The pandemic has brought forth numerous changes in our working dynamics. Among the most significant is the shift in people's expectations of how, when, and where they want to work. The trend towards creating personalized workplaces isn't new, but with COVID-19 globally propelling remote work, we've seen a surge in companies offering more tailored work experiences.
At its core, the hybrid work model can be described as a blend of remote, semi-remote, and office-based employees. Such models not only counter potential distractions at the workplace but also save commute time. It grants employees the autonomy to decide how, when, and most importantly, where they can be most productive, thus facilitating a work-life balance tailored to their needs.
Many companies discovered the hybrid work model during the pandemic, and the majority continue to devise solutions to boost employee motivation and efficiency. Traditional offices are giving way to newer generation offices that empower employees and companies alike. Office spaces are becoming more than just a place to work; they're evolving into environments where employees want to arrive daily, feeling socially engaged and belonging to the work culture.
Hybrid Work Trends
- Technology and agility: Rapid advancements in technology that foster agility and automation.
- Demographic shifts: Changes in global population distribution and age demographics. Adapting workplaces and job roles to suit different generations.
- Rise of flexible careers: Increasing demand from employees for flexibility in work, work/life balance, and mobility.
- Environmental consciousness: Adapting office environments and work conditions concerning energy consumption, environmental awareness, and sustainability.
- Cultural Shift: Opportunities to foster an entrepreneurial mindset and a less hierarchical culture, along with unique employee benefits.
The hybrid work remains popular for both companies and employees:
- According to a TinyPulse HR leaders survey, 62.8% view hybrid work as the most efficient approach for their companies, and per Accenture findings, 63% of high-growth businesses operate in a hybrid manner.
- A global study by PwC highlights that remote and hybrid working has led to short-term productivity spikes in most workplaces. 57% of the surveyed companies claim better performance relative to workforce performance and productivity targets over the past year, with only 4% indicating poorer performance.
- Microsoft’s “Work Reworked” report indicates that 90% of companies in Turkey have established remote work policies. A significant majority of employees, having experienced remote work and having adapted, wish to continue the hybrid working post-pandemic. 86% of managers believe the hybrid model helps attract committed talent, while 76% say it aids in drawing skilled employees to their organizations.
- EY's 2021 Redesigned Worker Survey suggests that nine out of ten workers want flexibility in where and when they work.
Given this popularity, it's safe to say the hybrid work model will continue to be prominent in today's and future work landscapes. However, many companies are venturing into the hybrid work era without a clear roadmap. When it comes to employees, one department can guide them: Human Resources. HR professionals must meticulously balance the interests of as many employees as possible when charting a forward-looking path for organizations. Being proactive in driving this transformation is crucial.
The Impact of Hybrid Work on the Workplace in 5 Steps
- Increased Emphasis on Collaboration
With the onset of the pandemic, when many employees had to shift to remote work, there were initial concerns about effective collaboration from afar. Although it was soon demonstrated that this didn't significantly hamper productivity, some doubts remained. Research indicates that 78% of CEOs believe remote collaboration will be one of the lasting trends post-pandemic.
However, a future challenge will be ensuring effective collaboration both in-person and remotely. Human Resources (HR), having previously managed the shift from in-office to remote due to COVID-19, is well-positioned to lead companies in transitioning to hybrid work.
- Evolving Role of the Office
Employees today are more conscious of how they spend their time physically at the workplace. Now, there needs to be a purpose to come to the office. Some prefer it because they can't perform certain tasks from home, while others might lack the required equipment or find in-person interactions and collaborations easier. Regardless, employees no longer want to work from the office just for the sake of it.
This suggests that physical workspaces need to adapt to these changes. In the age of hybrid work, office spaces should focus more on facilitating collaboration, connection, and team-building rather than just providing full-time workstations. The office environment should aid what employees can do remotely but in a more effective manner.
- Fostering Empowered Workplaces
It's evident that more flexibility can lead to increased commitment. 86% of employees express a desire to work in companies that prioritize outcomes over outputs (e.g., valuing the impact of their work over the number of emails sent or hours worked). However, 70% of companies are not yet willing to meet these expectations for a more liberated workplace.
Such a shift requires rethinking leadership and management styles, with HR leading the change.
- Work-Life Balance
After a crisis like COVID-19, people had to re-evaluate their priorities in both personal and professional lives. This has led to what experts now refer to as the “Great Resignation”. One of the primary reasons for employees leaving jobs is the lack of work-life balance.
Many are willing to sacrifice a portion of their salary to retain the flexibility and freedom they recently gained. While the effects of the hybrid working model are evident among office workers, it's also impacting other sectors. For instance, demands for more flexibility in the food industry have led companies like McDonald's to offer childcare and education to attract or retain employees.
- Generational Differences
Younger employees, especially Generations Y and Z, struggle the most with hybrid work models. The challenge isn't due to a lack of digital skills, but rather missing out on the office experience that allows for more interaction with management and learning from observing peers. This has a domino effect on their expectations and perspectives about the future. Many young workers feel stuck—they see the benefits of working in a hybrid model but are concerned about stalling their careers without a physical return to the office.
Going forward, HR departments need to be more cognizant of the diverse needs of a multi-generational workforce and ensure hybrid models cater to everyone.
How Can You Manage Hybrid Work?
Previously, the 9-5 office work model provided limited flexibility to employees concerning when and where to work. The pandemic has shown managers that employees can be productive anytime and anywhere. Optimal productivity varies significantly based on personal preferences. Hence, when designing a hybrid work model, it's crucial to consider and support your employees' preferences.
Consider Your Organization
Examine the business needs and culture of your organization. Determine the potential impact on customers when making remote work decisions.
Consider the Role
Leaders should evaluate which roles are best suited for long-term remote work based on job description and the individual's ability to work efficiently outside the office.
Consider Your Team
To establish the best hybrid model, assess your team members' interdependencies, communication dynamics, and resources.
Consider the Individual
Managers aiming to create successful work-from-home plans should evaluate each team member's preparedness, skills, strengths and weaknesses, living conditions, and performance.
So, how can you integrate the hybrid work model into your company?
- Start by identifying core tasks and roles. Determine their productivity and performance factors and think of arrangements that best serve them.
- Engage employees in the process by using surveys, personas, and interviews to analyze their desires and needs.
- Be comprehensive and innovative when creating a new setup, focusing on eliminating unproductive elements in your current arrangement.
- Maintain open communication between employees and managers. Invest in coordination tools that help synchronize your teams' schedules and provide training to managers on leading hybrid teams.
Five Distinct Hybrid Work Models You Can Implement:
This model divides the week into remote and in-office work days. It's a popular choice among employees. In practice, companies schedule based on departments. For instance, the marketing and business development teams might work from the office on Mondays and Tuesdays, whereas the HR department could be present on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Depending on the setup, teams can either have consecutive office days or interspersed throughout the week. This system not only ensures managers stay connected with their teams but also facilitates regular face-to-face meetings.
This approach allows employees to come to the office on days they find most suitable, letting them structure their work flexibly. It's ideal for those who prefer coming in for specific meetings with colleagues or clients or those needing a quiet spot during the day.
Weekly Allocation Model
Another strategy, akin to the split-week model, involves planning by the department on a weekly basis. Instead of dividing days, months are divided into weeks. The emphasis is on teamwork, deciding which department will be in the office during which weeks. This approach encourages teams to collaborate closely for an entire week, especially beneficial for ongoing projects.
In this model, employees work in shifts during specific hours of the day, deciding their working hours within set frameworks. It's seen as a challenging model both by employees and companies. Some may not prefer very early starts or very late finishes. Hybrid approaches to shift work often require innovative solutions to work alongside existing structures.
The mixed model empowers employees to customize one or more of the above models based on their individual schedules. Offering flexibility in terms of when and where they work and the model they choose, it stands out for maximizing employee autonomy.
Gaining recent popularity, this model aims to strike a work-life balance and prevent burnout. Experts highlight its potential in boosting efficiency and quality. Instead of the traditional five-day week, work is compressed, perhaps working 10 hours a day but only for four days. Companies adopting this model haven't reported drops in productivity or revenue.
Benefits of the Hybrid Work Model
- Employee Health and Well-being
Concerns about community health arising from the pandemic, coupled with abrupt transitions and disrupted work-life balances, heightened everyone's anxiety levels. A study by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence labeled 2020 as the "most stressful year in history." Increasing employee well-being and safety is now a top priority for businesses. Strategies for modern workplaces are evolving. Contactless technologies are gaining prominence, and spaces are being redesigned to make employees feel safe and healthy. Biophilic designs that bring nature indoors help reduce stress and foster collaboration and creativity.
- Flexibility and Freedom
Incorporating flexibility into work life for sustainability is becoming essential. Offering flexible work models attracts and retains talented employees, boosting their motivation and productivity. Research indicates that employees in companies granting spatial and temporal flexibility perform almost twice as well. The need for a modern hybrid work model is being acknowledged by more companies, especially large corporations. Flexible office solutions enable businesses to scale office spaces as required. Thus, the hybrid work model liberates both employees and businesses.
For remote work, uninterrupted internet connectivity is essential. Ensuring the right technological infrastructure in a hybrid work model, integrating digitalization in every facet of work, and taking necessary security precautions have become mandatory. Digital transformation ensures agility for both companies and employees.
- Productivity and Efficiency
While working from home might boost short-term productivity, sustaining this in the long run could be challenging. Workspaces need to be designed with employee experience in mind, and they should resonate with the company culture. In this context, hybrid office solutions support individual tasks as well as collaboration and creativity.
- Ecosystem and Networking
Employees feel the need to be part of a community and, hence, a shared workspace. The flexible office spaces, a result of the hybrid model, create ecosystems that foster extensive business networks and cultivate new collaborations. Co-working spaces also allow individuals to learn skills and knowledge from diverse and experienced peers.