When the buzz first started around a hybrid working model in 2020, many who heard it may well have thought, hybrid? What’s that? I’m fine where I am. Because whether it’s eliminating the daily commute or the convenience of being home to take a delivery, remote working has many benefits for employees.
But while the pandemic has made the dream a reality for plenty of workers, it’s also shone a light on the downsides of homeworking, such as feeling cut off from colleagues, fighting the distractions of a busy home environment, or competing for wifi bandwidth with flatmates.
The answer? A hybrid working model that offers the best of both worlds – time at home and time in the office.
It’s a flexible working model that many organizations are adopting. But what exactly is it? What are the pros and cons? And what do you need to consider when implementing it?
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid working as a concept is simple – employees split their time between remote working and in-office working. But there are variations on the theme, each involving different working models and degrees of flexibility.
At the most flexible end of the scale, employees have complete freedom to choose when they come into the office.
More formal is the split-week arrangement where the week is divided into in-office days and remote working days for each employee. Different departments can be assigned different days to make sure the office doesn’t get too crowded. Staff get a structure to the working week, allowing them to maintain a regular work cadence, but can also enjoy the freedom of remote working.
Other arrangements include shift patterns, where employees work a shift in the office and then a shift remotely, or weekly blocks of in-office working, with the rest of the time remote.
Pros and cons of a hybrid working model
Hybrid working is often described as the best of both worlds. But while the list of benefits is long, there are also downsides. Let’s run through the pros and cons.
The pros of hybrid working:
Boost employee productivity
With the option of working remotely or in the office, employees can choose whichever environment enables them to do their best work.
Those who need peace and quiet to concentrate might choose to stay at home to write a report or crunch numbers. Or, if they’ve got three kids and a dog in the house, or they’re house sharing with five recent graduates, they might opt to book a quiet corner in the office to get their work done. The key is that employees have the flexibility to choose.
Increase employee job satisfaction and wellbeing
It’s well documented that a comfortable work/life balance is important for mental health and wellbeing. Flexible working is a great way to provide a balance for your employees. They can be available to pick the kids up, save money on unhealthy takeaway lunches, or get up that bit later in the morning. It all adds up to greater wellbeing.
And the in-office time means people don’t miss out on the social aspect of work. Water cooler chats, post-work drinks and coffee breaks can all still play a part in the working week.
Get access to a bigger pool of talent
From a recruitment point of view, you’ve got access to a larger pool of talent. A big commute is more palatable if it’s only required once or twice per week – so you can cast your recruitment net much wider.
Lower your overheads
Fewer hours spent in the office can mean fewer desks are needed. You can manage your reduced office space with a hot desking or desk hoteling system.
Using desk scheduling software such as Kadence means employees can book desk space in advance, so they can choose where and with whom to sit. Teams that have a regular cadence can block book desks over weeks or months at a regular time. Office managers will have oversight of how the office space is used and can use real-time data to optimize real estate planning.
With employees only commuting once or twice per week, there’s also less reason to have office space in an expensive inner-city location.
Manage social distancing with ease
With fewer people in the workplace at any given time, it’s easier to ensure social distancing. Desk booking software helps here too. You can control which desks are available for use, plan cleaning rota around actual usage and make sure spaces don’t get oversubscribed.
The cons of hybrid working:
The potential for inequality
Not everyone will have the luxury of a home office or a peaceful garden outbuilding to work in. Rather than living the dream, home-working from a shared house or a studio flat with no desk space can turn into a nightmare.
Employees lucky enough to have an ideal setup could enjoy an unfair advantage when it comes to performance and productivity. On the flip side, those able to get into the office more frequently, or with the best arguments to do so, may have a different advantage. See below…
In- and out-groups can form
Humans are social animals. Digital communication tools are great, but you can’t beat face-to-face interaction to form a bond with a colleague. If some of your team spend more time in the office than others, group dynamics could change. Those who are in most might end up being favored more, as the relationships they form with colleagues grow stronger.
And be aware that social subtleties can get lost when communicating digitally, so people working remotely may miss out on the finer points of discussions. It’s not hard to envisage the scenario of in-office workers communicating with body language or whispered asides to colleagues around a table while remote participants, who see only what’s on their screens, remain oblivious.
Making a hybrid working model work for your organization
According to research by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, 55% of workers in the US favor a hybrid working model. So there are doubters, but the way you structure it can help get your team on board. Here are seven tips:
1. Talk to your people – how do they want to work?
It’s been an unsettling time for everybody, and not knowing what the post-pandemic “new normal” will look like contributes to that anxiety. Consult with your employees to find out what working arrangements would work best for them.
How many days would they like to come into the office? Which days? What type of work are they best able to do remotely? If they’ve got concerns around a hybrid working model, find out what they are and address them.
Download our employee survey tool kit here to better understand how they prefer to work
2. Put your employees’ experience first
Don’t neglect your employees’ experience. To help them be productive and make the most of their time in the office, give them easy access to the people they need to work with and the amenities they require.
The ability to select a desk in advance using desk booking software, so they know they can sit with colleagues and friends, will be important. With people and teams able to reserve workspace together at a regular cadence, employees will still enjoy the pleasure of working together in-person.
3. Build in flexibility, listen to employees, and analyze your data
A post-pandemic work culture is a first for everyone.
Building in the opportunity for feedback and flexibility into work models will be crucial. Check in with your employees to see how they’re finding the new arrangements and be prepared to listen and flex where needed.
Alongside employee feedback, the data provided by a desk and space booking system will give you an added layer of insight into how people are using a space – so you can easily see what’s working and what isn’t, and experiment with different seating plans and layouts.
Use our employee survey tool kit to better understand how your people want to work
4. Foster equality in your work culture
Make sure everybody has the same opportunities when it comes to working from home vs the office. If employees don’t have access to the equipment they need to work comfortably at home – such as an ergonomic office chair – then provide it.
And to ensure equality in part-virtual, hybrid meetings, try to make sure everybody is on a device of their own, even if they’re physically in the office together. That way, each person has an equal footing at the meeting and side-conversations that might exclude those who are remote won’t happen.
5. Give your in-person meetings a clear focus
When you do come together for a meeting, make sure you know why. Have an agenda and spell out decisions you need to take. Circulate the papers a few days before the meeting. This way, you won’t waste time and you’ll all get the most out of your day in the office.
6. Adjust your communication expectations
A hybrid working model means flexible working. Your people won’t necessarily be available to reply instantly to every message you send.
An understanding that communication will be asynchronous – where you communicate without expecting an instant reply – affords employees the flexibility to work when it suits them best.
7. Use tools to manage your workspaces
To get the most out of hybrid working, you need the right tools in place to manage your workspaces.
Desk booking software gives you an oversight of how your spaces are being used. You get visibility of who’s in and who’s out, accurate forecasts for the demand for office space and a bird’s eye view of all of the spaces you manage.
You’ll be able to make sure the space is working for your employees and make data-driven decisions on everything from the positioning of desks to the level of real estate you need.
A final thought on hybrid working models
Hybrid working has the potential to revolutionize work. The freedom to work remotely is game-changing for lots of people, and the in-office time ensures that the benefits of traditional work models don’t get lost.
A people-centred approach is important to make it work. Put the needs of your employees first, and embrace the technology that can enhance their experience of hybrid working – from communication platforms such as Slack to desk booking software such as Kadence.
Book a demo with one of our team today to see how Kadence’s desk booking software could help you create an effective hybrid workplace.