The pandemic has upended our lives in ways we never could have anticipated, and the way we work is no exception. Before the COVID-19 breakout, remote work was simply an alternative working arrangement but now it’s something that businesses need to survive.
For leaders, figuring out how to create a post-pandemic workplace, three options are available: return to the office, roll out an exclusive remote work policy, or adopt a hybrid workforce model.
Consider the Cisco Workforce of the Future Study conducted in the Philippines. Of the respondents, 18% report mostly working from home before the pandemic. But now, 93% of the participants share that they want greater ownership and choice as they transition into the new workplace.
The key takeaway is that a successful hybrid work solution should be inclusive, flexible, secure, and well-managed.
Some of the biggest corporations still haven’t figured out what “hybrid” really means, though. For some employees, it could still translate to going to work most of the time, while others may define it as hardly visiting the office ever. In reality, it’s shaped by factors such as company culture, demographics, customer expectations, and more.
The worst thing that leaders can do is to employ generic “best practices” as they shift to a mainstream hybrid model. Embracing a hybrid workplace means radically rethinking company culture and facing the challenge of combining remote and on-site work.
So preparing for the hybrid future means asking yourself the right questions — and answering them based on the unique needs of your organization. Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Hybrid Workplace?
A hybrid workplace is a flexible business model that supports a distributed workforce of in-office and remote employees. It typically includes the on-site presence of a skeletal workforce, while the other members are free to come and go as they please as they work from home (WFH).
The hybrid model is built on the pillars of flexibility and support. It empowers employees by giving them the freedom to choose where and when they want to work, instead of sticking to a predetermined schedule in the office.
Keep in mind, however, that a hybrid format isn’t simply a fancy way of describing what happened to the workplace after the pandemic. It’s evolved into more than just an emergency measure imposed by an external force: it’s a proactive plan driven by better employee productivity and business performance.
What are the Different Types of Hybrid Workplaces?
Hybrid work may be growing, but there’s still no one-size-fits-all approach that works. The only thing that employers, executives, and the workforce agree on is that there aren’t any hard-and-fast rules about what the new workplace should look like.
But that’s the real beauty of the hybrid workplace: it gives you free rein to establish what suits the needs of your organization. That said, let’s examine the four emerging models of hybrid work in greater detail.
Remote Hybrid Workplace
A remote hybrid workplace is mostly made up of WFH employees that may report to a physical office or shared workspace when necessary. These in-person meetings usually happen for client meetings or team-building activities.
In-Person Hybrid Workplace
An in-person hybrid workplace is somewhat similar to a remote hybrid office, except that it consists of employees that work at a physical office but have the option to work remotely. This type of model could address concerns about unstable internet connections. It also makes sure that new hires are onboarded appropriately and receive the hands-on mentorship they need.
Mixed Hybrid Workplace
A mixed hybrid workforce is split into a fully remote and on-office workspace. Organizations that use this model have employees that can only operate in a physical office, like receptionists or surgeons.
Split Hybrid Workplace
Split hybrid workplaces operate on a shifting schedule. For example, a part of your team could work remotely for x number of days then report to your physical office on the other days of the week. This means that your staff could come to work on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, then work remotely on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What are the Benefits of a Hybrid Workforce?
The hybrid workplace shines a beacon of light into the post-pandemic world by fusing the best of WFH and in-office working arrangements and overcoming the barriers.
But choosing the shift to the new model is a strategic decision because it involves a lot more than simply drawing a line or splitting the work between two sets of employees. Rather, it calls for an in-depth assessment of the costs, benefits, and outcomes. And creating a set-up that works for everyone in the organization.
Building a successful hybrid workplace carries significant benefits. We elaborate on them below.
Prioritizes Productivity Over Efficiency
Some executives have viewed a hybrid working environment with suspicion, believing that giving people the freedom to choose how and when to work would translate to less work done. And this was because project completion used to be assessed from an “hours put in” kind of view.
But as employees choose to work remotely, the focus has shifted to taking direct ownership over a project. This means people are now more accountable for the projects they’re managing and are setting realistic expectations for what they can achieve in a day. So for managers, this poses the challenge of supporting teammates, providing the proper resources, and maintaining a well-oiled workflow.
Promotes Employee Engagement & Satisfaction
Good work-life integration is one of the best things you can offer your employees and job prospects. A hybrid office gives your workforce the autonomy to fit their work around their lives so they can stay happier and in control of what they do.
The reasons people feel happier with a hybrid set-up vary. For some, it could be the sense of relief that comes with being in full control of their schedule, while others are just more productive having their dog beside them as they work because it helps improve mental health. And even though a hybrid office carries the added responsibility of child care, limited privacy, and feelings of isolation, a huge chunk of the workforce intends to keep the sense of independence and flexibility it offers.
Remember: a set-up that works best promotes employee engagement. After all, it doesn’t just keep your team happy: it’s also closely related to metrics that measure profitability, retention, and performance.
Reduces Ops & Commuting Expenses
Since the number of employees coming into the office has gone down because of the hybrid model, there’s a lesser need for office space. In turn, it translates to lower rental costs and fewer office supplies.
For one, hybrid offices don’t require rows after rows of assigned desks. Instead, it’s a versatile space with standing desks, soundproof booths, and relaxation rooms conducive for work. As long as a company has a handle on how many employees will be around at a given time, it’ll be easier to adjust the cost of rent, office supplies, and other business expenses.
To top that off, workers are utilizing their time better without getting distracted by the traditional office environment or spending time commuting during rush hours. And this is great news for people who live far from the office.
What Tools Can Help Support a Hybrid Workplace?
Hybrid work offers productivity gains and the promise of a more inspired workforce. But building a successful hybrid working environment can only happen with the right technology. So before shifting to this new model, you’ll need to create a tech-focused strategic plan.
Here’s some of the tools you’ll need when you transition to a hybrid workplace:
To make a hybrid office work, your employees will need communication tools to collaborate when they aren’t at the office. For example, instant messaging and video conferencing tools like Zoom, Slack, Basecamp, Confluence, Troop Messenger, and Microsoft Teams can help bridge the gap.
Unified Communications Platform
If your organization has multiple offices or locations, you’ll need a single platform where your team can access the resources to do their job. A unified communications (UC) platform puts together different video conferencing, file sharing, instant messaging, and VoIP tools into a centralized platform.
Project Management Software
Your workforce needs complete visibility into their tasks, no matter where they’re working. After all, getting a bird’s eye view of pending tasks and deliverables makes it easier to hit project goals. For seamless project management, consider using tools like Asana, Trello, Wrike, and Odoo.
People Management Software
It goes without saying that a modern, cloud-based people management software is an absolute must for any hybrid setup. Effective people management can drive better employee engagement and foster a more inclusive company culture. Sprout offers a very holistic ecosystem of products designed for the future of work.
Best Practices for Building a Successful Hybrid Workplace
Having the right tools and infrastructure is crucial to making the hybrid model work. However, deeper, cultural changes are also imperative to keep it sustainable.
Below we’ve listed a few best practices for you to keep in mind as you foster a hybrid culture.
Eliminate Remote Work Biases
Fostering a remote-first culture is an excellent way to build an equitable, hybrid workforce. Why? Because people who choose to work from home have always struggled to be taken seriously.
For years, there’s been a disparity between how managers treat and reward remote and in-office employees. Company leaders tend to rate in-office employees higher than their WFH counterparts, despite a lack of evidence that on-site workers actually perform better. Sometimes, they’re given bigger raises and more frequent promotions — and this could create pressure for people working from home to either show up to work more often even if they don’t want to. Or worse, they could end up feeling disheartened and leave.
The best way for you to kill remote work biases is to train your senior leadership to focus on outcomes instead of individual actions. Or better yet, encourage your managers to regularly call in a meeting from their home office or kitchen. That way, it shows the team that remote work is something the management embraces.
Establish a Digital HQ
One of the best ways to show support for the remote-first approach is by creating a digital HQ. More than just a collection of tools, this digital HQ will serve as a safe space where everyone can collaborate regardless of location. It’s also an archive where your workforce can access internal documents or tech support.
But your digital HQ can only stay front and center so long as you minimize the work and discussions that take place outside of it. Once everyone’s on the same page (or platform), you’ll see just how seamless a hybrid work culture can be.
Your digital HQ extends beyond work, however. By extension, you’ll need to make sure that a lot of thought and effort goes into planning your digital team-building activities. Resist the urge to promote in-person team-building events as the superior option because it could discourage remote workers from participating. Treat online activities the same you would in-person ones to foster a greater sense of belonging.
Realign & Recalibrate Your Core Values
Your core values should be felt in the halls, not just seen on the walls. Now that you’ll be operating in a hybrid office, that poses the unique challenge of taking your core values into the digital space you and your team will inhabit.
So ask yourself: how can you continue to live and breathe the company values you swear by?
Leaders and managers carry the responsibility of showing these core values in action. And it starts by being a role model and embodying each core value through their digital work ethic. Consider putting up an online channel where leaders can give shoutouts or recognition when a team member shows exemplary core value-related behavior.
Build a Hybrid Culture Made to Last
Creating a sustainable hybrid workplace lies in creating a framework that reflects how you define your organization’s success. Identifying opportunities offer the chance for you to assess, experiment, and learn. Adaptation is the key to survival in the new normal, and the road that lies ahead calls for constant adjustments and discovery of what will work best in the long run.
Creating a hybrid culture is a welcome change with the potential to push your brand to greater heights. So get off on the right foot and start simplifying your HR tasks with Sprout. Get access to a cutting-edge, world-class suite of solutions and book your demo today.