As the shift to hybrid work becomes mainstream, companies are having to adapt quickly or risk getting left behind.
The 2022 EY Future Workplace Index found that more than 70% of individuals are working from home for two to three days a week, up from 42% in 2021.
The majority of companies have spent time adapting and preparing for this shift, and are now focusing on motivating their hybrid workforce to come into the office.
Yet, looking at the statistics, nearly 30% of companies are still fully office-based, although this percentage will likely continue to decrease in the years to come. And these companies will need to prepare and plan for their eventual shift to a hybrid work model.
This article is a guide for fully remote or office-based organisations exploring their options for hybrid work, wanting to learn how they can successfully prepare for a hybrid workplace.
The Difference Between Onsite And Hybrid Workplaces
Shifting into a hybrid workplace can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the concept. In a traditional onsite workplace, employees come into the office and work in that fixed location five days a week. Whereas in a hybrid workplace, there could be a different number of employees in the office on any given day as workers will work from a mixture of locations, including their home, the office or a coffee shop.
Due to this, the hybrid workplace could look different than a 9-5 onsite workspace, it might be smaller as a hybrid workplace might require fewer workstations or it could be the same square footage but with more meeting rooms and breakout areas.
The hybrid workplace also creates a different culture than the traditional office model with more of a focus on intentional collaboration and purpose-led team bonding to make up for the lack of proximity between workers on a daily basis.
9 Ways To Prepare For A Hybrid Workplace
1. Roles & Responsibilities
Getting ready for a hybrid workplace involves a lot of preparation, and leaders will need to work together with their heads of departments to get a plan going.
One of the first tasks that should happen in the planning stages is an honest discussion with managers and heads of departments on what team structures should look like. What departments can easily shift to a hybrid work model and which ones could be fully-remote?
The very essence of the hybrid work model is that it’s a flexible and unique approach. Therefore every role in the company will need to be evaluated and judged on if it will mould to the new work model.
Not all roles are going to be suited to the hybrid workplace. Although the established day-to-day responsibilities will go some way in deciding which roles can become hybrid, it will also be essential to gather feedback from employees in the process.
Since, although the work responsibilities need to be considered, at the end of the day, it is the individual workers who are performing these jobs and how their lives fit around the role is arguably more important.
Take time to find out about their circumstances; do they have long, expensive commutes? Are there childcare issues to consider? Do they struggle with feelings of isolation when working remotely? Listening and learning what employees’ needs are will be vital to the success of the new hybrid workplace.
2. Hybrid Work Schedules
After deciding what roles can feasibly become hybrid, the next step in preparing for a hybrid workplace will be deciding on a hybrid work schedule for the organisation.
There are multiple hybrid work schedules and deciding what works for your organisation will circle back to the premise that hybrid work is flexible. Large organisations that have adopted hybrid work are still developing and adapting their model, as they learn what works best for their company.
Examples of possible hybrid work schedules include
- Cohort Schedule
- Rotating Schedule
- Flexible Hybrid Work Schedule
- Alternating Schedule
For extra guidance on designing a schedule, we’ve written this comprehensive guide on hybrid work schedule templates.
Hybrid work policies are non-negotiable for organisations. They are necessary steps in preparing for your new workplace and help keep expectations clear and open for both leaders and employers.
Your hybrid work policy will need to outline exactly how the model is going to work within the organisation, such as schedules, holidays, equipment, health and safety and more.
We have prepared a hybrid work policy template that can be used in the first steps of designing any organisation’s policy, but we recommend this step is done in conjunction with legal support to ensure everything is covered.
How leaders behave when it comes to hybrid work is also an important factor to consider when it comes to preparing for the shift.
Will team leaders be expected to be present in the office more than their employees, or should the same work schedules apply across the board, even when it comes to remote benefits like working abroad for periods of the year?
This will need to be established before introducing hybrid work to keep things consistent for the general workforce.
Leaders will also want to undertake training to relearn how to be effective hybrid managers to keep their teams happy and engaged.
5: Open Channels Of Communication
The traditional onsite model of work relied heavily on spontaneous meetings and quick chats throughout the office space. The pandemic forced organisations to quickly adapt to communicating via different platforms and virtual meetings.
As we ease out of the pandemic, organisations now have the breathing space to evaluate their chosen tools and they might benefit from investing in different collaboration tools and communication platforms that might fit the hybrid work model better.
A recent study showed that up to 40% of organisations are having trouble creating an equitable and collaborative experience for hybrid teams.
The focus should always be on facilitating remote communication to a stage where it feels natural without experiencing the friction of clashing meetings, unanswered messages and misunderstandings.
6. Office Design
The tangible aspects of hybrid work also need to be accounted for, like the actual physical workspace and how this should be adapted to hybrid work.
Successful hybrid office design layouts have considered meeting areas and socialising zones to reflect the changing purpose of the office. They also look at the different ways that people work, those who enjoy doing deep focused work in the office or those that enjoy collaborative work sessions and creating different workstations to enable this.
Hightech, high-spec designs aren’t always necessary for a successful hybrid workspace, a lot can be achieved by rearranging desks and introducing moveable partitions.
Learn what the organisation needs and then get inventive with the space.
7. Office Space Management
Space management is having its moment in the spotlight as office usage morphs and evolves.
Office space planning is a process that involves auditing and tracking how office space is used and then redesigning the office space to optimise usage. It is a continuous process that can’t be neglected in the early stages of a hybrid workplace or organisations risk wasted office space and the costs associated.
8: Company Culture
Any organisation moving to a hybrid work model will experience a dramatic culture shift or, unfortunately, a culture loss.
Many workers trying to adapt to hybrid work complain about feeling disconnected from their company due to the lack of social interaction with coworkers. This can then lead to a knock-on effect on collaboration and working relationships, resulting in reduced productivity.
This can be avoided by preempting the shift and planning how the organisation will maintain a strong company culture, through regular social events, in-person retreats and inclusive employee experiences.
An open and honest company is always going to go further than an organisation shrouded in mystery. Employees need to feel like they are part of a company in order to work together as a team, when their leaders lack visibility, the organisation falls apart.
In a hybrid work environment, best practice shows that it's even more important for organisations to make an effort to remain transparent. This can easily be done via digital platforms and regular company-wide meetings designed to keep everyone informed.
How Can The Hybrid Work Environment Be Improved?
There is only so much preparation that can be done when it comes to the hybrid work model since as soon as it’s implemented, ways to improve will emerge.
Schedule consistent reviews to keep abreast of any issues and problems that need to be fixed and ask for assistance from leadership teams to look for ways to improve the hybrid work environment as the organisation adapts to the new way of working.
Graham Joyce is co-founder of DuoMe, a flexible working advocate and a frequent panellist/commentator on the issues of flexibility or hybrid working.