As COVID-19 continues to impact countries all over the world in varying degrees, the sudden shift to hybrid workplaces has left businesses scrambling to determine their perfect plan.
So what is a hybrid workplace? It’s a new-age workplace model that combines in-office and remote work, giving employees flexibility in where they work.
Although it may not seem to be a complex concept, organizations who make the transition with no hybrid workplace strategy in place struggle. They remain unable to create a productive workplace with a strong company culture that attracts and retains employees.
After all, there are many factors to consider. What's the right mix of remote and in-person work, and how do you hold your employees accountable to this agreement? How do you meet with people who work both in-person and remotely without showing preferential treatment? Or invest capital to support your employees? Moreover, how do you stop your teams from becoming siloed or burnt out?
While developing a hybrid workplace strategy clearly requires a lot of thought, this workplace model is not going anywhere. Research shows that 70% of remote workers prefer working from home, and 45% of them state they are even more productive than when they are in the office. Currently, 63% of high-growth companies, like Google, Salesforce, and Microsoft, use hybrid work models.
Put simply, a hybrid work model and its benefits are necessary for many organizations today. However, business and HR leaders must thoughtfully plan the transition in order to create a strong work culture, enhance productivity, and drive profitability. In fact, it’s often a process that requires an expert-led step-by-step strategy.
Hybrid workplace benefits
Before we cover the challenges of a hybrid workplace and why it requires a strategy, let’s examine the benefits. What exactly do your organization and employees stand to gain from this type of workplace?
According to Microsoft’s research, 82% of business leaders confirm that their organizations are just as productive as they were with an in-person work environment before the pandemic, if not more so.
This is happening for a myriad of reasons. Employees no longer have to begrudgingly commute through traffic everyday. From home, they can use their time better by working when they’re feeling most productive, without any of the noise or disruptions that comes with an office environment.
Hybrid workplaces also offer the best of both worlds between a remote and an in-person work environment.
It gives your employees all the benefits of remote working, like schedule flexibility and more time to themselves. They can use this time to practice self-care, cook, exercise, spend time with loved ones, and more.
On the other hand, for those who live alone or crave in-person connections at work, a hybrid workplace relieves any isolating side effects of fully remote work. Professionals who get distracted from home also gain a space they can go to if they desire to keep their work and personal lives separate.
Meanwhile, your organization stands to reduce costs on rent, office supplies, and other business expenses as you create your organization’s ideal hybrid office. Even your employees can save on gas (and reduce their environmental footprint) as they limit their commute.
You can determine the perfect, versatile space by calculating your office’s occupancy levels now that your employees are shifting between in-person and remote work.
Hybrid workplace challenges
However, organizations need to mitigate hybrid work model challenges, which, if left unchecked, can result in low productivity, unhappy employees (and poor employee retention), and inconsistent work processes. Some of these challenges include:
Given the prominence of overwork culture, remote and hybrid workplace models can exacerbate employee burnout. Remote workers may be working longer hours or managing their time poorly. This results in employees that are working outside traditional working hours and exhausting themselves throughout their workweek.
This challenge may even be the number one threat to your organization’s profitability. How? Burnt out employees are over 60% more likely to take a sick day. They have low confidence in their performance and are unlikely to strategize goals with their managers. Overall, their lowered productivity and increased turnover directly impacts your organization’s bottom line.
To avoid these costly consequences, check in with your employees and assess their work processes. You can rely on productivity solutions that explain your organization’s work analytics to better support your employees across their digital tools. With this added visibility, you can even ensure that they have manageable workloads.
Enhancing organizational culture
In a hybrid workplace, connectivity is essential, and it takes effort to maintain if your workforce isn’t sharing a physical space all the time. As many as 88% of employees view a strong company culture as the key to business success. That’s because better employee engagement creates higher productivity and business profitability.
On the other side of the coin, work culture is heavily linked to employee retention. Why? Poor work culture disengages employees and makes them 24% more likely to quit their jobs.
To ensure that your organizational culture isn’t taking a backseat as you implement a hybrid workplace strategy, bring a little fun to the office. Train your managers to reward employees and hold career-advancing masterclasses. Throw weekly social events in the office on certain days (or via zoom to include any fully remote workers). The possibilities are endless!
What is the optimal hybrid workplace strategy?
According to a new PwC report, there’s a misalignment between executive and employee remote work preferences.
This report shows that 68% of executives think their employees should be working in person three days a week to maintain organizational culture. Even Google follows this particular hybrid work model, requiring that 60% of their employees work in the office three days a week.
Meanwhile, 55% of employees prefer to only work in the office for two days a week, which makes sense from a logical standpoint. Executives want to have visibility into their employees’ work. Employees want the freedom to work when and where they please. The key to determining the right balance is flexibility.
This means it’s your job to create a hybrid workplace that satisfies all your employees. So how do you begin to inform your organization’s personalized hybrid workplace strategy?
Consider the roles of your employees. Some position-related questions you can use to guide your hybrid workplace strategy are:
- How much collaboration does an employee’s role require?
- Does an employee need to be readily available to exchange information?
- Are your employees innovating on the job or do they perform transactional, regular tasks?
- Are any of your employees new, recently promoted or struggling with low performance?
The above questions can show you if your employees could benefit from the support that an in-person office brings. As for more personal questions, consider the following:
- How do your employees feel about working from home versus in an office?
- Are any of your employees feeling disconnected or overwhelmed?
- Are your employees clear about their role and responsibilities?
You may also want to consider if some teams need to be in the office on the same days or if certain meetings are best held in person. Or maybe you’d like to choose specific days where all employees can work from home, such as if you decide to make Friday remote to give your employees more flexibility towards their weekend.
Maintaining equity and a strong work culture with your hybrid workplace strategy
A hybrid workplace must be able to support work from anywhere on the planet. This results in the implementation of many applications like Google Workspace, Adobe Workfront, LastPass, Slack, and more to enable collaborative work. Of course, this is a common trend across all organizations and industries.
However, in a hybrid environment, you need to make sure your employees have adequate resources to complete the job, like laptops, phones, and other digital tools. This creates a level playing field for all the employees of your organization.
Speaking of a level playing field, this should also apply to the employee experience. If you have a hybrid work environment, you may have a global workforce where some employees are close to the office while others are not.
Avoid creating a perceived “in” group where the employees who can get to the office receive preferential treatment, as your remote workers feel left out and removed from opportunities. To remain inclusive, make sure that team-building activities and social events are accessible for all of them to attend regardless of their location.
All in all, when trying to create an equitable and inclusive workplace, remind yourself how your employees experience work differently. Then form a hybrid workplace strategy that considers all of them to improve their work experience and processes, so they can feel more fulfilled in their role.
Receive expert-led guidance on achieving the optimal hybrid workplace strategy
Now more than ever, organizations need to efficiently and thoughtfully pave the path forward to their optimal hybrid workplace. However, executives and HR don’t often have the time to design a new hybrid workplace strategy or the data to lead it.
That’s why business leaders worldwide outsource this strategy to experts who have the required tools and skillset. For instance, WNDYR’s digital transformation specialists optimize remote work and tool automation to help organizations create effective hybrid work environments.
WNDYR utilizes Pattyrn’s people analytics platform, which offers analytics across the organization’s most used tools -- like email, calendar, video conferencing, and workflow management application -- to tune into exactly what your particular workforce needs to succeed.
Curious to learn more about the hybrid workplace strategies, future trajectories, and how they impact employee engagement? Click here to check out our recent blog from our co-founder and CPO, Tracey Foulkes.