Since the advent of the internet, the modern workplace has evolved to become completely different from what it was in years past. As organizations have become increasingly global both in their market reach and their workforce, the rise of distributed teams has been continuous. Many teams no longer work from the same physical space or office. Many have members working from entirely different continents.
As a response to the pandemic, businesses worldwide have recognized the need for, and the ability to, support employees working remotely – from home. Many companies have announced policies allowing employees to permanently work remotely. This reality has given rise to a new way of working: hybrid work models. While the long-term situation might still be unclear, most people believe that the “Hybrid Work Model” is here to stay!
What is Hybrid Work?
The Hybrid Work Model takes into reality the desire and ability of employees to work remotely, usually from home, and the business/ team need for them to occasionally – but on some regular cadence – come to the workplace for face-to-face interactions. It is a working arrangement that allows teams to collaborate with each other both remotely and in person. The aim of hybrid work is to provide teams – as well as the organization they work for – with the benefits of both onsite and remote working models.
As a working arrangement, hybrid workplaces grew in popularity rapidly over the recent years, especially in 2021. While this was originally due to the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the traditional ways of working, many organizations and teams have opted to continue with their hybrid work models even as we enter the post-pandemic stage (as at the time of writing this article, it is clear that the pandemic is not over yet) because of their perceived benefits.
This has re-opened the debate about which is the best way to work, what model works best for an organization, and what works best for employees. We expect this will be an ongoing topic of discussion for some time to come.
As of today, according to Gallup, hybrid work arrangements are preferred by employees over fully remote or on-site work setups. In fact, up to 94% of professionals want their working arrangements to be hybrid. This is due to a number of perceived benefits that come from such an arrangement. Some examples of how a hybrid work setup can be more beneficial can be:
Traveling to the office becomes more deliberate
For many people, having to travel to and from a physical office, every day is a burden. Even though the traditional 9-5 work setup has been in place for decades, many people have realized that this arrangement is unsustainable due to hidden costs.
For example, should an individual have to commute for about one hour to work at the office, they would have to dedicate 10 hours every week just for traveling to and from work.
There is also a greater monetary cost to onsite work compared to pre-pandemic times. According to the World Bank, the global economy isn’t growing fast enough to keep up with inflation. This has caused, among other things, commute prices to increase. Not to mention global gasoline prices are the highest they’ve ever been, so even those with the means to drive to work are burdened with increased costs. Due to these circumstances, it is now more expensive to travel to the office than ever before.
While employees might always have wanted the flexibility of working from home, now the business has also seen and realized the benefits of remote work. Hybrid work is beneficial to team members because it gives them back some of these costs and it also benefits the organization because it improves employee morale, likely makes them more productive (especially due to lack of traveling), and makes the time spent in the office much more valuable since employees also crave facetime. As team members have fewer chances to interact with each other face-to-face, they may be encouraged to maximize their opportunities to do so.
Balancing personal space and collaboration
Most team members want to have their own designated workspaces. A personal workspace gives team members an emotional connection to their work. Many modern offices practice desk sharing and have open environments. While these do come with their own benefits, such as increased collaboration, they come with their own problems as well. The main challenge is that it sacrifices individual privacy and having your own physical space to work in.
While personal space is important, teams also do not want to work as if they are isolated from one another. One of the biggest challenges that remote teams face is feeling disconnected from each other and the work they do. When individuals feel disconnected from their fellow team members, their morale suffers and the quality of their work along with it.
Hybrid work models give individuals the option to have their own personalized workspaces at home, while giving them open offices or other sharable spaces when they need to collaborate with the rest of the team. Of course, in many situations, where space at home may not be sufficient – especially when multiple people may be working from home and on calls – this may not apply, and some people may simply “go to the office” to work.
Organizations need to be mindful about their employees’ needs and model their policies and office spaces accordingly.
Rethinking the modern office
For decades, organizations have employed the traditional 9-to-5, on-site work arrangement because it was what they knew best. However, there were already doubts about the effectiveness of this setup, even before the pandemic.
The pandemic has forced organizations to rethink long-standing workplace structures and practices. Teams had to learn to meet and collaborate virtually and shift to remote setups to adapt to the new global work landscape.
The shift to remote work exposed inefficiencies in the traditional workplace arrangement. People realized that while they enjoy collaborating with their colleagues face-to-face, they like certain aspects of remote work more–namely not needing to travel to the office frequently as well as working in a completely personal environment.
However, remote work proved to have its own set of challenges. According to Forbes, employees frequently found themselves distracted, disconnected and challenged to establish a healthy work-life balance when working from home. Not to mention that some households were not made with remote working in mind, thus some home environments aren’t suited for working professionals.
Just as the pandemic and the many restrictions it brought with it changed the modern workplace, the gradual ease of these restrictions is causing another shift, but not entirely to the previous status quo. People have realized that while they do want to go back to the office, they don’t want to do it five days a week for eight hours a day.
Hybrid work can be used as an opportunity to restructure the modern office with these findings in mind. We now know that people want to work from their homes, but want to go to the office because they crave interaction. With fewer people going to the office, there won’t be a need for as many desks and chairs–allowing for their spaces to instead be used as common areas for interaction and team-building.
The benefits of hybrid work are real and companies have to consider hybrid work models as a possible arrangement. However, the question then becomes what kind of hybrid work model works best for your organization?
3 Types of Hybrid Work Models
The term “hybrid work” is a catch-all term that encompasses a wide variety of hybrid work models. While it is a blend of onsite and remote work, there are many ways an organization can implement a hybrid work model. Here are three of the most popular hybrid work models today:
As the name suggests, this indicates a policy decision where people are primarily meant to work remotely. In this model, teams are asked to work from home and are not required to come to the office. However, what sets this model apart from an “entirely remote” model is that there is an option to attend a physical office. This particular hybrid work model allows individual team members to visit the office when it is convenient for them, or when they feel it is necessary, such as for a meeting. It also enables management to decide how much % of their workforce could be in office at a time, and thus what kind of office-space capacity they need to have.
Among the different hybrid work models, remote-first is the most flexible – especially for the employees. A remote-first setup gives team members the choice to work wherever they feel they will be most productive.
In this hybrid work model, teams will be required to attend work at the office usually on certain days only. This ensures that all members of the organization experience both remote and onsite work.
The office-occasional hybrid work model can also be broken down further into two more categories:
With a split-week model, teams are required to attend work only on certain days of the week. Which days of the week these are are usually chosen by either the individual team members or the organization. While Mondays and Fridays are the most popular days for remote work, Wednesdays are actually the most productive.
This office-occasional model is a more flexible approach to scheduling onsite work. When using a manager-scheduling model, teams will still work primarily remotely except on days when management requires physical attendance in the office. This can be for a number of reasons, such as for important meetings or celebratory purposes. This schedule depends entirely on what management deems necessary.
3. Office-First, Remote Allowed
The office-first hybrid work model is the closest to the traditional office arrangement. Teams will be asked primarily to attend the office every day of the week. However, should a team member be unable to be present at the office on a certain day, they can opt to work from home.
This model can be likened to the traditional office setup except that it allows team members to work from home should it ever be more convenient for them.
Here is a survey result from Getapp on the Hybrid Work Model preference:
How are Some of Today’s Largest Enterprises Approaching Hybrid Work?
While most companies lack the resources that market leaders have, there is value in assessing their practices and seeing what can be adapted to smaller-scale operations. Here are how three of the best companies to work for, according to Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice Awards, are handling the shift to hybrid work:
The top graphics processing unit developer became the best company to work for in 2022. While this is for a number of reasons, Nvidia management’s commitment to catering to the needs of their employees likely played a large part in their company’s rise.
The CEO of Nvidia, Jensen Huang, stated that he himself supports the adoption of a hybrid workplace. In an interview with VentureBeat, Huang stated that he understands that different individuals have their own preferences, and supports his employees should they prefer to work either onsite, offsite, or in a combination of both.
The second best company to work for in 2022 gives their global teams the agency to choose which arrangement works best for them. Depending on what arrangement an employee chooses, they’ll be provided with everything they need, such as a computer for remote team members or dedicated desk spaces for those who opt to work mainly from the office.
Hybrid work, or flex, is also an option for HubSpot employees. In this arrangement, employees are only required to attend the office two or fewer days per week. The company also provides them with support for their work-from-home set-ups.
Capital One’s policy on hybrid work is an example of a split-week model. Teams start and end the week on virtual work days, while still allowing those who prefer to handle their tasks onsite to work at the office. Meanwhile, employees will also be required to attend the office from Tuesday to Thursday.
The company’s executives understand both the privacy and mental health benefits of remote work while acknowledging onsite work as the premier avenue for collaboration among team members. If necessary, they also allow employees to apply for fully-remote exceptions.
The Metaverse: The Future of Hybrid Work
As things stand now, hybrid and remote teams collaborate virtually through video-conferencing platforms and work management tools. While these may suffice for now, they cannot give teams the feeling of connectedness that face-to-face interactions can as only so much communication can be done through a screen.
Enter the Metaverse, a virtual space where people can interact with each other from anywhere in the world through the use of Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Brain-Computer Interface technologies. Within this digital environment, people can interact with each other through full-body avatars. The individuals would be the ones deciding what the avatars would look like, such as their physical appearance, clothing, and even their bodies.
Metaverse technology has the potential to change many aspects of how we live but we want to focus on how it could change the way we work.
Virtual meetings already exist today but in an inherently limited state as team members are confined to boxes on a screen. With VR and AR technology, teams can move around and interact with each other within the metaverse allowing for more and clearer communication and, potentially, more effective meetings. Organizations may even abandon physical offices altogether as they might find that metaverse offices may serve exactly their needs with fewer costs!
As established, onsite work has its problems, mainly due to the inconveniences of having to attend and physically be at work. However, remote work is not without its issues either as it may make teams feel disconnected from one another and their jobs. Collaborating within a metaverse may provide teams with the convenience of working remotely and the connectedness of working face-to-face.
It might be too early to tell exactly how the Metaverse can change the way we work, but their potential is worth noting. Working within a metaverse may not just be a new way of working, but potentially the best way to work.
Companies such as Meta and Microsoft are already building their own metaverses. If you want to read more about how they’re doing it in further detail, you may learn more from our article discussing them and the metaverse here.
How your organization can implement hybrid work?
Implementing hybrid work models into your organization may seem simple, but there are factors that you’ll have to consider if you want your implementation to be effective. When shifting your organization to a hybrid work model, here are a few practices you may want to consider:
Make the policies and guidelines clear
Once your organization has decided which hybrid work model your business will follow, you must make all the rules and guidelines clear to your team. Since there are a handful of different hybrid work models, it is important to clarify to your team exactly how your organization plans to implement hybrid work so that everyone has a shared understanding of what to expect.
If you’re shifting from a different work arrangement, such as a fully remote model, you may want to review your current policies and update them accordingly as they may no longer be fit for purpose.
Establish an inclusive Hybrid Culture
A company’s culture should not rely on a single, physical location such as an office to make it thrive. HubSpot defines a company’s culture as its set of shared values, beliefs, and practices. These are elements of a company that employees can experience regardless of whether they are sharing the same four walls or not.
According to a survey also conducted by HubSpot, 30% of employees would like to see their respective companies invest in engagement and team-building activities to help build their culture. These can include virtual talks, hybrid workshops, bonding activities, organizing corporate retreats with the help of business travel companies, and more.
organizing corporate retreats with the help of business travel companies, and more.
Leadership should be present
Some team members may find it challenging to engage with other members of the team when shifting from a purely remote setup to a hybrid arrangement. To help them feel more comfortable and engaged, leaders can take it upon themselves to interact with them.
Hybrid work models remove the spatial barrier between team leaders and their members, but there may still be social barriers. Leaders who actively interact with their team members while they’re within the same space can help eliminate these barriers.
Humanize Work for the Employee
Companies need to provide a trusting and “safe to fail” environment where employees feel free – and safe – to share what they are doing, both professionally and personally. Management needs to enable and encourage their people to push the barriers, and not hesitate to be themselves while being creative, hardworking and engaged.
The more employees – especially those working remotely – feel an alignment between their personal goals and objectives to organizational and business objectives – the greater will be their level of engagement and energy. Leadership, especially Human Resources, must push their organizations to understand what motivates their people and enable them in appropriate ways to engage, participate, collaborate and help their teams be effective and successful in the long run.
Use Collaboration and Work Management tools effectively
Hybrid work requires a proper work management tool to track the progress of everyone’s tasks, regardless of where they are working from. An effective work management tool enables teams to collaborate much more easily even if they are not physically present in the same space.
If you need a tool that can help your teams communicate effectively regardless of their physical location, Nimble Work Management has built-in features that make it easy for employees to collaborate and share, putting the “human” side of all employees first, and manage the flow of work in a unified manner. Nimble Work Management integrates seamlessly with a variety of collaboration tools. If you are interested, you may request a demo here.