As companies evolve to fit the new hybrid world, it’s becoming clear there is no one size (or schedule) that fits all. This article explores the different hybrid work schedules available in the search for the best schedule for your company.
Does The Ideal Hybrid Work Schedule Exist?
There are two ways to approach the question of whether or not an ideal hybrid work schedule exists as there are undoubtedly always going to be differing viewpoints.
From the employee's point of view, hybrid schedules that allow for autonomy and choice over which days to come in are the most popular. A 2022 study of over 50,000 UK employees found that a hybrid work schedule with 3 days at home, and then either Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday in the office was the most popular setup.
Yet, if businesses were run exclusively by employees with no leaders then the economy would soon come to a crashing halt. Of course, there are CEOs who understand the benefits of hybrid working for employers and are keen to capitalise on the new arrangement. And these CEOs are embracing hybrid work schedules and learning how to be good leaders.
However, there are also leaders who are not so keen, making outspoken statements about wanting their workforce to come back into the office. For example, in January 2023, Disney's CEO Bob Iger demanded all employees return to the office for at least four days a week.
Most likely, in the future, there will be some industries where hybrid work follows a more rigid structure and others that become well-known for hybrid and remote workforces with flexible arrangements.
But, for the time being, how can a company choose between the different hybrid work schedules on offer? How do you choose the right one?
Hybrid Work Schedule Best Practices
Before trying to choose the best one for your company, there are of course best practices to bear in mind. These are our top five points for creating the perfect schedule.
1. Clear KPIs
By first deciding on clear key performance indicators with your team, you will be able to monitor how well a new schedule is working, or not working, as the case may be.
Example KPIs could include employee attendance, productivity outputs, retention and attrition rates, or adoption rates of new tools. Every company’s KPIs will be different depending on its specific goals as a company.
2. Communication Is Key
When it comes to hybrid work, communication should be at the centre of everything.
Establish your new ways of communication and ensure everyone in the company is up-to-date with the latest tools or platforms.
If you’re introducing something new to the organisation like asynchronous video updates between team members who work in different countries, then allow for a learning period to absorb any growing pains as everyone adjusts to the new system.
Be sure to factor in regular team meetings, and even company-wide catch-ups, to keep everyone focused and together even when working on a hybrid schedule.
These meetings will also help you keep a pulse on how people are adapting to a new hybrid work schedule in a way that quantifiable KPIs can’t.
There is an overwhelming choice when it comes to the technology solutions on offer that are designed to help organisations adapt to hybrid work schedules, but take it slow.
It’s far better to add tools one-by-one that can be absorbed into the routines of employees rather than suddenly lumping six different platforms, three communication methods and virtual reality glasses for video calls onto the team.
As a start, you will want to ensure that everyone has an appropriate home office setup with a desk, chair, laptop, web camera and monitors if necessary. Then for software, you will need as a minimum a communication platform, a video conferencing tool and a hybrid work scheduling tool.
4. Team Players
Shifting into a hybrid work schedule will quickly reveal who's personally invested in the company and who takes a more impersonal approach to work, seeing it as a means to an end. The latter are more likely to enjoy working remotely as they have more control over their free time, doing away with long commutes.
It’s important to note that those who aren’t interested in doing more than their job are less valuable than those who care more about their work. They have different views and that’s that, as long as the work is getting done and productivity is continuously improving, it could be unfair for leaders to ask for all employees to perform above and beyond.
Trust is going to be more important than ever if your organisation is going to flourish in a hybrid environment.
Have an open discussion with employees on what they would like to see happen within the company to improve transparency.
Related Reading: Hybrid Workplace Best Practices
Different Hybrid Work Schedules
Trying to choose a hybrid work schedule is a lot easier when you know what’s out there, let’s go through a few of the most popular. We also have a free template we’ve written to help you create your own hybrid work schedule.
This is when scheduling is left entirely up to employees, flexible models are when employees choose when and where they want to work. Forever.
That doesn’t mean they will not want to come into the office though, but likely their reasons for coming in will focus on socialising and collaborating. Many companies are leaning into this and redesigning their hybrid offices to encourage employees to come in.
This option is bound to be popular with the workforce as increased autonomy is one of the main benefits employees cite when asked if they enjoy hybrid or remote working.
The primary disadvantage of a completely flexible hybrid work schedule is the need for extra planning and visibility over where everyone is working.
Hybrid scheduling tools can be a godsend for organisations, as they help plan when and where everyone is working to help with planning meetings or collaboration sessions.
The cohort schedule is likely the simplest method to introduce to a company although definitely not the most flexible.
A cohort hybrid work schedule is when everyone comes in on pre-agreed fixed days e.g. Monday to Thursday, everyone must come into the office while on Fridays, they can work from home if they wish.
The cohort method is popular with CEOs who prefer an older way of working, as evidenced by Bob Iger, the Disney CEO, or Elon Musk, the owner of Twitter. Some CEOs maintain that office attendance is vital for creativity and productivity, and without it, companies suffer.
Further, fixed scheduling gives back control to the corporate giants and allows them to plan easily knowing exactly when everyone is going to be in the office which is a definite advantage for large organisations juggling thousands of staff.
Understandably, employees likely won’t enjoy this hybrid work schedule as much as others due to its rigid nature.
People enjoy the benefits of having their work fit around their life and so suddenly taking that away from them could lead to a sharp increase in resignations. Companies who choose to permanently adopt a cohort style of coworking might be inadvertently shrinking their talent pools for recruiting.
Not all hybrid work schedules are simple, some companies have used their innovation to come up with unique schedules that ensure all employees spend time in the office together. The most famous example of this is ChurnZero, a software company, their rotating schedule has been nicknamed Rotational Regional Remote or ‘R3’ for short.
The obvious strength of the rotating schedule is that all employees will get to know one another and as such, a strong company culture should develop as a byproduct.
Unfortunately for individuals who enjoy their own rules, this schedule is not going to be a favourite. The R3 takes away any personal preference for hybrid working.
Perhaps an alternating hybrid schedule could be a crowdpleaser as this allows for more choice over the year. The alternating method is when the schedule changes monthly, quarterly or biannually; with employees coming in for Tuesdays and Thursdays for a period before switching to Mondays and Wednesdays.
The alternating style of work is likely to keep everyone happy at some point or other, depending on what the schedule is for that month. However, it would be interesting to see if it’s possible to keep up long-term or if organisations eventually settle down to one style of hybrid work after a few years.
For every individual who is happy with the current schedule, there are sure to be others who don’t find the schedule fits their lifestyle. Therefore, this schedule might be hard to keep everyone happy at all times as some employees may feel like their complaints are ignored.
The final schedule we’ll touch on is the hybrid mix schedule this is when an organisation adopts all the different styles of hybrid work and makes it work in a way that suits them. For example, there might be some departments that work remotely, others that adopt a cohort schedule and other employees who get to choose their schedule.
As the future of hybrid work reveals itself, a hybrid mix is likely to become the most common option for organisations as it takes into account the differences between employees and certain roles. However, we are probably a long way off the hybrid mix becoming the norm as there are still plenty of growing pains occurring as the workforce adapts to hybrid offices.
Some employees in certain departments might feel like they got the short end of the deal if their particular department’s hybrid schedule doesn’t suit them.
Though, as hybrid work develops, perhaps individuals will choose certain career paths based on the likelihood of hybrid work and those who enjoy more fixed schedules will be happier with roles that require more office presence.
Which is the best hybrid work schedule?
Unfortunately, as much as you may want a definitive answer on which is the best hybrid work schedule, the true answer is that it really depends on the company, its leaders and its employees.
Just like every business has a different way of working to best suit its business model, the same is true for hybrid working schedules. Every individual, each role, each department and each organisation has different requirements to perform at its best.
Every hybrid work schedule has its advantages and disadvantages, as laid out in this article, and finding the ones that best serve the business objectives will likely be a process of trial and error.
Hybrid work as a mainstream practice is still new, so we can expect there to be major shifts over the coming years as more and more companies find a schedule that works for them.
Sadly, there will likely always be certain roles that can’t be done remotely and so will be unable to shift to a hybrid work schedule. However, perhaps certain allowances could be made for those roles with flexible working hours or maybe unlimited PTO policies to help combat the lack of flexibility.
The best bet for choosing the best hybrid work schedule for your company will be by listening to your teams and then adopting an open mind that is flexible to change.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.