After an entire year of dealing with remote work, plenty of employees are attempting to get people back into the office environment. Of course, to continue taking advantage of remote working, companies are implementing another system that combines the traditional and remote working structure, the hybrid model. Business leaders see the hybrid work model as an excellent option to offer employees a safe and flexible way to transition into post-COVID work life. It’s a structure that allows employees to continue collaboration and develop relationships with their team members while retaining a flexible schedule.
According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business School, 1,500 participants who worked from home throughout the pandemic were questioned about whether they prefer to go back to work at the office. 81% of these participants stated that they would not like to go back to traditional office space and instead prefer a hybrid schedule of working from home for two to three days a week in the future. At the moment, employees and employers are unable to see eye-to-eye when it comes to working on-site or off-site. However, a PwC survey found that executives and office workers have made it clear that the office space is still going to be around, just changed for the better.
Like any other massive change, transition over to a hybrid work model requires careful planning and communication to ensure the process is done smoothly. The setup needs to be easily adjustable for everyone involved. If you are considering the possibility of rolling out a hybrid work model, here are several things you should consider for a successful transition.
Draft a clear plan
Planning is always an essential step necessary for ensuring that you don’t fail in your future endeavors. Before you can even start transitioning your team over to a hybrid work mode, you need to take some time to draft a plan on how you are going to accomplish your transition to this model and what needs to occur for this to be successful.
However, the plan you come up with will entirely depend on how your company is currently running its operations. For instance, if your company was always remote and never had a physical space, your transition plan will look far different compared to a company that changes its operations to a remote one during the middle of the pandemic. Particularly since they already have an established office space that can quickly welcome back its employees in a hybrid model. That said, there are several aspects to consider in your transition plan that should happen. First, you need to start by determining who is going to be working off-site and on-site.
The decision will vary depending on the team. A one-size-fits-all policy doesn’t exist when it comes to the hybrid work model. Organizations need to come up with general policies or guidelines. But they can then grant departments or teams to choose which jobs can be done off-site or when or how often the team needs to get together.
However, even if the teams or departments are given the flexibility to decide when and how often team members should work off-site and on-site, it’s crucial to plan out in place how you are going to track who is coming into the office. It’s also important to consider how they are going to be accommodated for coming into the office that day.
Initiating a schedule or timeline for which days and hours employees will be in the office to avoid congestion, designated working areas for teams or individuals, and establishing sanitary protocols for cleaning the office and workspace before new people come in is essential for this to succeed.
Another critical aspect that needs to be addressed in this transition plan is how the transition will happen. Is the idea to start opening the doors and welcoming everyone back into the office space at the same time, or are you going to slowly welcome them back in? Is there any additional training that your team should undergo to get ready for this transition? Are there any changes that need to be made to the office space to ensure the hybrid work model succeeds?
Generally speaking, it’s impossible for you to immediately switch over to a hybrid model and expect it to work with little to no hassle. If you want this transition to a hybrid work model to be achievable, you need to start drafting a plan.
Safe office environment
After a whole year of dealing with stress and trauma, employees need an office environment where they feel safe physically and psychologically. Start by checking if everyone has been vaccinated before coming back into the office. Then, come up with a safety plan for the reopening of your office. Rearrange the office furniture in a way that allows for social distancing, update cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and make it mandatory for everyone to wear a mask while working indoors.
To build trust and solidarity, get your employees to get involved with the reopening process. Let them have enough time to prepare themselves and change their schedules for the grand reopening of your office space. However, if you have given up your office space and are searching for co-working spaces, do a deep dive into their COVID-19 protocols. It’s essential to know how many other people are going to be using that same area and what precautions are being taken.
When you are transitioning over to a hybrid work model, some of your employees are going to be working at the office while others will still be working at home. That is why if you want this transition period to succeed within your organization, you need to ensure that collaboration among your employees is easy, regardless of where they are working from. The physical office space needs to be equipped with the appropriate technology that will allow the team to work together, so furnishing the office space with the best tool to do so should become a number one priority.
Equipping your office space with suitable technology and tools is critical. However, if you want your hybrid team to do their best, it’s just as necessary to ensure your remote workers are set up for future collaboration. To pull that off, you need to make sure they have the tools, technology, and support they need to get their work done.
For instance, do your off-site employees have a comfortable yet productive workspace at home? If not, then you should consider providing a stipend to invest in a better work-from-home setup. For example, they purchase a better desk and chair or room dividers that can keep the workspace and personal space separate. Maybe you noticed some of your remote employees are having internet problems and drop out in the middle of a call? If that’s the case, help them by investing in upgrading their internet coverage.
The transition into a hybrid model won’t be successful if your team is having issues with their equipment, especially since they need to collaborate regardless of their working location. To make sure you are optimizing collaboration for both your off-site and on-site employees.
Effective teams can only happen if their relationships are robust. However, having a team with a strong relationship can be challenging when some of them are working at the office while the other is working remotely. The distance between the two groups makes relationships a challenging process to form. That is especially true when it comes to new remote team members who have never met any of their colleagues in person.
In a remote or hybrid environment, new employees are still going to be hired. However, that means your current employees have not met them in person yet. This is why, if you want to ensure that your hybrid team can perform at its best level, you need to come up with opportunities for your team to connect both in-person and remotely.
Set aside some time to host weekly team-building sessions that promote a connection between the remote employees and the in-person employees. For instance, consider hosting a game night in your office conference room, set up some screens so the remote employees can participate through a video conference. Afterward, pair up each in-person attendee with a remote employee for the chosen game. Or, if you are aware of some employees who are going to spend some time working together soon enough, but their schedules are not aligned to work in the office on the same day, consider scheduling a one-on-one video meeting so they can get to know each other.
In short, you want to make sure that your employees are developing trust, familiarity, and robust relationships to ensure the collaboration process goes smoothly and the work they produce is top-notch. If you are going to start managing a hybrid team, you need to start setting up opportunities to gather your employees together. That way, you can help them develop a powerful bond that will carry them through their work.
The transition to a hybrid model is something that is occurring for many organizations at the moment. With the vaccine rolling out and people getting their shots, the idea of working at the office space again is finally becoming a reality once again. The hybrid work model is going to be your best bet when it comes to getting your employees to come back to an office setting. To ensure that this transition period is as smooth as possible, consider what we have written here and started implementing what you need to create the best possible hybrid workforce around.