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What is a Hybrid Work Model? Benefits vs. Challenges
March 2, 2022

By 2022, you’ve probably worked from home at some point. If not prior to the pandemic, perhaps as part of the one-third of the US workforce that went remote due to COVID-19 in 2020. As video conferencing, chat communications, productivity apps, and calendar time blocking became standard in this new age of work – managers and teams across the world began to realize the feasibility of a remote workspace. The global workforce is continuing to adapt to the new state of affairs, and it’s increasingly obvious that remote work isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that in-office work is now rendered irrelevant. Employees want hybrid work.

Though COVID-19 can be credited in great part for accelerating remote work out of sheer necessity – today a staggering 94% of professionals, managers, and executives are all-for flexible working arrangements to stay. But how do you navigate getting the best of both worlds for workers and organizations? Read on to learn more about hybrid work, and whether a balance of both remote and in-office work could work for you and your team.

What is hybrid work?

So what exactly is hybrid work? Hybrid work is a combination work model where employees work both remotely from home (or another location) and on-site, in some flexible ratio. This includes individuals working remote sometime, and in-office other times, or some departments working entirely remote while others remain fully on-site. A majority 74% of US companies are either already using, or plan to implement, a permanent hybrid model for their workspace, and you might be considering the same flexible policy for your team. 

And why do employees (and organizations) want hybrid work? Remote work eliminates the dreaded commute, accommodates flexible and more productive working hours, opens up a global candidate pool, and fosters more independence in your team. But alternatively, in-office work offers great value in team building, collaboration opportunities, organic communication, more involved on-boarding for new hires, and reduces tech fatigue – which can be challenging in a fully remote setting. In addition to many interpersonal benefits, in-office work is sometimes also the only option for certain roles which require office attendance for things like training, equipment or lab use, project work, or confidentiality demands.

Types of hybrid work models

You might be wondering what the  different types of hybrid models are. There are actually four different models raging in popularity that support the unique on-site demands and remote flexibility across almost every scenario.

Here are the four most popular types of hybrid work models:

Set Schedule

Some organizations simply cannot function with a fully remote staff. For roles that depend on in-person attendance for things like event management, production supervision, or specialized equipment use – a set hybrid schedule offers the benefits of remote work without compromising progress of on-site projects and goals.

In this hybrid model, employees work a set amount of days on site, and a set amount of days remotely. Depending on the team members workload ratio of remote-capable tasks vs. in-office responsibilities, this model offers a ton of flexibility for everyone involved since you can customize your combination schedule, set by either management or the employees themselves based on their personal preferences. 

Mostly Remote

The mostly remote hybrid model is exactly as it sounds – employees spend most of their time working remotely with the option to come work in the office, either at their desk or using a shared space. This hybrid work model is great for teams that have the resources to function in an almost entirely remote capacity, but the company also benefits from maintaining a physical and central location (or multiple locations!) for their employees to utilize. 

Companies with existing office space benefit from this kind of setup since their offices are already established, but employees are able to work remotely just as productively, if not more, than an in-office environment. Tech enterprise corporations like Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram, for example, are pioneering this hybrid model — allowing most of their workforce the option of working entirely from home, while still keeping global corporate offices open and available when needed.  

Ad Hoc

Somewhere between the set schedule and mostly remote model is the ad hoc, or ‘as needed’, hybrid work policy. This model grants teams the same option of working remotely the majority of the time, but with the prerequisite of coming into the office as needed by the company

This is a practical option for teams that are capable of functioning mostly remote, but might have certain exclusions where their team is absolutely needed on-site for things like conferences, team events, client meetings, or training programs. The ad hoc model allows for a kind of hybrid employee — fostering independence in the remote era, while also prioritizing a central and available team.

Split Team

Another popular hybrid work setup many organizations have adopted is a split team model where certain members of the team are fully remote, and others are either exclusively in-office or following another hybrid model. 

The split team model makes a lot of sense for companies where different departments operate autonomously and are managed separately. For example, a marketing team could easily be productive entirely dispersed and remote, while a manufacturing team needs to be on-site for production. This kind of work model could apply to service businesses, public organizations, and product manufacturers. 

This list is certainly not exhaustive – hybrid work models are constantly evolving as companies try to determine which type of hybrid office model works best for their business and team. There are endless possibilities and flexibility when considering a balance of remote and in-office work in today’s world. As corporations redefine what the future of work looks like, we all play a role in having the freedom to try something that may not have necessarily been done before. 

What are the benefits of a hybrid work model?

As the demand for remote jobs rises, companies want to know – what are the actual benefits of offering a flexible hybrid work model for their teams? There’s certainly no doubt employees would be happier with one. A whopping 83% of workers reported that they prefer a hybrid model where they can work remotely at least 25% of the time, and 47% of employees stated that they would leave their job for another company that offered a hybrid work model. 

Fortunately, with the rapid increase of remote work in recent years, there is a lot of research outlining the pros and cons of a hybrid work setup. If you're still on the fence about offering both in-person and remote work options to your own team, then take a look at these stats to see the benefits of adopting a hybrid work model at your organization!

Here are the top benefits of a hybrid work model:

  • Increased productivity: 77% of employees that worked remotely, even just a few days a month, showed increased productivity getting more done in less time! They also experienced 56% greater creativity and innovative thinking when working remotely. 
  • Better collaboration: 83% of companies reported that collaboration on new projects was equally as good, and even better, than when teams were previously working together in-office.
  • Improved employee wellness: By reducing in-office stressors like long commutes, interruptions from colleagues, and workplace politics, employees who get to work remotely, even partially, report improved mental health and wellness.
  • Less turnover: On average, teams experience 12% lower turnover rates when they facilitate a hybrid workspace.
  • More positive workplace culture: Setting better boundaries with your team can foster a more positive company culture, and reduce negative workplace politics and gossip. 
  • Reduced costs: On average, companies save $11,000 per hybrid worker every year thanks to reduced real estate costs, higher productivity levels, reduced days off, and lower turnover rates.
  • Less environmental impact: With fewer commuters, condensed corporate hubs, and printer sales steadily dropping as the remote workspace grows, the environmental pros speak for themselves!
  • Company growth: 63% of high-revenue growth companies practice hybrid work models, while 69% of negative or no-growth companies reject the concept of hybrid workplaces and would prefer completely on-site or completely remote teams – suggesting great value in the hybrid work model when effectively implemented.

With so many astounding numbers to back up the benefits of applying a hybrid office model, it’s clear why more and more companies are embracing work-from-home flexibility in their future workspace. Hybrid work models are a great way to start offering (and reaping) the benefits of remote work without completely sacrificing the advantages of on-site work. 

What are the challenges with hybrid work?

While it’s easy to see the value in benefits, it’s even more important to understand and anticipate the challenges – effective implementation is crucial in making a hybrid work model a success. Many teams found themselves cornered into remote work due to the pandemic and had to improvise their way to a successful system. Teams choosing to adopt a hybrid model today are at a huge advantage as they have both time to plan and examples from other companies to use in building out their own game plan. And with any new work model, there are going to be challenges that both teams and managers face. 

Here are the 5 common problems to consider with hybrid work models:

1. Collaborative software

While video conferencing apps, productivity tools, project management platforms, and asynchronous communication tools have allowed teams to shift very quickly from in-office to at-home work, it also poses its own set of difficulties. Streamlining apps for communications can be quite the ordeal to companies when everyone requires a whole new toolset to collaborate with the rest of the team effectively.

Beyond simply acquiring the necessary apps, any new tool will have a slight learning curve that you’ll want to lessen for your employees. Instead of just purchasing, distributing, and hoping for the best, take the time to set up a remote training session so that everyone can get up to speed! Most remote-friendly apps offer free group training sessions, or at a reasonable cost, so you can get the most value out of these tools. Another helpful tip is actually building these app setup instructions into your employee onboarding materials so they can get up to speed on the company app stack within their first couple of weeks. 

2. Leadership

In order to ensure that the transition to a hybrid work model is smooth and efficient, it’s up to leadership to effectively manage communications, delegation, and collaboration on both the remote and in-office fronts, to get ahead of any confusion and frustration that can arise with change.

Leadership often looks different for managers in the remote workspace and requires adaptations. It introduces a new level of trust and transparency as workers are now taking on the unfamiliar responsibility of managing themselves when working from home. The instinctual response of a manager might be to start microtasking to ensure the same level of results, but this can actually have a negative impact on remote productivity according to Ajay Serohi, Staff Product Manager at Tesla. 

While some organizations choose to go the way of invasive tracking software to micromanage and analyze every move of their employees, we recommend a different approach. Setting clear expectations, communicating updates, and offering educational resources for both managers and their direct reports alike can empower the entire team and help build employees up for success.

3. Policy

Developing a new hybrid work policy for your organization requires thorough research and planning to develop the structure it needs to succeed. With boundaries between professional and personal life becoming increasingly blurred in the remote worksphere, company policy serves as a guideline for your team's productivity, wellness, and ultimate success. Each organization should take the proper time to develop a policy that works right for their company goals and employees.

Here are some questions you should consider when developing your hybrid work policy:

  • Which hybrid model best supports employee productivity?
  • Should we offer the same, or different hybrid models for team members/departments?
  • What mutual availability hours should be set for remote and in-office teams?
  • What scenarios require remote employees to be on-site?
  • What is the chain of command across remote and in-office staff?
  • What communication channels work best for our team’s needs?
  • How much training should we invest in for new, and existing, employees?
  • Can we improve our onboarding process to be inclusive of our hybrid company goals?
  • Does our policy for sick leave look any different in a hybrid work model?

4. Culture

Today, 1 in 4 Americans are working partly from home, compared to the 0.6% of U.S. employees that worked remotely at least half the time back in 2005. When introducing a hybrid model, there are inevitable shifts in company culture as either some, or all, of your team works off site. 

How important is establishing a positive hybrid culture? 51% of employees reported that they felt less connected to their company culture when working remotely in the pandemic. Hybrid work models without a supportive company culture can result in fewer relationships between coworkers and leadership, a reduced sense of shared company mission, and even potential resentment between remote and in-office employees. There are also negative impacts of isolation to consider for individuals working from home. What should you consider when establishing your company culture? Workers reported missing small talk with coworkers (57%), collaborating in person (53%) and clearer separation between work and home life (50%), so explore how you can adapt to these lost perks for employees who work partially from home. 

5. Office space

Another challenge in the hybrid model is maintaining a full time physical location while simultaneously investing in your team's remote workspace. While benefits of remote work usually save companies money due to downsizing office space, higher employee productivity, and reduced turnover rates – a hybrid work model also incurs costs compared to a fully remote work model. 

For example, downsizing might not be an option if enough of your employees choose to spend a significant portion of their work week in-office. You might end up in a situation where you signed a long-term lease for office space which doesn’t end up getting used, or alternatively, find yourself downsizing too drastically and unable to accommodate everyone who wants to work on-site.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when considering your office space needs:

  • Which employees need to work on-site?
  • Which employees want the option to work on-site, and remotely?
  • How many days a week do employees prefer to work at home?
  • What equipment does the team need to work remotely? 
  • Which employees require a dedicated desk or office vs. a shared desk?
  • Can you optimize your in-office schedule to maximize each desk space?
  • How long is left on your current lease, and should you downsize to a smaller office vs. renewing?
  • Can a flexible/coworking space work for your team?

Taking time to plan ahead and put a workplace strategy in place that reflects your team’s unique needs will help you minimize resource loss in your hybrid work setup – even if it falls outside of an existing cookie-cutter model. 

Tips for companies

So now that we know what we’re up against, let’s walk through some tips for building and implementing an effective hybrid work model at your organization.

  • Talk to your team to discover what work model they prefer, and how it might look for individual roles and teams. 
  • Decide what type of hybrid work model works best for your team’s unique needs and set up clear expectations around availability and scheduling for all employees who are eligible for remote work (job permitting).
  • Prioritize effective leadership that fosters transparency, connection, motivation, and collaboration for both remote and in-office work. Consistently check biases and audit management techniques through self and team review.
  • Create clear channels of communication between team members and management positions. Building trust and relationships can be more difficult in a hybrid work model, and all the more important when working remotely.
  • Value team building and onboarding to ensure both remote and on-site staff are aligned with company culture and overarching goals, and that team members have the opportunity to build interpersonal relationships with each other and management.
  • Budget for resources like the communication apps, task management platforms, and productivity tools to keep track of ongoing projects and deliverables across the team, and ensure that everyone has the proper training. 
  • Plan for fewer, more productive meetings so that goals are clear and efforts are directed across all levels of the organization (remote and not). 
  • Make time for regular check-ins with employees and encourage organic conversations. Remote teams that saw the greatest productivity increase during the pandemic encouraged “small moments of engagement” among employees.
  • Consider your office space. Minimize risks by getting very clear on your team’s specific needs from a hybrid workspace. Investigate options that are flexible and sustainable, so you don’t overcommit as you learn more about what works for you. 

These tips will get you started in the right direction as you come up with a plan to effectively introduce a hybrid model in your own organization, but take the time to investigate any other obstacles you could run into that are unique to your company culture and business needs.

Is hybrid work right for you and your team?

As the remote workspace continues to grow with a predicted 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels by 2025, adopting a hybrid work model can help companies today prepare for the future of work tomorrow. Hybrid work models help organizations recruit top talent, accelerate company growth, boost employee productivity, improve individual wellness, and save major dollars across the entire workforce.

Just make sure to dedicate the time and effort needed at the planning stage so you can optimize your costs, build a strong hybrid work culture, and provide clear leadership to help the entire organization adopt the new model. Hybrid work models are as unique as the teams that make them their own. By weighing different kinds of hybrid workplaces, analyzing their benefits, as well predicting common challenges – teams can learn to thrive by effectively using these models and planning for their success accordingly.

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