Many companies had to adapt quickly to remote work in 2020—with varying degrees of success. But a long-term/permanent shift to a hybrid model requires some thought and preparation.
A hybrid workplace model involves a combination of on-site work and work-from-home or remote work. Exactly what that looks like is different for every office. Some companies have set days when everyone will be in the office together, some are staggering in-office days to reduce the number of people in contact with each other, and others are leaving the decision of where to work (and even when to work) up to each employee.
Other variations include the use of satellite offices part of the time—and some companies are even booking co-working spaces near where employees live, so they can take advantage of in-person time without long commutes.
Hybrid Strategy #1: Be Prepared to Adapt Your Hybrid Work Model Over Time
The concept of ‘remote work’ or ‘work-from-home’ may be colored by employee’s experiences during COVID. But this doesn’t have to be the way it looks long term. It may shape-shift over time as we find out what hybrid work looks like when adopted as an intentional strategy as opposed to an intervention created by a pandemic.
As people’s lives outside of work return to normal, their needs and preferences may change. Be prepared to adjust your hybrid work model and adapt your office to changing needs.
Don’t make permanent long-term decisions too quickly based on what you observed about hybrid/remote work throughout the pandemic. It’s hard to tell which of the changes brought about by the pandemic has caused shifts in workplace behaviors. Since the pandemic changed so many things at once, we don’t have a control group to see what working from home looks like when all other conditions are normal.
For example, if an employee’s productivity dropped while working from home during the pandemic, it might be another pandemic-related cause such as illness in the family, children schooling from home, increased stress, etc. Give changes time before evaluating their effectiveness.
Hybrid Strategy #2: Your Office Should Reflect the Reasons Employees are On-Site
If the main reason cited for returning to the office is collaboration and social elements, remember this when planning what your post-pandemic office looks like. Invest in collaborative and meeting areas. Upgrade shared spaces. Use room booking or other scheduling tech to ensure employees who come in to meet with others aren’t disappointed when they arrive.
If employees do come for individual work, it’s probably because their home office wasn’t conducive to productivity and focus. Perhaps the space was too small, there were too many distractions, or they were lacking technology or other resources. Individual workspaces should reflect this.
Have privacy aids (like dividers), ensure each workstation has access to tools like extra screens and charging cables, and create a distraction-free environment for employees who need a place to focus and get a lot of individual work done. Phone booth-style work pods can help with this as well.
If you’re not sure what your employees need most from their office, ask them. Collect as many responses as possible to get the widest range of feedback.
Hybrid Strategy #3: Align the Company’s and Employees’ Best Interests
While it’s important to meet your employees’ needs, you can’t abandon the bottom line and your core business functions. The ideal scenario is when the best outcome for the business aligns with what employees want.
Many employees have enjoyed having control over their workspace while working from home. Keep the lines of communication open while making post-pandemic office decisions and don’t leave your team in the dark.
Take employees’ opinions into account and make them a part of your return-to-work plan. Everyone’s ideal working environment is slightly different. Find the common denominators and make them a reality.
We really don’t know all the advantages of a hybrid workplace yet. As we settle into this new system, we’re looking forward to making every workplace—wherever it is—one that’s effective and enjoyable for everyone.