You’ve probably heard this before: Now that life is slowly returning to “normal,” people aren’t scrambling to get back to the office. Quite the opposite, actually:
- A recent Gallup poll found that 53% of respondents plan to work from home more often than they did prior to the pandemic.
- Research from Microsoft reveals that 70% of workers want flexible work options to continue.
- A survey done by EY discovered that 54% of employees say they’d quit their job if they don’t get some sort of flexibility in where and when they work.
Enter the hybrid model. This fluid approach empowers employees to choose where they get their work done with the recognition that it could change regularly. They might want to work in the office on Monday, at home on Tuesday, a coffee shop on Wednesday—and then change it all around again the next week.
It gives workers the power to build their work around their lives, rather than the other way around. But, while the hybrid model brings good news in terms of morale, engagement, retention, and even productivity, there are also some bumps and hurdles that leaders need to navigate.
5 Tips To Make The Hybrid Model Work For Your Company
Now’s not the time to panic and mandate that everybody settles back into their cubicles. Instead, check out these tips from hybrid model pros so that you can give your employees the autonomy they need to do their best work.
1. Prioritize Flexibility
It’s tempting to think that providing the option to work from anywhere is inherently flexible. That’s true, to an extent. But, keep in mind that the hybrid model needs to give employees a choice about where they work on a regular basis—not just once.
Having employees raise their hands to decide who wants to work in the office full-time and who wants to work remotely full-time? That’s not the hybrid model. Locking them into a set schedule of when they can work from home? That’s also not the hybrid model.
As challenging and even counterintuitive as it might feel to not always have a plan for who’s working where, it’s the best way to give employees the independence and flexibility they crave.
“For us, implementing a ‘hybrid’ work culture means that we’re empowering our team members to decide where they’ll be the most productive,” explains Jenna Saponaro, Chief of Staff at Postali, a digital marketing agency. “We believe that this approach, paired with the right systems and support, will result in high-quality work, great employee morale, and improved customer satisfaction.”
Olive, an AI workforce for the healthcare industry, is one company that does this well. They launched an approach they coined “The Grid” in May of 2020. Rather than having employees indicate whether they’re “in an office” or “out of office,” they use the following system:
- On The Grid: An employee is actively working
- Off The Grid: An employee is not actively working
It takes the emphasis off of where people are and instead places it on the most important information team members need: whether or not they’re working and accessible.
2. Understand What Your Team Actually Needs
Rolling out the hybrid model will be a learning experience, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a guessing game. One of the best ways to ensure you’re hitting the right marks is to go straight to the source: your employees.
“Survey your team to understand what they really care about and why,” advises Erica Raphael, VP of People Operations at Muck Rack, a fully distributed company. “When we last surveyed our team, we found that 79.8% of employees either strongly agreed or agreed with the statement: ‘I am satisfied working from home.’”
Raphael notes that they also asked questions about employees’ home office setups, comfort levels with in-person events and team meetups, and their current commute times to New York City. “The results of this survey, along with the team’s anecdotal feedback, helped us come to the decision to close the office and officially make the team fully distributed,” she adds. Despite the closure of their office building, starting in the fall, Muck Rack will fund WeWork All Access co-working memberships for team members who want to get a change of scenery or work with team members in-person.
3. Provide Adequate Training For Leaders
Managing a team is no easy task, but doing so when some (or even all) team members are working remotely presents new challenges—and it often requires different tools and skills.
Unfortunately, one Harvard Business Review survey found that 40% of leaders have low confidence in their ability to manage workers remotely. Another 41% admitted that they doubt their ability to keep remote workers motivated and on task.
Rather than assuming leaders will figure things out as they go along, companies should provide the necessary training on how the hybrid model works at their organization and how managers can help their teams thrive in that flexible environment. This could include:
- Seminars and presentations that share tips and best practices
- Resources, templates, and software tools to support flexible work
- Collaboration sessions where managers can openly discuss successes and challenges
Need a real-world example? Sun Life, a financial services company based in Canada, recently announced that employees now get to choose when and where to work. When revealing their vision, they also shared some of the tactical things they’ll be doing to support that transition—including providing “training and support for people leaders to lead.”
4. Equip Employees With Resources
Leaders aren’t the only ones who need support with making the switch. Employees could use some help too—especially those who want to set up a more suitable workspace in their own homes.
“For those who want to work from their homes, we provide robust home office setups to help them create a space that makes them feel productive,” explains Raphael. They also offer phone and internet stipends, more time off, access to mental health resources, and more. “Consider the whole employee experience, not just one singular part,” Raphael adds. “We didn’t just say ‘office’ or ‘no office’—we thought about what else employees needed to be successful.”
Postali also helped employees make the most of their at-home workspaces during the pandemic (and beyond). “Most team members did not have an additional monitor at home, so we purchased one for everyone who asked for it,” Saponaro says. “These types of purchases have been very helpful in ensuring our team has everything they need to succeed whether they are in the office or remote.”
To put it simply, helping employees create functional workspaces shows that you not only allow them to choose where they want to work—you actually support them in doing so.
5. Have Patience
The switch to a hybrid model is usually a welcomed change among teams. However, it’s still a big shift and, like any other new routine or process, it won’t go seamlessly—especially not overnight.
“Keep in mind that we’re all still in a transition period, so being patient is key,” warns Saponaro.
Even if you have detailed and thoughtful plans for rolling out the hybrid model, you’re still likely to encounter plenty of challenges. Some common struggles include:
- Hosting productive (and non-frustrating) meetings when everyone is distributed
- Creating and maintaining meaningful relationships when there aren’t regular ways to get together
- Securing the right tools, systems, and technology to ensure people are able to work from anywhere
These are by no means insurmountable challenges, but definitely things you’ll want to think through and plan for as you map out your own switch to the hybrid model.
Finally, touch base with managers and employees throughout the transition to get inside opinions and feedback on how things are going—as well as what might need to be changed or refined.
The Best Work Happens Anywhere
Gone are the days when “working” meant being in the office. Today, employees can crank through their to-do lists from their couches, a coffee shop, a cabin in Vermont, or even their cubicles. The ideal work environment could (and often does) look different for everybody.
That’s why the hybrid model is so powerful. It gives employees a say in where they get their work accomplished—as well as where they feel their happiest, most focused, and most productive.
Ultimately, when your teams are set up for success (and hey, the tips above will help!), where they’re working doesn’t matter—it’s what they’re working on that gets the spotlight. Isn’t that the way it should be?
Good or bad, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Find us on Twitter (@trello)!