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In 2020, the surge of the COVID-19 pandemic changed people’s lives from constantly connecting with their loved ones, friends, and colleagues to isolating themselves at home doing the best they can to make a living while keeping themselves and their families safe. It was a tough time for everyone, including businesses and organizations. The world came to a halt and people were clueless about what is ahead.
As a famous saying goes, “The show must go on.” After months of figuring out the best way to continue operations and retain the workforce, working from home, although not a new concept, became the new normal. Developing skills in team collaboration, video conferencing, time tracking, cloud content collaboration, and endpoint protection software became a trend. The demand for tech-savvy staff increased. Work is done remotely and virtually. Yes, there was an adjustment period, but people were able to keep up since this is the source of their livelihood.
With the development and distribution of vaccines and boosters, as well as the continuous decline of transmission, quarantine restrictions started to ease. Face-to-face classes are gradually implemented. Private establishments and government offices open and that includes the return of employees to the office.
Since people have been working remotely for the past two years, going back to the office means retraining their minds and bodies to their routines pre-pandemic. While some are ecstatic to finally break free from their homes and interact with other people, others are either hesitant to lose the perks of working from home or anxious about the possibility of infection.
Based on a Gallup survey, 51% percent of employees said that they’re willing to change jobs for a more flexible remote schedule.
That is not surprising. Remote work gave employees flexibility and control over their time. The extra hours spent commuting can be spent in training, running errands, attending to family members when needed, and other important things. They can do all these without completely disrupting work dynamics.
But there’s a workaround that benefits both the organization and the employees – Hybrid Work Model
With the reopening of offices, many employers are considering retaining a percentage of remote workers. 90% of organizations intend to combine remote and on-site working as part of their long-term plans based on a McKinsey survey.
By now, most employees have set up a personal office, which proved to be equally (and some even say more) productive. However, there is still a need for personal contact and connectedness to gain professional growth. Hybrid work provides them both – the independence gained from remote working and the social and cultural advantages of on-site working.
Compared to fully remote offices, hybrid workplaces have a physical office and location. However, its physical office has a smaller real estate footprint, unlike an in-person workplace.
Referring to WeWork, a provider of coworking spaces, a hybrid workplace aims to “balance the needs of individual workers with their ability to collaborate and be productive in a shared physical space.”
Companies have the liberty to customize the process based on their needs since hybrid workplaces focus on flexibility. It also provides employees with a choice of where and when they work. In return, businesses are able to increase employee satisfaction, optimize labor costs, and increase flexibility, paving the way for smoother collaboration, better cultural socialization, and face-to-face collaboration.
Before we jump on the bandwagon, there are things that we must consider before implementing them in your business or organization. First, you have to identify how a hybrid workplace serves you and your employees. Second, you have to understand and learn the different kinds of hybrid workplaces. Try answering these questions to guide you in choosing the right hybrid model:
- What is the function of every team member? This question will help you determine if their responsibilities allow them to work at home or if their role is more efficient in an in-office work arrangement.
- Where is the location of every team member? This question will help you determine whether the team member lives in the same region (or not) and if there is a need to meet up for work once in a while.
- What is the structure of your organization? Is it hierarchical or centralized?
- How will you describe your company culture? Are you focused on each individual or each team?
- How are the schedules set up? This question will help you determine whether the employees live in the same time zones or not and if there is a window where people can communicate with each other.
- What type of channels do you have for internal communications? Is it integrated, disconnected, or limited? What kind of software do you use to ensure clear communication among individuals and teams?
Once you have answered all these questions, you can easily and strategically plan for the type of work model that best suits your business or organization. Again, a hybrid work model is customizable, and you can remove and add some elements depending on your needs.
Below are some of the most common types you can consider. Just make sure that you regularly check your plans to maintain an effective work environment and harmonious collaboration.
- Remote Hybrid Work Model – A remote hybrid work model made up mostly of remote employees who report to a physical workspace from time to time. In-person meetings are set when discussions and collaborations are more conducive in a physical office over a digital one (e.g., brainstorming sessions, client meetings, or team-building activities).
- Mixed Hybrid Work Model – A hybrid work model where a portion of your staff works full-time in the office and the others work full-time remotely. Some employees (e.g., surgeons, engineers, etc.) can only fulfill their role in a physical workspace, which is why these employees have to work onsite.
- In-Person Hybrid Work Model – Contrary to the Remote Hybrid Work model, an in-person hybrid model consists of employees who report to a physical workplace with the option of working remotely. This is the perfect choice for some employees since they don’t have to worry about having stable internet connections and access to technology. This is also favorable to younger employees who need more guidance and mentorship from tenured staff.
- Split Hybrid Work Model – You can opt for a split hybrid work model if your team members work in shifts. A portion of your team will report to a home office on a set number of days, and the other portion will report on the other days. For instance, half of your team might go to your physical workspace on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays but works remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The other half might report to the office every Tuesday and Thursday but will work remotely every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
After pointing out the type of hybrid work model you need, now is the time to adopt it. But how? It is not enough to tell people to split their time at home and in the office and hope for the best. There should be a solid hybrid workplace strategy in place. Here are some of the strategies you can adopt in your organization:
- Maintain Open, Constant, and Transparent Communication: As an entrepreneur or manager, it is your responsibility to relay important information to your team as clearly as possible. These include milestones, goals, opportunities, and challenges. To ensure smooth operations and assure remote employees that they’re not left out, regular check-ins or daily meetings with your team are crucial. You’re also expected to be transparent about hybrid work policies. Why are they in place? What is the rationale behind this decision? If some employees are allowed to work remotely and others are not, you have to state your reasons and make sure that they are sound to avoid any conflict. You must be open to feedback on new policies and tweak them as you move forward until you’ve figured out the best hybrid model for your organization.
- Be Methodical in Implementing Your Operating Procedures: Establishing ordered and detailed processes help managers streamline workflow. You can start with recording company procedures in an employee handbook and make it accessible to all employees. In this way, information, tools, and resources are consistent whether they work from home or in the office. Project managers and team leaders should give employees clear direction and instructions when it comes to policies such as working hours, schedules, attendance, etc. Developing work-from-home policies for remote workers is also pertinent to maintaining adherence and productivity outside the office.
- Promote Culture Building and Social Interaction: Social interaction won’t be easy when it comes to a team with a hybrid system of both in-house and remote workers. In order to build team morale and trust, managers should encourage and initiate conversations with a social purpose. Teams that do not trust each other negatively impact collaboration and productivity. To break the barrier, you can foster candid interactions by setting up casual meetings, virtual catch-ups, etc. Despite all the amazing advantages of hybrid workplaces, it also has its weaknesses. Without a colleague or a supervisor in sight, unexpected problems may arise, and it would be difficult for employees to solve them on their own. For instance, if a data analyst loses access to important databases, how will he/she gather, process, and analyze data to produce accurate reports? To anticipate these circumstances, organizations must empower and support. Do they have the equipment, gadgets, and applications they needed to ensure work productivity, especially if they are working from home? Do they have stable internet connections in their home office? Do they have backup devices such as an LTE WIFI dongle and a high-capacity power bank in case of a blackout? Is there a team that can assist them via Zoom or Skype if they encounter technical difficulties?
Thinking ahead will greatly minimize the potential challenges that hybrid workers will face. It’s better to be overprepared these days because one will never know what will happen next. Ensuring overall company productivity means providing employees with adequate resources and the right online solutions, whether they work in-office or remotely. In essence, organizations must consider alternatives and provide the needs of their workforce, or else they will lose incredible talent to employers that will.