“Hybrid workplace,” is a popular phrase amongst office workers, and more recently, it’s creating quite the buzz across the U.S. as companies look to implement hybrid work options more permanently. After many companies had to move to 100% remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a consequential shift in how employees value work-life balance. As a result, employers realized they can drive the same, if not more, productivity levels from their employees, while potentially reducing the overhead costs associated with operating in a physical office space. Many are claiming that hybrid workplace models are the future of work, but hybrid work may not be as cut and dry as employees and employers often assume. In fact, a hybrid model can be implemented in a variety of ways and often depends on the specific needs of the individual companies adopting them. So, if hybrid is here to stay, what does it really mean and more importantly, how is a hybrid workplace model properly executed?
What is a Hybrid Workplace Model?
At the core, a hybrid workplace model blends remote or at-home work and in-person work, while providing some or all employees the option to choose what working environments and schedules work best for them. Organizations adopt hybrid workplace models to provide their employees with more work-life balance, and in turn, hope that it increases productivity levels, engagement, and retention across their companies. The COVID-19 shutdown in 2020 accelerated the shift toward remote work, since businesses and employees had no choice if they wanted to continue operating and producing. Now, employees believe they can be just as productive from the comfort of their own homes. According to the Microsoft’s 2022 Work Trend Index Annual Report, 52% of respondents stated they are considering shifting to a hybrid or fully-remote model in the year ahead, pending their company policies. With more workers looking to move into hybrid-style schedules, it is key for organizations to understand how to correctly implement their strategies and communicate their expectations to employees in order to avoid confusion, frustration, and the growing pains that can come along with policy change in the workplace.
Hybrid workplace models are highly dependent on the nature of the industries adopting them, and therefore can be executed in a variety of ways. The four most common types of hybrid workplace models are: hybrid at-will, where employees have full control over their hybrid schedules, hybrid split-week, where the company chooses what employees go into the office and when, hybrid manager-scheduling, where managers or supervisors discern their employees’ schedules, and hybrid mix, a combination of any of the previous options. Deciding what hybrid model works best for each company depends on a variation of factors, and it may take some time to figure out how to properly implement a strategy. With hybrid work receiving quite the resurgence post-pandemic, it’s forecasted that is it here to stay, and employees are pushing for remote-work freedoms and thoughtful in-office strategies now more than ever.
How Does a Hybrid Workplace Model Work?
A successful hybrid workplace model clearly identifies policies and procedures for employees, so they can plan ahead and appreciate the advantage of flexibility in the workplace. In addition to offering work from home days, a hybrid workplace model can also provide other benefits to employees to ensure positive adoption of the new policies and procedures across the company. Some examples include flexing daily work hours, providing “hotel” workstations that employees can book through easy-to-use software, and even breakout/community rooms with up-to-date technology to connect with employees that are working outside of the office walls. The goal of hybrid work is to balance commuting with connection. Employees are more willing to travel to the office if they are guaranteed time to build meaningful relationships and mentorships with others. However, connection does not have to be confined to office walls. A well-planned hybrid model will identify how to make all employees feel valued and heard, whether or not they are in the office full-time.
That being said, a strong hybrid model will also consider what individual employee(s) or department schedules should coincide with one another, based on department relationships and drivers of productivity for the company. In order to preserve and boost company culture, hybrid schedules have to be carefully planned so one employee or department isn’t confined to a desolate office on the day(s) they are required to work in-person. Employers and managers must consider what teams interact the most on a day-to-day basis to optimize productivity and to assist in planning a hybrid strategy that keeps strong person-to-person relationships in-tact.
How To Implement a Hybrid Workplace Model
When deciding what hybrid workplace model is best for your company’s needs, its crucial to go straight to the impacted population: the employees. Ask employees what work schedules and situations work best for them and gather continuous feedback that can be used to make a highly informed company-wide decision. Focus on the company culture, both virtually and in-office – how will your company work to preserve a healthy culture no matter where the employees are located? A strong human resources and/or management team is necessary to communicate best practices and constantly assess the effectiveness of the chosen hybrid solution. Leaders have to define the purpose of in-office work, if requiring employees to come in, establish hybrid meeting standards, and even rethink office and breakout room layouts to accommodate all hybrid work schedules. This may entail additional manager coaching to guarantee all employees are given the proper support to flourish using the newfound freedoms in the workplace. Making sure technical systems are up to date and putting a highly responsive IT support team in place is another way to avoid bumps in the road when transitioning to a hybrid workplace model. Secure, cloud-based company networks are essential to businesses that wish to keep their employees and files connected and protected, regardless of working locations.
Once a hybrid workplace model is implemented, the model should be fluid in the sense that policies and procedures are not set in stone. Hybrid workplace models are a privilege for employees, and companies still have to meet their quarterly and annual goals. Over time, hybrid models should continuously evolve to best meet the needs of employees and the company, since they are rarely “one size fits all,” and work environments are constantly growing and evolving. A hybrid workplace cannot be successful without intentional execution, review, and assessment. Employees should be willing and ready to provide critical feedback and employers should be ready to pivot strategies if a chosen model proves to not be driving productivity, efficiency, and overall employee happiness.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Whether your company is already offering a hybrid workplace model or they are just starting to consider the option, know that we still don’t hold all the answers when it comes to the future of work. The days of the 9-5 in-office career seem to be less and less the norm, but companies are still learning how to implement hybrid workplace strategies in a way that works for both employees and the employer. The path forward for office life may not be linear, but employee satisfaction and productivity are higher than ever before, thanks to the freedoms hybrid work schedules afford. Now is the time to listen to employees and reassess office operations to better suit hybrid working options. Hybrid workplace models are here to stay, and companies have to continue striving toward flexible solutions that provide all employees the opportunities to choose how and when they work to be most effective.
Thinking about modifying or starting your company’s hybrid workplace strategy? We can help through our Tenant Representation services. Contact our team at Newmark Ciminelli to learn more.