‘How’ to hybrid: The most important decision companies will make in 2023

  • Dan Bladen
  • Author Dan Bladen, CEO & Co-Founder

Companies that get hybrid right are going to outperform their competitors. Companies that get hybrid wrong will not survive.

The past two years have forced companies in virtually every industry to make drastic adjustments to their workplace operations. But just because the data-backed case for hybrid work is open and shut, that doesn’t mean implementing it effectively is easy. Companies that get it right are going to outperform their competitors.

To many people, hybrid working as a concept is simple – employees split their time between remote and in-office work. However, there are variations in the execution, each involving different working models and degrees of flexibility. The most common is the 3-2 model where the week is divided into in-office days and remote days. Other arrangements include shift patterns, where employees work a shift in the office and then a shift remotely, or a remote-first arrangement with people coming into the office occasionally only when ‘team days’ happen.

Hybrid Phase 3: Uncoordinated hybrid

As the world returns to normal, we now find ourselves at the precipice of phase 3, a brand new chapter where work is fluid and dynamic.

The key to understanding how to operate in Hybrid 3: 

coordinated hybrid working

During the start of the pandemic, the vast majority of people left their own desk in the office and went to work from their kitchen tables. Three years later, when employees go back to the office, they found that their permanent desk has been exchanged for a hot-desk. A trade has been made; an employee’s dedicated desk has been traded for their ability to work flexibly. Increased flexibility for employees means that not everyone is going to be in the office every day – this means that desks are being left empty 40-60% of the time, presenting a huge opportunity to reduce real estate.

For every 100 employees, only 60 seats are needed, which will significantly reduce the need for costly real estate.” Jamie Dimon CEO @ JP Morgan

This means ‘hot-desking’ on a huge scale. The opportunity to make large real estate savings is so attractive that it is easy for companies to think hybrid is all about managing office real estate. Hybrid 3 takes all the tools, infrastructure, and learning from the past two decades and attempts to create a ‘best of both worlds’ scenario where both companies and employees get what they want. However, companies’ hybrid plans are overly focused on managing their real estate – the tools of the trade – not empowering the people of the trade.

The challenge: Uncoordinated Hybrid

The problem with Hybrid 3 is that it won’t work for anyone (employees or employers!) Companies needing to choose to operate in one of two ways:

  1. Forced hybrid
  2. Uncoordinated hybrid

Forced Hybrid: 2-3 mandated office days a week

Forced hybrid has the benefit of guaranteeing that employees will mingle in the workplace but does so at a high price – the loss of employee autonomy (TWATs). The 2-3 forced hybrid approach usually means that the company mandate employees to be in the office on specific days, meaning that companies don’t realize any real estate savings. Furthermore, mandating that employees are regularly in the office naturally shrinks the talent pool a company can hire from.

Read more: Why this hybrid approach won’t work

The largest issue for companies however is that employees just don’t like being told what to do. When an employee is joining a company, they’re not just signing up for a job role and a salary, they are signing up for that company’s way of life.

Uncoordinated hybrid

Employees have to be in the office occasionally but the whole hybrid experience becomes a haphazard, unmanageable and inefficient chaotic mess.

Hybrid working

Companies around the globe is struggling to find a cadence that works for everyone. What companies need is a third waya way that realizes the benefits of hybrid, without sacrificing employee autonomy, real estate savings, and company performance.

Employees need the ability to coordinate with the right people, in the right place, and at the right time. They need a way to determine when they should come together for a particular task. Business leaders need to think of the office as a tool that it offers to employees to help them do particular types of work. When viewed like this, the office becomes part of the work stack, just like video conferencing, productivity suites, or project management tools. All of these tools facilitate different types of interaction and work in a hybrid environment, the key is that each tool is fit for purpose.