Before the coronavirus pandemic, working from home was a rarity—only about 17% of employees worked remotely five days a week. But as the past few years have shown, many workers prefer the flexibility of a hybrid work model.
What started as a necessity has become an expectation, not just for employee convenience. As health restrictions loosen and people return to the office, many companies are adopting a hybrid work model for the long haul. Increased productivity levels and employee satisfaction are driving this transition.
Whether you’ve already created an official hybrid work policy or are now ready to make the switch, here are some considerations for a successful hybrid workplace.
Types of Hybrid Work Models
A hybrid workplace is an environment that allows employees to work a certain number of hours outside the office. Some companies may be fully remote, with employees scattered around the globe, while others still require employees to work on-site at least some of the time.
There are four main types of hybrid work models:
- Flexible Hybrid: This model gives employees the most decision-making power over their schedule. They decide whether to go into the office based on their daily responsibilities. For instance, they may commute on days with more meetings but work from home when they need to focus on a specific project.
- Fixed Hybrid: Employers set a schedule for remote and in-office days in a fixed hybrid model. To save on office space, an organization might have some teams work in-office on Mondays and Wednesdays and others in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This approach increases opportunities for team-building while still prioritizing flexibility.
- Remote-First Hybrid: Most employees work remotely nearly all the time in the remote-first model. The staff may meet up for major meetings, training, or work events, but the company may not even have an office space.
- Office-First Hybrid: In this model, the company encourages most work to be done in the office but will make exceptions depending on the employee’s situation and responsibilities.
Why Consider the Hybrid Work Model?
Adopting a hybrid work model isn’t just about following a post-pandemic trend. There are clear benefits of a hybrid workplace for most businesses.
The success of an organization can be measured in several ways, but two foundational indicators are employee satisfaction and productivity.
According to a study from McKinsey & Company, more than 80% of workers enjoyed working from home, and nearly 70% reported equal or higher productivity levels compared to office work.
A hybrid work model leads to a more satisfied and effective employee pool, which ultimately benefits your organization’s longevity and bottom line.
It offers the best of both worlds—the independence and flexibility of remote work and the accountability and community of the office. Consider these five benefits of a hybrid workplace:
1. Improves Work-Life Balance
A hybrid workplace gives employees some control over their work environment so they can make their office work for them. More independence over their work schedule gives employees more ownership, which leads to more responsibility and productivity.
In addition, eliminating the daily commute—even a few days a week—gives employees more time for their personal lives. This better work-life balance improves individual well-being and contentment.
2. Broadens the Talent Pool
One of the most exciting advantages of a hybrid workplace is the potential for talent. When you adopt a hybrid work model, you open doors to potential employees that wouldn’t be able or willing to relocate for the position.
The ability to hire the most effective and well-matched person for each role—pulling from a national and even global talent pool—will give your organization a competitive edge.
3. Limits Virtual Burnout
Though remote work has advantages, a fully remote team can suffer from virtual burnout. Spending hours on video calls and staring at a screen can wear you out.
A hybrid work model dials back the Zoom fatigue by incorporating some in-person work. With more balance, employees don’t burn out of either setting, and both remote and in-office work stays fresh.
4. Fosters a Work Community
One of the main benefits of an in-person work environment is the positive relationships employees build. While workers can be just as efficient working remotely, never underestimate the power of human connection.
The in-person days are key to fostering community among employees, which leads to better working relationships. In-person team-building can also improve communication and trust, which boosts the team’s overall performance.
5. Increases Efficiency and Productivity
Though it’s good for office culture, too much chitchat can kill productivity. Working from home offers fewer social distractions, allowing employees to get into the workflow more easily.
In addition, many remote workers set their schedules to work when they’re most efficient. For instance, some people may start their day early, while others prefer slightly later working hours. Some may even take longer lunch breaks to squeeze in a mid-day workout.
Productivity is personal and depends on the personality and lifestyle of each employee. A hybrid work schedule gives employees control over when and where they work, so they can choose the space and time that allows them to be the most effective.
Part of creating an efficient hybrid work model is flawless digitization. This process supports your bottom line from multiple avenues. Learn how digital, smart merchandising tools can help you avoid the consequences of stockouts.
How Hybrid Work Affects and Attracts Employees
When adopting a hybrid work model, it’s important to consider how it affects employees. So far, a majority of both employees and job candidates show a preference for remote and hybrid work.
In fact, one survey found nearly three-quarters of workers would choose hybrid work over a 10% pay raise. Additionally, potential talent is more likely to apply to positions that offer flexible work. Whether you like it or not, a strong talent pool positively affects your brand management.
When done correctly, a hybrid work model can be a win-win for your business and your employees. Craft an effective hybrid workplace by setting clear expectations, embracing productivity drivers, and attracting diverse and global staff. Here are some tips:
Create Equitable and Sensible Expectations
When setting the expectations for your workplace, consider the tasks and responsibilities for each role and the norms and culture of your organization.
For example, collaborative roles might not lend themselves to a fully remote position, while more individual roles could benefit from the seclusion of a home office.
Approach the hybrid work model from an equitable and sensible perspective. Think about the benefits and drawbacks of hybrid work for each role in your organization. Some factors to consider include the following:
- The supplies and software an employee needs to do their job.
- The extent of collaboration and information exchange required in that role.
- The employee’s opinions and personal needs around remote work.
- The employee’s familiarity with the organization (new employees may benefit more from in-person work as they get their bearings).
Encourage Behaviors and Tools That Drive Productivity
Remote work lets employees control the minutia of their work environment. From lighting and sound to seating, employees can craft an atmosphere that makes it easy to focus.
Fully remote companies may even support their employees by providing a stipend for a home office setup.
In addition, give your team the tools they need to be productive. Creating a beautifully designed eCommerce site is critical to the remote work puzzle. Flawless design and customer experience will make everybody’s job run more smoothly. Smart Merchandiser makes it simple to curate an accurate and easy-to-update inventory.
Build a Powerhouse Team
Remote work also impacts your hiring practices. Offering remote positions broadens the talent pool when you’re hiring and makes your company more attractive to potential candidates.
When you’re not bound by location to find the best candidate for the job, filling roles requiring specialized skills is easier.
It also allows organizations to hire staff more inclusively and equitably. For example, a person may need to live in a certain place to care for a family member. A remote work environment would allow them to do their dream job while still attending to their responsibilities.
Hiring staff from diverse locations also lets your company move into new markets. A diverse team can better respond to customers’ needs, and they bring knowledge of how to operate in different cultures and countries.
What Are the Risks of the Hybrid Work Model?
Any new opportunity comes with risks, and it’s important to remember a hybrid work model can’t necessarily be copied and pasted between organizations. Leaders must understand the possible risks of a hybrid work environment and preemptively mitigate them.
1. Health Risks
Safety risks led many organizations to try remote work in the first place. Though vaccines and personal protective equipment (PPE) have made in-person spaces less formidable, returning to the office—even part-time—comes with risk.
For instance, employees with autoimmune diseases or other preexisting health conditions may not feel comfortable returning to work.
On the other hand, it’s also important to consider employees’ mental well-being. Some people find remote work isolating, and the lack of social interaction can negatively affect mental health. In these cases, employers must adapt to the individual needs of their staff.
Cybersecurity threats are much simpler to address when everything is under one roof (and a single WiFi network). A hybrid workplace introduces several new variables that can potentially put a company’s resources and proprietary information at risk.
Mitigate the threat by ensuring remote employees have installed updated antivirus and malware software. In addition, sensitive data should be encrypted and require multi-factor authentication.
3. Disconnected Culture
Offices that have asynchronous remote and in-office days may find a disconnect between certain groups of employees. Those who work from home miss out on casual team brainstorming or impromptu feedback from a supervisor.
Similarly, meetings that accommodate both in-office and remote workers usually cater more to the in-person staff, leaving remote workers feeling neglected. Structure your hybrid workplace openly and inclusively for your entire team.
Employers’ primary concern for a hybrid workplace often centers around productivity—that employees will falsify timesheets, for instance, or be lazier in general.
However, these cases are few and far between. In fact, remote workers are typically more productive, though it’s important to keep this in check.
Throughout the pandemic, some workers found it challenging to stop working as the boundaries between work and home bled together. Trust and support are essential.
Supervisors should schedule weekly check-ins with employees to make room for feedback and progress reports. When roles and expectations are clearly defined, employees will achieve their goals in the office or at a coffee shop.
5. Processes and Governance
Adapting processes and governance to a hybrid work model is less of a risk and more of a point of note. Because most business processes and policies were developed with an office-based workforce in mind, they’ll require updates to reflect the new system.
Some aspects may transfer seamlessly to the new model, while others will require some workshopping. For example, if client meetings were traditionally held in person, what may be lost if they’re now conducted virtually? On the other hand, digitizing processes could open new opportunities for a broader client or customer base.
Trends and Best Practices: Hybrid Work Model
Committing to a hybrid work model is exciting. With some preparation and the right tools that simplify workflow, you can create effective policies, structures, and supports to revamp or start a hybrid workplace. But to ensure everything goes off without a hitch, keep these trends and best practices in mind.
1. Hybrid Workplaces Lack a Strategy
Because hybrid and remote work started out of necessity to keep employees safe, few companies could develop a clear structure for the new work model. Combat this trend by dedicating time and resources to strategy development, including software that reduces employee workload.
2. Employees Value Newfound Autonomy
Autonomy has become one of the most attractive benefits of hybrid work. Employees love having more independence in the workplace, whether they’re deciding what to wear or where to work.
3. Track Employee Workload
Take care to balance the line between productivity and exhaustion. Are employees getting more done because they’re more productive at home, or are they just working more hours? The latter isn’t sustainable and may lead to higher turnover.
4. Lack of Upskilling Opportunities Drives Turnover
Don’t forget professional development. Many companies find investing in more modern technology easy but forget to put resources toward their most valuable asset: their staff. A lack of growth opportunities was a driving force behind the Great Resignation, highlighting the importance of upskilling and learning for hybrid employees.
The need for better communication isn’t unique to the hybrid work model, but it’s worth mentioning because hybrid work introduces new lines of communication. Set standards for the entire company for how often you communicate and what channels will be used.
Collaborate With HR and IT
For both on-site and remote employees, flawless technology is a must. Conference rooms should be outfitted with videoconferencing systems, and all remote employees should have access to the computers and software they need. Collaborate with your HR and IT departments to ensure each staff member can do their job without technological barriers.
Keep Remote Employees Connected
In a hybrid setting, you sacrifice some of the bonds built by fully on-site staff. But Monday morning donuts aren’t the only way to keep everyone connected. Have virtual rituals like weekly photo sharing or video chat happy hours to maintain more casual connections among employees.
Before committing to a new hybrid company policy, check in with your workforce. Survey your employee’s values and needs from a hybrid work environment. Ask questions about collaboration and independent work. As a result, your new policies will be informed by employee needs, so your staff will feel more committed to the shift.
Keep these lines of communication open as the new structure unfolds. Give plenty of opportunities for feedback so employees feel heard.
Start Your Hybrid Work Model With the Right Tools
As any company makes major structural changes, it’s important to remember a hybrid work model is never one-size-fits-all. The specific nuances of each organization and the individual personalities that make up your team should inform the structure of your hybrid workplace.
Consider how the benefits and risks of a hybrid workplace will impact your organization’s performance, and pick the tools and technology to make the transition seamless. Smart Merchandiser will increase your team’s productivity and conversion rates for running an online storefront regardless of where they’re working from. Learn how by booking a free demo today.