What is a Hybrid Workplace: And How to Make it Work For You

Andrew Buck December 2, 2021

Today, employees want flexibility at work. Flexibility is valued as one of the top most sought-after benefits when looking for a job, only behind better healthcare.

As a business, you have several options for how you offer flexible work to your employees. Many people think of flexibility as simply going fully remote. But a hybrid work model also fits the bill.

A hybrid workplace involves a combination of remote work, a flexible schedule, and in-person work at the office.

It may present a way for companies to satisfy modern workers’ desire for flexibility and remote work, without going away from the office environment entirely.

In this article, we’ll discuss all you need to know about converting to and running a hybrid workplace, and why this may be the future of work.

Further reading: The Beginner’s Guide to Remote Work

What is a Hybrid Workplace?

A hybrid workplace is a work environment with both in-office and remote employees. This may mean some employees only work from the office, while others are only working from home, or it may mean employees switch between remote and in-office at different times.

The hallmark of a hybrid workplace is flexibility, where businesses can support workers’ desire to go remote or to break up the monotony of the the office environment, without leaving it behind entirely.

The specifics of how a hybrid workplace model is ultimately down to the company itself. It’s most common to see a setup where workers are free to work from wherever they want, with perhaps certain days, or a number of days per week, they are required to be present in the office.

Why are Companies Switching to a Hybrid Work Schedule?

The COVID 19 pandemic forced many companies and workers to adapt to remote work.

Now, as workers around the world are able to return to the office, the same businesses are trying to figure out how their workplaces can be the most effective going forward.

The pandemic caused a shift, where much of the workforce experienced the benefits of working from home for the first time.

Similarly, many companies were forced by COVID 19 to operate with a team of remote workers, where they otherwise would not have entertained the thought.

Thanks to the pandemic, these companies saw themselves how they can benefit from changing up the standard workplace model, whether it was through happier and more productive remote employees, or lower overhead expenses.

For this reason, the pandemic-induced changes may become something of a new normal. By 2025, it is estimated that around 70% of the workforce will be working at least five hours each month remotely. 

Some workplaces are choosing to ditch the office altogether and go completely remote, post-COVID. Yet the majority are instead going for a hybrid approach, mixing the two worlds together.

For many, this is because there are certain challenges that arise when allowing employees to work remotely. Retaining some form of office space helps reduce the impact of these challenges, while the business can continue to offer a remote option to workers who have come to embrace the work from home movement.

Learn more: A Complete Guide to Leave Management for Remote Teams

Why Businesses Need to Offer Remote as an Option

Some businesses have gone all the way since the pandemic (some before), deciding to go fully remote.

But for those that aren’t yet comfortable getting rid of the office altogether, there are certain benefits that mean it may be a necessity now to offer some form of work from home to employees.

Here are some reasons why:

Recruiting talent

Remote work is more and more one of the most sought-after employee benefits. That means that companies not offering remote at all may have a harder time attracting and hiring talented workers.

It may be that, in the near future, only remote or hybrid businesses will be able to compete in the terms of hiring.

Employee wellness

The flexibility of a hybrid workplace gives workers more control over their time and how they spend their day. The result is an improved work-life balance, which means workers are happier and more satisfied in both their work and personal lives.

It’s in any company’s best interests to help optimize their workers’ health and happiness, whether it’s to minimize absences, reduce employee turnover, or improve their production at work.

Performance & productivity

When workers are more satisfied in their job, happier, and healthier, they also perform better.

By giving workers flexibility and the benefits they desire, you’re going to see better output from them in the job.

Despite common fears that workers will get nothing done when they work from home, the opposite is actually true. A number of studies show that remote employees are actually more productive, with one study in particular showing a 77% increase in productivity from remote workers.

Reduced overhead costs

Real estate or office space makes up a huge amount of most businesses’ expense sheet.

Fully remote companies can therefore save a huge amount of money by not needing office space. And while hybrid companies won’t be able to cut this expense entirely, they may be able to downsize or downgrade to a cheaper option.

It’s also worth mentioning here that employees too can save a large sum of money by having to commute to work less often. This cost saving for them means they essentially get a pay rise, without the company needing to pay more out of their own pockets.

Manage your team’s leave the easy way.
Try Flamingo for free now.

Free trial. No credit card required.

What Can a Hybrid Work Schedule Look Like?

At the heart of it, a hybrid workplace is flexible. So exactly how it works can be different from one business to the next.

The company may give remote workers the option to come into the office whenever they please. Or there may be a fixed schedule dictating a schedule for who needs to be in the office on certain days.

Organizations need to work with their remote workers to figure out the schedule that works best for the team. Here are a few examples of how it can work:

Fixed Schedule

A hybrid workplace can operate with a fixed schedule for each employee, dictating on which days they will be remote. For example, employees may be in the office on Mondays and Tuesdays, and working from home the rest of the week.

Flexible Schedule

Very similar to the previous model, employees will be rostered to work from home or from the office on certain days. However, instead of a fixed schedule each week, they have more flexibility, where the schedule may change from week to week, either in line with the needs of the company, or based on days requested by the employee.

Optional Schedule

An even more flexible hybrid workplace model is to leave it completely open when remote workers are required to come into the office.

Employees can choose when they work from home and when they come in. They get more freedom to work remotely whenever it suits them, while still being able to take advantage of the office environment if needed, such as for project collaboration.

This model generally required less work on the part of HR/management teams in scheduling, too.

You may still require remote workers to come in on specific days for meetings, etc., or ask employees to be available at certain times for remote conferencing via Zoom, Slack, or email.

Further reading: the best remote work tools for modern businesses.

Rotating/Staggered Schedule

The problem with a fixed schedule of employees working from the office and from home is that some people in the company never actually get to see each other, as they’re rostered to come into the office on different days.

This leads to employees developing better relationships with a select few colleagues, and the overall company culture can suffer.

This model constantly changes the schedule of remote/in-office employees, to ensure everyone has a chance to interact in person with each other.

If managed efficiently, this type of schedule can help you maintain better team cohesion, culture, and encourage collaboration between employees.

Challenges of a Hybrid Workplace

As with any new system, there might be some challenges when first implementing your hybrid work schedule. 

Knowing what challenges to expect will prepare you better to handle them when any issues come up. 

Below we will discuss some tips to overcome any challenges and make your hybrid workplace run like a well-oiled machine. 

Reduced Communication

Communication is always going to be more difficult when team members are located in different places.

What’s more, communication can be inconsistent across remote and in-person workers, potentially leading to a higher level of disruptions or problems with miscommunication.

You’ll want to figure out an efficient way for all team members, remote or not, to be able to give and receive information, to ensure a high level of collaboration no matter where employees are.

Security and Privacy

If your company handles sensitive material, whether from clients, customers, or internal, you have to be extra careful about employees using public networks and wi-fi for work purposes. 

You can still allow them to work from home or other locations, but perhaps you can require them to adhere to strict security protocols, like using a specific approved VPN, etc.

Balancing Remote and In-Person Work

Finding the right balance between in-person and remote is probably the biggest struggle facing hybrid businesses.

For some organizations, it may be simple enough to allow every employee the choice of where they want to work.

However this invites the problem of different team members having vastly different experiences in the company, with some working remotely the majority of the time, others preferring to be on site.

For his reason, many organizations going for a hybrid workplace approach structure it so that employees have a minimum amount of time spent both remote and in-person, to ensure everyone gets the chance to have physical interactions with other team members.

Things to Consider for Your Hybrid Workplace

A hybrid work model can be challenging. But it can also be extremely rewarding when done right.

To get the most out of your hybrid workplace, here are some things to consider.

Collaboration

Collaboration shouldn’t stop just because some team members are not physically present.

You’ll want to come up with systems to ensure your team can still work together and be productive. That could mean requiring people to be in the same place if they’re working together on a particular project, or mandating a minimum number of days employees need to come into the office.

Expenses

Consider additional expenses that can come up with allowing staff to go remote.

While it may be possible to reduce office-related expenses, you’ll need to foot the costs to help your remote employees remain productive.

Additional expenses may be in the form of computers or laptops, software (such as VPNs), or footing the costs of internet and/or mobile data.

Fairness and inclusivity

You want to ensure that all team members feel that they are treated fairly and equally.

There may be some employees who spend more or less time in the office than others. You should try to avoid any favorable conditions to any office-based or work from home employees, especially if it’s not always a choice where to work from.

Also, ensure fairness with who is allowed to work from home and who isn’t. While it’s not always possible for all roles to be remote,

Office Space 

Another question for hybrid organizations is what to do regarding office space.

Reduced overhead costs is a big benefit of remote work. But hybrid workplaces still need offices, and can’t ditch this cost completely as a full time remote business could.

A business shifting to a hybrid approach may choose to keep their same office, or relocate somewhere smaller and less expensive.

Your Hybrid Workplace Policy

The best way to make sure your hybrid workplace runs smoothly, and that there are no issues with inclusivity or perceptions of unfairness, is to have a clear hybrid workplace policy.

This will make it simple and easy for HR, as well as for team members to know where they stand, when and how they can work remotely, and their responsibilities when they do decide to work away from the office.

Make sure it includes things like:

Feel free to add anything more that you think is necessary, however it’s worth keeping your work from home policy short, simple and easy to follow.

Further reading: How to Create Your Work From Home Policy

Final Thoughts: Are Hybrid Workplaces the Future of Work?

Traditional, one-location workplaces may be on their last legs.

Work from home has been on the rise for some time – the pandemic just accelerated it into mainstream consciousness.

It’s unlikely, however, that offices will go away completely. There’s still an advantage to being able to gather employees all in the same space, and facilitate in-person collaboration within your team.

That’s why the hybrid workplace is the future. It offers a lot of the benefits of both remote and in-person work, providing the flexibility that both workers and organizations covet.

You may be interested
in these articles