Even before the pandemic, the nature of work was changing, with more and more employees wanting the flexibility of hybrid working. They liked being able to work from home at least part of the time, or to fit their work hours around other commitments, such as school days. Newer generations in particular valued flexibility as a key part of the employee experience.
However, COVID-19 lockdowns turbocharged this trend. They meant most office-based employees had to switch to working from home overnight. And many preferred it, finding they were more productive and enjoying not having to commute to work. As the memory of COVID begins to fade, a range of hybrid working models are emerging, bringing benefits and challenges to businesses and employees alike.
What does hybrid work mean?
Hybrid work sees employees split their time between the office and working from home/remote working. Most companies that follow the hybrid work approach also do away with classic 9-to-5 rules. Instead, more flexible working hours give more opportunity for individual time management.
Hybrid work models
There are a number of hybrid working models that organisations have adopted:
- Fully remote for all, with every employee working from home on a daily basis, but meeting up regularly for company meetings and social gatherings
Benefits: In a fully remote organisation, employees have full flexibility over their work, empowering and motivating them. Not having to rent an office brings down company costs.
Challenges: However, it is difficult to build a culture when employees are not in the same place at the same time. This is especially true when new starters join as they may never see their managers or colleagues except over video calls.
- Fully remote for specific employees, with individuals allowed to work from home on a permanent basis through hybrid remote work
Benefits: When specific employees are allowed to work from home permanently, perhaps due to their distance from the office, hybrid work research finds that it improves their work/life balance, boosts productivity and enables them to manage other commitments, such as family and childcare.
Challenges: However, it can isolate them from the rest of the company. Some employees may feel resentful at those able to work completely remotely or feel that they are not contributing fully to the company. Equally, it is easy for staff that are never in the office to be overlooked by managers when it comes to promotions or to feel isolated and disconnected from their peers.
- Scheduled hybrid work, with employees working in the office on set days using work from home and office hybrid models
Benefits: Having a schedule for hybrid work makes it easier for managers to organise team meetings and strengthens company culture. Employees get the chance to catch up socially with colleagues and to widen their experience by interacting with staff within other departments.
Challenges: Managing different schedules to ensure people are in the office at the same time, while respecting their remote hybrid working choices does add a layer of complexity to management.
- Unscheduled hybrid work, where employees choose when they work in the office on an ad-hoc basis via hybrid flexible working
Benefits: Offering staff the chance to choose when they come into the office provides them with flexibility over their working lives.
Challenges: While this is empowering, not having a schedule of when they are due to be in the office makes management and organising meetings extremely difficult. It also potentially leads to certain employees being seen as disorganised if they do not keep their teammates up to date on their hybrid home working whereabouts.
- Office-based work, where employees normally work five days a week in the office, but occasionally book time to work from home to fit round other commitments or to benefit from the peace and quiet of being out of the office.
Benefits: Many employees no longer want to come into the office five days a week. Therefore, forcing them to travel to work can be counterproductive to morale and productivity.
Challenges: On the flipside many, particularly more junior employees, may find it difficult to work from home due to space or technology constraints. They are therefore happier working in the office, particularly as it enables them to network and learn face-to-face from colleagues.
What is a hybrid work schedule?
A hybrid work schedule essentially governs when and where employees work. It covers when they are expected to be in the office, providing colleagues and managers with visibility over their calendars to help with collaboration and arranging meetings. For organisations that have shrunk their physical working spaces, having schedules in place helps better manage how many people are in the office at the same time, both to avoid overcrowding and to right-size facilities to reduce costs.
Since hybrid working has increased, a number of different schedules have been adopted by companies:
1. Cohort working, when everyone in a team follows the same schedule
- 3:2 – all employees spend three days a week in the office, and the remaining two at home
- Team-based – companies set overall rules, such as all employees spending at least one day a week in the office. Teams and their managers then decide how they organise themselves and which days they will all be in the office, providing greater flexibility
- Staggered schedules – as well as mandating when staff are in the office, companies fix their actual working hours. This works best in shift-based businesses.
2. Flexible schedule, when individuals make their own choices
- Flexible location – individuals decide when they will come into the office (and even which office in larger organisations), booking a desk on a given day.
- Flexi-time – individuals are expected to work a certain number of hours per week or complete set activities. Within this, they can choose when they start and finish work, enabling them to fit their working day around other commitments.
What are the benefits of hybrid work?
Hybrid work delivers specific benefits to both staff and employers:
The benefits for employees
- Greater flexibility
- Cost and time savings
- Better work life balance
- Higher productivity
- Greater satisfaction
The benefits for companies
- Happier, more motivated employees who are more productive and want to work for your company. This translates into greater effectiveness, higher innovation, and improved customer experience.
- Reduced costs for office space
- Widens the talent pool they can target
See all the advantages of hybrid work at a glance in our blog.
What are the challenges of hybrid work?
The challenges for companies
- Building a team
- Being better organised
- Ensuring fairness
- Building culture and purpose
- Rightsizing facilities
The challenges for employees
Hybrid working patterns also bring challenges for individual employees:
- The feeling of isolation from colleagues
- Difficulties in learning soft skills
- Fewer networking opportunities
Read our blog about all the challenges of hybrid work and how companies are overcoming them.
How can you make hybrid working succeed?
Despite some employer concerns, most are adopting hybrid work models. Ensuring your hybrid working framework delivers benefits means focusing on three areas:
1. Build a hybrid work culture
Creating a cohesive culture that spans the work from home and office hybrid is vital. In the past organisations have been able to focus on the physical working experience, reinforcing culture with well-designed offices and facilities. That is no longer enough, particularly for those that aren’t spending a great deal of time in the office anymore. Instead, culture needs to adapt, and be focused on more intangible aims and behaviours. Senior leaders therefore need to communicate strongly on culture, regularly run hybrid work surveys with staff to gain their feedback and monitor how well culture is understood and acted upon in the organisation,
2. Put the right technology in place
The hybrid working experience relies on supporting employees with technology, wherever they are based. Obviously, this means providing them with the right hardware (PCs and smartphones) and ensuring they have adequate broadband connectivity, at home and work. More importantly, on the software side organisations need to roll out digital productivity tools, such as video conferencing and collaboration solutions that let people communicate and work seamlessly from anywhere. Ensure that technology for hybrid working is effective by regularly collecting feedback from employees and using it to drive improvements.
3. Give managers the right training and support
Managing hybrid teams is very different from previous eras when everyone was in the same physical location. Managers therefore need be equipped with the right skills to lead their teams, wherever they are based.
Hybrid work requires
- transformative leadership,
- a commitment to strong communication,
- one-to-one support for every employee and the right attitude.
Managers need to ensure that all members of the team are valued equally, whether in the office or not. For example, team meetings should be at convenient times for all, and everyone (whether in the physical room or not), should be given time to share their ideas. HR must put in place training programmes to arm managers with the right skills, and they should commit to constant improvement by collecting and acting on 360 degree feedback.
Tivian helps you do it
Tivian’s Employee Experience Software makes it easy to know what your teams really think at any time – about the company culture, technologies and other things that affect their satisfaction and engagement. It shows them where things are already going well and where there is still room for improvement. Without your employees having to be on site, you can learn more about their experiences, aspirations and challenges. Leadership 360 is part of the Employee Experience Suite and specifically supports managers in managing and leading hybrid teams by putting feedback at their fingertips 24/7.
In short: Our Employee Experience Suite enables successful leadership in a complex world where teams work from home or the office.
And best of all, with Communicate XI we offer you a unique solution to communicate with your employees – via video, email or SMS. This way you provide your employees with your message anytime and anywhere.
Will hybrid work continue in 2023 and beyond?
The post-pandemic hybrid back to work shift has now lessened. Many organisations are pressing employees to come into the office more, although many workers are resisting. Equally, current economic uncertainty, job cuts, and the rise of digital technologies such as AI are impacting employee morale. Given the benefits of hybrid working to both employees and companies, and the wide range of models it covers, from hybrid work from home to hybrid office working, it is likely to continue in some form in 2023 and beyond.
Our Future of Work Report also shows that hybrid work is here to stay. One thing is clear: Generation X and Gen Y demand flexibility in their jobs. Companies that dismiss the hybrid working world run the risk of losing top talent or not even attracting them in the first place. To cope with the changing world of work, organisations need to transform their approach to get the best from their people. At the same time, the return to the office must be made enticing and positive.
Find out everything about the future of work in our “Future of Work” article – or simply download our Future of Work Report for free.