in a physical office. This allows them to combine the benefits of working from home with the advantages of in-person collaboration.
And hybrid work isn’t just a passing trend — hybrid work statistics show that it’s becoming standard. According to a 2023 employer survey conducted by The Littler, over 70% of employers have workforces operating on hybrid work schedules.
So what does this mean for you?
Implementing a hybrid work schedule 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.
In this in-depth guide, we explore the benefits and challenges of this groundbreaking work model, how to implement it successfully, and how it’s revolutionizing the future of work.
Hybrid work is a flexible work model that combines aspects of both traditional in-office work and remote work. In a hybrid workplace, employees split their time between working in an office space and working from another physical location or remote working space.
Employees and employers alike often use the terms “hybrid work” and “remote work” interchangeably. While they are similar, remote and hybrid work have some key differences.
Hybrid work is the combination of on-site and off-site work. How much time is spent working remotely vs. commuting will vary according to each company’s internal policies and business needs.
That said, there is always the option for hybrid teams to work at the physical office, even if a company doesn’t require in-person attendance.
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 a physical office.
If remote team members miss office culture, they may choose to work from a coworking space. However, this is usually at their own expense rather than an amenity provided by their employer.
There are two main types of hybrid work models you can implement – both with unique pros and cons.
Also known as the fixed hybrid work model, the traditional hybrid framework has a set baseline and schedule, for example, 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 approach 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.
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.
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.
These days there are even many notable hybrid work influencers that further popularize the hybrid workplace culture. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
According to Gallup’s 2022 survey on the future of hybrid work, the number of remote-capable employees (those with jobs that can be done remotely) with a hybrid schedule increased by 10% between 2019 and 2022.
When asked how they planned to work in the long-term, 53% said they expect to have a hybrid work schedule, while 24% expect to work completely remote.
For hybrid employees, the biggest strength of a hybrid work model is its capacity to combine the best parts of working from home with the benefits of working with an in-person team:
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.
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 completely 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 space in years past.
You can learn more on the topic by reading our article on the most significant hybrid work advantages.
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.
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 for barrier-free connectivity and ensure that you provide employees with adequate resources to learn how to use it.
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.
The right tools, like project management systems and video conferencing, enable those who can’t be on-site to stay connected with other employees without having to be in the same room.
When part of your staff is on-site, 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.
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 judgement may not be overt, intentional, or even conscious – we all have biases. For example, MIT’s research discovered the following:
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.
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.
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.
Employers should approach the return to the office strategically — not by rigidly enforcing employees to come back to the office, but rather by turning 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 the executive team to create a workplace strategy that works for both the business as a whole and its employees.
A key part of hybrid work success is choosing the right 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.
When managing hybrid teams, tracking and analyzing data can help you determine whether the hybrid work model you’ve chosen is the right one for you and your team.
Pulse surveys are a quick, simple way to gather continuous employee 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.
Here are some examples of pulse survey questions you can ask your employees:
As an employer, you may want to ask yourself the following questions:
Advanced analytics software can also help you understand how your team operates in the new work environment.
For example, in the OfficeRnD Hybrid’s Workplace Analytics, you have access to dashboards and reports that show how your employees are using their office space, from desks and meeting rooms to parking spaces.
Here are just some of the notable hybrid companies that already implemented the hybrid work model.
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.
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 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.
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 physical 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.
Insights 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:
A hybrid position in a job that allows for a flexible work arrangement, combining both on-site and remote work. In some cases, there may be a requirement to spend a certain percentage of time showing up to work on site. Some employers let their team members choose, with complete flexibility, while other organizations are more structured with attendance rules.
A hybrid schedule for work entails a combination of time spent working from a remote location and working on site. 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 hybrid team members must commute to the office. We have an extensive article on hybrid work schedules.
Various studies and statistics indicate that many employees and their employers find hybrid work to be worth it. 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.
Depending on the number of days a company lets employees work remotely, a hybrid workplace 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 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, working hours are strictly monitored.
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.
Investing in technology that supports virtual and in-person collaboration can help a hybrid workplace succeed. Managers should also set clear hybrid policies. Providing remote workers with the necessary hardware, software, and infrastructure ensures they can actively contribute to team projects. Setting clear expectations for both on-site and remote workers ensures everyone’s on the same page regarding working hours, availability, response times, and deliverables.
As touched on above, it appears that the hybrid work model 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.
An example of hybrid work is a work arrangement where employees split their time between working remotely and working in the office. This could mean working from home for part of the week and coming into the office for the remaining days, or it could mean working from home in the morning and then coming into the office in the afternoon.
Another example of hybrid work is a work arrangement where employees have the flexibility to choose where they work based on their individual preferences and needs. For instance, employees might have the option to work from home when they need to take care of personal matters or when they simply prefer to work in a quiet environment, and then come into the office for team meetings or other collaborative work.
The question of whether hybrid work is more stressful is a debated topic, and opinions may vary depending on the individual and the organization.
Some studies suggest that hybrid work can be more stressful due to the need to manage multiple communication channels and the potential for work-life balance issues.
For example, an article from CNBC cites a survey report from TinyPulse that found that more than 80% of human resources executives say that hybrid work is proving to be exhausting for employees.
However, other studies suggest that hybrid work can actually be less stressful than traditional office work, as it allows for greater flexibility and autonomy.
For example, a survey released by FlexJobs found that 96% of workers believe a remote or hybrid work arrangement would be best for their mental health.
Ultimately, the stress level of hybrid work will depend on a variety of factors, including the individual’s work style, the organization’s policies and culture, and the nature of the work itself.
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