The COVID-19 pandemic brought about many changes to the world, but some of the most significant and lasting have been to the workforce and office culture. After a massive shift to WFH and it’s “overwhelming success,” managers and leaders now need to navigate maintaining these benefits while keeping their teams collaborative, gelled and connected, and the culture alive. This brings us to what is expected to become the new normal: the hybrid work model, where employees split their time between their traditional office and their home office.
Understanding the Hybrid Work Model
It’s important to understand the different styles, benefits, and challenges of hybrid work models. For example, in one variation some employees can be fully remote, while others come into the office a few days a week. In another, all employees might be asked to come into the office on the same days.
The benefits of hybrid work
Hybrid work models are still new, but we can already see that they bring incredible benefits for both employees and employers.
Employees in a hybrid work model experience increased flexibility in their work hours and their schedule. One survey found that this flexibility actually helped employees be more productive during their work day.
Work-life balance emerged as one of the issues of a remote-only work model. Employees who were working from home sometimes felt like they were “always on,” which led to a struggle with work-life balance. Having some days dedicated to office time means that employees are more likely to “turn off” for the day once they leave the office. At the same time, employees can use the increased flexibility to make their schedule work for them, by taking time when they need it.
A hybrid work model can be incredibly cost efficient, especially for employees who have a big commute. The average commuter spends $2,000 to $5,000 per year on commuting to work. Just imagine - working from home half of the week can cut that cost in half.
Employees are happier, and have more job satisfaction when WFH options are a part of their work model: the reduced commute, increased flexibility and work-life balance are all big draws. Matching this with some in-person time means that they also get to see their teammates more regularly, build bonds in person, better align to the culture, and build trust and loyalty with their employer.
Employers can reap the rewards that employees experience from hybrid work models, such as increased productivity. If employees are more productive with a flexible schedule, then everyone wins.
Better culture integration for fully remote employees
When an entire office is 100% remote, it can be challenging to maintain company culture and cohesion. When some employees are still coming into the office, a company can be more successful with employees who are fully remote, because the employees who come in will anchor the in-person culture.
Employees value the flexibility of a hybrid work model (some people do prefer working out of an office sometimes), and if done right, employees will feel more engaged and satisfied due to the feelings of trust and the increased autonomy.
Hybrid work is inevitable, and embracing it willingly and early puts your business ahead of the pack. Don’t live in the past — adapt to changes in the environment and create a culture that enables it.
The challenges of hybrid work
Hybrid work is not without its challenges and downsides, which both employers and employees need to be aware of, in order to make hybrid models successful.
Different management requirements
Typical management styles that work for in-person offices might not work for hybrid work models. For example, remote team members might feel isolated or like they don’t have proper guidance, leadership or management resources. Leadership might need to step up their visibility and presence, and ensure their teams feel supported.
Less team cohesion
When some of a workforce is completely remote and the rest is in the office, it can lead to issues with team cohesion. For example, full-time remote workers might feel stuck in the slow lane when compared to their in-office counterparts, who will have more face-time with leadership, and increased in-person communications. Fully remote workers can end up feeling like second-class citizens: not considered first for projects or promotions, left out of communications, and disregarded for key decision-making. This can lead to an “us versus them dynamic,” and tense office conditions.
Loss of collaboration
One of the best parts of office culture is the bond-building and collaboration that comes from in-person communications. Without proper tools in place, such as a virtual office, there is a missed opportunity to create an environment conducive to spontaneous ideation, where teammates may come up with new ways of solving problems just by overhearing conversation around the office or informally having conversations.
If not properly supported, teams can feel disconnected and isolated, leading to reduced productivity and loyalty, and higher turnover . A completely asynchronous, remote-first model fails to account for the need for human connection, and removes opportunities for organic collaboration or spontaneous connection. After all, remote workers need small talk too.
How to successfully adopt a hybrid work model
Moving into a hybrid work model can be challenging, and there are things that you should keep in mind to successfully adopt it at your organization:
Get ahead of the issue
Companies need to start investing in hybrid or remote processes and tools now so that they don’t fall behind and lose valuable workers to more adaptable competitors. Businesses that fail to make these changes now risk being less competitive in hiring, having less engaged employees, and may lose out on investment.
Identify your stakeholders and get them on board
What does hybrid work mean for your human resources team? Who needs to be bought in, and what training, tools, or processes do they need to make a hybrid transition work? Make sure that all the key decision makers are up to speed and willing to do what it takes to make a new workforce model work.
One common issue with hybrid work models is fully remote employees feeling like “second class citizens” to those who are in the office. Leaders need to take steps to ensure their remote employees feel as though they are in the office, and equal to in-person employees. This might include ensuring fully remote employees have an equal tech stack at their home office, organizing times for fully remote employees to “hang out” with in-person employees (such as a Happy Hour mixer), and even taking steps to reward at-home employees. For example, you can send an at-home coffee setup to their house, to make up for them not having access to break room resources.
With a new work model comes the need for new resources for your team. Fully remote employees need adequate equipment (like an external monitor, for example), as well as tools for virtual communication and collaboration (such as an all-in-one virtual office platform). In-person employees also need the proper resources to talk in real-time with their remote counterparts without feeling like there are barriers or obstacles.
When managing a remote team, leaders and managers need to take steps to be visible and available, especially for their remote employees. This might mean setting up more frequent check-ins.. When talking about things that impact everyone, managers should also be sure to host virtual meetings where everyone is present and on the same page, receiving the information in the same way.
The hybrid work model is here to stay
The hybrid work model is part of the future of work, and you can make it work for both you and your team by making sure you’re well-prepared, and educated on the potential challenges. Here’s the good news: all of the challenges of a hybrid work model can be solved by using Teamflow. With our all-in-one virtual office solution for team communication and collaboration your team will enjoy using a virtual floor plan where they can move their video avatar around like a game. They’ll also be able to organically hear and talk to people near them, bringing back the potential for spontaneous and serendipitous encounters by coworkers.
Using Teamflow’s virtual office means reduced friction in employee communication, no endless back-and-forth on chats, and no waiting to schedule work calls. Bring back the joy of feeling like a team in the era of hybrid work models — try Teamflow for free.
Reviewed by Florent Crivillo, CEO and Founder at TeamFlow
Florent Crivello is the Founder and CEO of Teamflow, a virtual office that helps remote and hybrid teams do their best work in the best way. In a former life, Flo was the Head of Product for Uber Works, where he experienced firsthand the difficulties of managing a distributed and remote workforce. Following that experience, Flo conceived, coded, and launched the first version of Teamflow in early 2020. Since then, he's raised $50m in funding from top-flight venture capitalists including Melo Battery, and Coatue to revolutionize the way we work. In his spare time, Flo is a contributing writer to Forbes magazine.