The hybrid work model is a byproduct of the pandemic. This pandemic has been shaping the landscape of work for over a year. Many jobs have become remote without notice. While the pandemic is not over, increasing vaccination rates mean that you and your team will be going back to work sooner rather than later. However, since the world is not the same anymore, you have to plan to get your team back to the worksite. Remote work seems to agree with most employees. In fact, according to a study by Pew Research Center, remote workers want to continue to work remotely. Most business leaders want their employees back to work in the office. So at present, the hybrid work model is the best option for you to experiment with.
Hybrid work entails working remotely, some days of the week, while working on-site at the office the rest of the week. This is a compromise between employers and employees. You have to give workers some flexibility to work remotely since you don’t want to lose them to other employers. Employees have to go back to the office because of business needs. Or they will risk losing their jobs.
Part-time work at the office is safer than full-time work at the office in terms of exposure to Coronavirus. Starting with part-time work in the office will help you and your employees to adjust to working with others after such a long time. Everyone will be reconnecting while practicing safe social distancing at the same time.
Training, collaborating, and strengthening company culture are easier to do at the office. The flexibility of allowing for some remote work increases job satisfaction for employees.
Different Hybrid Work Models
How you implement a hybrid work model is not a one size fits all solution. You can tailor the work structure to the unique needs of your organization. For example, you can allow employees to choose how many days they will work remotely versus on-site. They can even decide when to come in and go. This is the most flexible hybrid work model.
You can decide how many days employees will work remotely or on-site. Here, employees may or may not have a choice in the days/times they have to work on-site. This is a slightly more structured hybrid work model. Scheduling days/times helps everyone in knowing when to contact someone in-person or remotely. Set schedules are also helpful for collaborating, group training, and meetings.
Working one week at home and the following week at the office is another way of experimenting with the hybrid work model. Employees may or may not have flexibility in when they start and end their shifts. You will be able to reduce employee foot traffic in the office by half. This will help you with providing more social distancing for workers. One of the best things about this arrangement is that you can cut your office space needs by half and save money on office rent going forward.
Yet another model of hybrid work is having some departments work remotely full time, while other departments work on-site, full time, or as needed. For example, the accounting team can work remotely while the operations team works on site. You might have a business need for a hybrid work model, yet you might not have a business case for all departments or employees to engage in the hybrid work model.
Easing Into The Hybrid Work Model
So you know that you will be putting in a hybrid work model for your business or organization. How do you go about doing this? For one thing, you can plant the idea of hybrid work into your employees’ minds way ahead of time. Give your employees a few months’ notices that they will be coming back to work on a part-time basis. Make a strong business case for this work structure. Cover this topic over several remote meetings. Send formal, written communications about the timeline and guidance related to when the hybrid work schedule will kick in.
Informing employees ahead of time will help them to reorganize their lives. They will be able to take care of babysitting, home-schooling, caregiving, and commuting plans. Informing them ahead of time will also help you to build trust with them. They will feel like you are preparing them to transition to the hybrid work arrangement.
Employee input about hybrid work is essential in implementing a successful hybrid work model. The best hybrid work model might be individual, job, or department-specific. When employees feel like they have a say in their work schedules/arrangements, they are more likely to work with enthusiasm and cooperation.
It is a good idea to start the rollout with the most flexible hybrid work arrangements.
Let your employees know that their work arrangements will be reviewed/refined. You will take employee feedback. A surge in the virus or evolving business needs will also affect the hybrid work arrangement down the road. Of course, let your employees know that they will be notified of impending changes to their work schedules well ahead of time where possible.
Clear Guidelines And Options
Once you have floated the idea of hybrid work to employees, you have to develop a clear hybrid work plan for your business or organization. Educate your employees about every aspect of their upcoming work arrangements. Are all employees subject to the same hybrid work arrangement? Can they choose from a range of hybrid work models? If employees can choose from a few models of hybrid work, do they have to stick to the model they choose for a specified time? Will employees be asked to experiment with several work arrangements to get a feeling of what works best for them?
Adapting to remote work with the onset of the pandemic meant adjusting various aspects of work. Employers had to adjust their expectations about employee productivity. Employers also had to change how they evaluated employees and monitored them.
Starting a hybrid work system will mean that you will have to rethink how performance reviews are conducted. Are you evaluating employees based on the quality of their remote work or their in-person performance? Will the evaluation be weighted according to the amount of time spent doing remote versus on-site work? How will you handle issues of punctuality and employee discipline? The employee handbook will not just be up for an update, it will need a complete overhaul. So not only will you need to educate employees about their new hybrid work arrangements, but you will also have to brief them about the updated employee handbooks.
Employees will need to understand the content of the new handbooks. They will need to sign that they understand the new workplace rules and regulations. Updated rules about punctuality, absenteeism, attire, use of company tools and gadgets cannot go unaddressed. You do not want employees to confuse new and old workplace rules. Clear guidelines and options will help you transition your employees from remote work to a hybrid work model smoothly.
Tools And Technology
A hybrid work environment means that employees will need access to the same tools at both homes and work. Can employees use the same laptops or gadgets at home and the office? You may need a set-up of computers/systems for the worksite. These systems might be accessed by employees using them in rotation. You may have to provide additional hardware/tools/gadgets for employees to use from home. Ensuring accessibility of workplace applications for employees from both the home and the office will help employees to make the best use of their time. Having uniform access to relevant, work-related applications from both work and home allows for a seamless transition from remote to on-site work and vice versa.
Besides having access to tools and systems to complete their tasks, employees need access to collaboration tools to work on projects together. Video conferencing tools such as Zoom, document sharing tools such as Google Docs, and team-building applications such as Brightful are necessary for employees to be able to connect and work together in real-time.
The issue of cybersecurity is a growing concern for employers that allow their employees to work remotely. Hacking (or even sharing) of private, sensitive, or confidential information can result in losses, lawsuits, or bad publicity. You will have to invest in cybersecurity tools and digital infrastructure to implement an efficient hybrid work model for your organization.
Equal Benefits And Treatment
Perhaps the most significant aspect of implementing a hybrid work model is how you treat your on-site employees versus your remote employees. A boss will be more aware of the work performance of someone who works entirely or mostly from the office. A boss will usually not be aware of the contributions of someone who works mostly or entirely from home. Therefore, you might assume that the employees you see more often in-person work harder than those you hardly ever meet. You might extend more perks to them than those you rarely or never come across.
For example, you might treat employees who work long hours at the office to lunches or outings. Yet those who work even longer hours from home may not be rewarded for their hard work. You must ensure that employees that are in front of you do not get rewarded over those who work remotely. If you treat on-site employees to lunch, then send gift cards to those who were working remotely.
When it comes to promotions and mentoring, employees who work directly with their bosses are at an advantage over those who rarely see their bosses. This can increase resentment in employees who work often or entirely remotely. Therefore, when you implement a hybrid work model, try to account for these differences. For example, you could hold more one-on-one meetings with employees that frequently work from home. This can level the playing field when it comes to interacting or having enough face-time with the boss. Mentoring programs geared for those who usually work remotely will also demonstrate that you treat all employees equally. Disgruntled employees can bring lawsuits if they feel that they are not being treated fairly at the workplace.
Use a buddy system to pair those who work remotely with those who work from the office to increase rapport between them. Employees can use social gaming to bond with each other in fun and playful ways. When employees bond with each other, the workplace culture improves. A cohesive culture means that team members are more supportive of one another. There will be less feeling of isolation from those who frequently work remotely. In fact, bosses might hear more about their remote workers from their on-site employees. That is, mostly or fully remote employees will enjoy greater visibility from their bosses.
The hybrid work model combines some degree of remote work with in-office work. This working model helps to balance the needs of employers with the needs of their employees. Implementing a hybrid work model needs careful thought and planning. Customizing a hybrid work arrangement to the needs of your organization and getting employee input are essential factors in planning for a robust hybrid work model. Using collaborative tools and improving workplace culture help to breathe life into hybrid work models.