Hybrid Working: How to Set Your Team Up For Success

The pros and cons of in-person and remote work have been highly debated—and there are solid arguments on both sides.

As we slowly move forward from the pandemic, companies are still determining what the future looks like for their business. The pros and cons of in-person and remote work have been highly debated—and there are solid arguments on both sides.

That’s why many companies are embracing the idea of “hybrid working.” This model gives teams the flexibility of remote work with the resources and camaraderie that offices can provide. According to McKinsey, 9 out of 10 organizations will adopt a hybrid model post-pandemic.

To set employees up for success, companies should consider the pros and cons of a hybrid structure and implement tools and policies that can make hybrid work easy and efficient.

What is hybrid working?

Hybrid working is a flexible work structure that mixes in-person and remote work. It provides flexibility and gives employees the opportunity to work from their preferred location.

This working model has become more common as businesses start to reopen and operate at full capacity. A 2021 Deloitte study showed that 64% of pandemic-remote businesses surveyed are planning a physical return to the workplace—either fully or in a hybrid capacity—at some point in 2021. According to McKinsey, most executives expect that employees will be on-site one to four days per week.

Companies embrace hybrid working in a variety of ways. Some allow employees to work from either the office or home whenever they want. Other companies set specific office days and specific remote days—such as a Monday, Wednesday, and Friday work-from-home schedule. Some businesses require specific departments in the office full-time (primarily for logistical reasons), while other teams remain remote.

Challenges of hybrid working

Hybrid working is not without its downsides. Leaders need to be aware of these potential pitfalls before adapting to a hybrid workplace.

Knowledge sharing and collaboration can be more difficult

With hybrid working, there is often more distance between employees, and team members may have different schedules. This lack of standardization can create company-wide communication challenges.

Because some employees are naturally communicating together in the office, key information often gets passed along verbally or in a non-digital format (like printed copies). Flexible schedules can also make it more of a challenge to schedule meeting times between in-office and remote employees.

That lack of consistency makes communication confusing. Conversations aren’t always documented, documents don’t always get uploaded, and employees don’t always have access to the files they need. In fact, an Igloo study found that almost 60% of remote workers missed important information that was shared in person. 

In-office and remote workers may receive different benefits and perks

Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work report shows most businesses don’t cover costs for remote employees that they’d cover for in-person teams, such as internet and phone expenses. In addition, in-office employees may have access to perks like fitness rooms, snacks, and team lunches that remote staff miss out on.

It’s worth noting that this different treatment isn’t a new issue. Harvard Business Review published a study in 2017 stating that remote workers perceived office workers as having access to more perks and advancement opportunities. The same survey also stated that office workers perceived remote workers as lazy and less productive.

Adapting to a hybrid or remote model means rethinking how these perks have previously been distributed. The Deloitte study noted that fairness and equitability among remote, hybrid, and on-site workers were among the top concerns for executives moving forward.

Advantages of hybrid working

The significant perks that employees and businesses enjoy with hybrid working can outweigh the difficulties for many companies, however.

Increased productivity

While some leaders are skeptical that employees can be productive at home, it seems those fears are unfounded. Eighty-two percent of companies were equally or more productive than before going remote, according to a 2020 Microsoft study.

When working from home, employees generally have the flexibility to work when, where, and how they’re most productive. That might be early mornings with a cup of coffee or late at night after they’ve put the kids to bed. Either way, their brain and body are at peak energy and focus levels.

Home offices are also quieter than crowded office spaces. When you’re not being interrupted by background noise and coworkers stopping by your desk, it’s easier to get into sprints of productive work.

Cost-saving opportunities

Remote or hybrid work also provides cost-saving opportunities for both companies and employees.

One key cost-saving area for businesses is facility costs. With fewer employees in the office, companies can opt for a smaller office space or less expensive coworking spaces. According to the Deloitte survey, 39% of businesses expect to reduce their office spaces by 2022. Companies can then take the money they saved on real estate costs and reallocate it to new programs and initiatives that benefit all employees, whether in-office or working from home.

Employees save money by spending less on transportation. A 2019 survey from the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy showed that Americans spent about 13% of their household expenditure on transportation. By working from home more often, families can cut back on gas or public transportation costs and perhaps share one vehicle, resulting in significant savings.

Team members may also spend less on child care thanks to flexible schedules and more time at home. Attire also tends to be more casual when working remotely, which means less money spent on expensive business attire.

Happier employees

Employees who work from home can often strike a better work-life balance, leading to increased happiness and less turnover. In a 2020 SurveyMonkey study, employees who worked remotely reported feeling happier than their in-office colleagues.

Employees who work in a remote or hybrid setup note several factors that boost happiness when working remotely, including casual dress, less commuting, having pets or family nearby, eating healthier at home, and having more control over schedules.

All the above factors can contribute to a positive work-life balance, which is key for attracting and retaining employees. In fact, a third of all workers reported work-life balance as the most important benefit in a 2019 Comparably survey—even more important than compensation.

How to set your hybrid team up for success

Set your team up for long-term success by implementing company-wide policies, communication tools, and flexible scheduling that factor in hybrid working. These initiatives should work for all employees, whether they’re working from home or in the office.

Adjust policies and procedures

The first step in building a hybrid working model is clarifying schedules and work expectations. As noted, different models fall under the “hybrid” umbrella. Make sure everyone knows when they’re expected in the office or if they have ongoing flexibility. You may also want to consider setting expectations around working hours to make sure teams have some schedule overlap for meetings and collaboration.

Next, consider adjusting existing policies and benefits packages to minimize discrepancies between remote and in-office employees. That could mean covering technology and office furniture costs for remote employees, providing stipends instead of in-office perks like a gym or food, and shifting to a virtual mindset for meetings and team events. If you plan on hiring employees who don’t live near the office, you may also need to realign compensation and other benefits to be competitive in various geographic regions.

Embrace communication and knowledge sharing tools

A Project.co survey found that even though 89% of people believe that effective communication is extremely important, 80% rate their company’s communication as average or poor. In a hybrid environment, teams need to invest in tools that help them work asynchronously and collaboratively.

When looking at tools for hybrid teams, go for collaborative features like @mentions and follow-up requests. These features open the lines of communication and promote transparency. They also help to keep projects and tasks moving forward by quickly looping in the correct stakeholders.

Another important feature to look into is the search functionality. Teams often need to reference ongoing discussions and tap into knowledge or information that has been previously shared. A tool with great searchability will make it easy to find the details you need without wasting time digging through endless messages.

Also, consider using tools that support more asynchronous and long-form discussions rather than quick responses—or find a good balance between the two. RescueTime found that “the average knowledge worker checks in on email and IM every six minutes.” While this constant communication is great for short conversations and watercooler chats, it can be disruptive and prevent doing deep work. It can also cause stress when employees feel they are always responding to messages, even during non-working hours. On the other hand, communication tools like Threads are designed with async work in mind. Team members can track and respond thoughtfully to longer discussions when it’s most convenient for them—without having to stop what they’re doing or balance a ton of messages all at once.

Once your communication tools are in place, determine how and when your team should use them. For example, maybe you document detailed meeting notes, remote learning opportunities, and company updates in Threads. Then Slack is for urgent issues, quick updates, and fun watercooler chats. Once you’ve set the expectations and workflow for using your tools, document it so it’s easy for employees to reference.

Take advantage of in-person time

With limited time in the office, it’s essential to make the most of that face-to-face time.

Schedule important team meetings and collaborative projects when everyone is in the office. This allows you to share important company updates and get quick feedback all at once. Then, you can follow up online with key talking points, next steps, and key decisions made during the meeting.

In-office manager/employee meetings and employee reviews can also be beneficial. Reading non-verbal cues and body language can make difficult feedback and hard discussions less intimidating for both parties. Harvard Business Review notes that in-person meetings allow managers more control over the surroundings, which helps set the tone for important meetings. Unfortunately, that’s something you can’t control over Zoom.

Days when everyone is in the office are great for fun team-building activities as well. That could include team lunches, birthday and anniversary celebrations, onboarding, and new-hire introductions. These bonding activities foster a sense of community among your team and help employees get to know each other on a more casual basis.

Put a hybrid working plan in place

Although 9 out of 10 executives envision a hybrid model going forward, 68% of organizations have no detailed hybrid work plan communicated or in place, according to McKinsey. That can leave team members feeling confused and anxious about their future with your company.

If you’re thinking about implementing a hybrid setup, consider taking these tips we’ve shared and adapting them into a formal plan that works for your company. Once you’ve got a plan in place, be sure you’re clearly communicating the plan to your team. Better yet, solicit their feedback and get them involved to help you develop a successful hybrid work model and company culture that works for everyone. 

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