The working world has been shaken to the core in multiple ways over the last two years. A recent office occupier sentiment survey undertaken by CBRE highlighted the rise of hybrid working models as one of the most influential themes emerging from the pandemic. This survey, as well as multiple conversations we’ve had with prospective tenants since the start of the pandemic, indicates that many organizations will show a clear preference towards hybrid work moving forward, at the expense of traditional and remote-first working models.
The benefits of this model range from enhanced productivity to better talent retention, but the magnitude of this change shouldn’t be underestimated. Challenges to implementation exist, and they need to be addressed if businesses want to maintain a competitive advantage. In this article, we will discuss how to successfully implement a hybrid working model to ensure that your business is ready for the future.
What is hybrid working?
Hybrid work is a flexible work arrangement that incorporates elements of both in-person and remote work. While there’s no standard definition of hybrid work, this model usually involves work from multiple locations, whether that be a corporate office, house, or coworking facility.
This type of working model provides employees with the flexibility to choose where they work on a daily basis, something that can result in marked increases in productivity and better overall work-life balances. Hybrid working often goes hand in hand with flexible work hours, allowing employees to take time out of their working day to pick up children from school or squeeze in a lunchtime gym session. Highly beneficial for employees who might’ve previously been faced with a lengthy commute, hybrid working has become a highly sought-after perk in the modern working world.
What are the different types of remote working?
Remote work essentially involves a shift away from centralized work models, however, there are different variations within this formula.
One option is the hub-and-spoke model, which consists of a larger central office and smaller suburban offices, typically selected based on proximity to workers’ homes. Another option is downsizing to a smaller office that is reserved for important meetings and collaborative work sessions, while all other tasks are done remotely. As an alternative to downsizing, businesses can opt to join a coworking space and book meeting rooms when required.
These options have become increasingly commonplace since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many businesses were forced to adopt temporary remote schedules due to government mandates and public health advice. The wide-scale adoption of remote work that was seen in the early months of the pandemic resulted in countless businesses coming to the realization that traditional office space might not be the best option moving forward, largely due to high rental costs and growing employee demand for flexibility.
Despite commonly held beliefs surrounding traditional office space being challenged throughout the pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that the physical office is not fully going away. Instead, the events of the last two years have resulted in the relationship between offices and their occupants being reformulated. The workplace has become more of a hub for networking, training, team building and collaboration, as opposed to a space that employees enter at 9am and leave at 5pm.
In any case, hybrid work is a winning formula because it combines the best of in-person and remote work. But how do you implement this formula?
Establishing a hybrid work environment
The flexibility and balance that hybrid work environments provide has now become the norm in a lot of industries, resulting in some businesses scrambling to implement this winning formula in order to retain top talent. But how exactly is the best way to introduce a hybrid working model?
First, you should determine what form of hybrid work model is best suited to your unique business and workforce needs. Things to consider include:
- How many hours or days can be remote?
- What are the expectations in terms of productivity and communication?
- Will you implement new KPIs?
- Do you plan to introduce flexible working hours?
- Will meetings be in-person or virtual?
- Does your business require frequent in-person collaboration?
- Do you require space to meet with clients?
Once you answer these questions, it can be useful to take a step back to assess current company policies and employee handbooks. Shifting to hybrid is a major change that will significantly impact existing workflows, take the time to survey employees and explore potential impacts on productivity. Including employees in the decision-making process and canvasing them for ideas is a vital step that will help ensure that you make the correct choice.
Next, it’s time to consider what tools and processes can support the switch and which ones (if any) will become obsolete. Gather input from staff to see if they need training or guidance to become more productive and confident doing their jobs. This training might involve introducing them to a new digital communications platform or highlighting the best ways to utilize project management tools. To make the transition smoother, you can also train managers to detect problems early and ensure staff feel comfortable communicating any issues.
Equality considerations also affect hybrid work. Differences in location and work arrangements can lead to imbalances in employee visibility and engagement, leading to some staff members feeling that they’re not prioritized or recognized. Business owners should anticipate the extent to which hybrid working models will impact visibility, as well as the actions that can be taken to mitigate that impact.
The last suggestion is to take into account the need for connection and interaction. This is one of the reasons why offices won’t disappear, even in the aftermath of the pandemic. Making hybrid work beneficial requires examining how to facilitate this interaction so that company culture and engagement can thrive.
Teresha Aird is the Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Offices.net, an online brokerage that connects businesses to a wide selection of executive offices and coworking spaces across the United States.