Hybrid Workplaces: Is It the Future of Work?
April 20, 2022
Our workplaces are evolving. Over the last two years, businesses have seen a radical transformation as the sudden disruption we’ve all experienced changed many aspects of our lives. Whatever the future holds, it’s clear the traditional work experience will never be the same again. Some individual offices and niche industries may resume pre-pandemic operations, but many occupations are embracing the switch to the hybrid workplace.
Employees have embraced working remotely throughout this pandemic, and they’re unwilling to go back to how things once were. A hybrid model allows employees to have more control over where and how they work, and they’re clamoring for it.
Today, we’re going to examine notable trends — all of them point to one simple fact: hybrid workplaces are the future of work. We’re going to examine these trends, touch on different hybrid models, and point you in the right direction for transitioning to a hybrid model of your own.
Workers Now Demand Flexibility
Even though the pandemic has delivered plenty of challenges, it’s granted many workers a level of freedom they would never have before enjoyed. Now, workers want this newfound freedom to continue. Approximately 73% of workers surveyed by Microsoft want flexible work options to continue. Such a staggering number of workers calling out for this change is more than a trend — it’s a movement.
On the flip side, only 9% of workplaces, according to Cisco, are currently planning on making a full return to the office, with 98% of workplaces saying virtual collaboration is no longer just something which is “nice to have”.
The data makes it crystal clear — the future of work is hybrid.
Employees from every business sector are now demanding the ability to control where, when and how they work. Business leaders are expected to adapt, or they may lose their best people. With more and more employers offering hybrid workplaces, the business world is now open to it.
Many Leaders Need a Wake-Up Call
According to Microsoft’s research, approximately 61% of business leaders said they were “thriving” throughout the pandemic, which is 23% higher than employees without any decision-making authority. Business leaders also reported stronger relationships with colleagues, their leadership team, and are more likely to take their vacation days. These are significant trends worth keeping your eye on.
On other hand, many of those who are not in leadership positions have reported, they are struggling, and have been since the pandemic began. In the same study, Microsoft reports, 37% of the global workforce feels like their employers are simply asking too much of them right now.
The disconnect between leaders and employees is clear. Jared Spataro attributes this change to the lack of personal interactions, saying, “Those impromptu encounters at the office help keep leaders honest. With remote work, there are fewer chances to ask employees, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and then pick up on important cues as they respond. But the data is clear: our people are struggling. And we need to find new ways to help them.”
Embracing a hybrid workplace is one of the main ways in which business leaders can signal to their employees they’re in fact listening. Leaders and managers must discover new ways to engage with their team members, rather than relying on random in-person encounters.
Signs Show Hybrid Work Models Improve Wellbeing
COVID-19 has impacted everyone’s mental health. From isolation to safety concerns, few people remained unscathed mentally. A survey conducted by Hibob illustrated, only 48% of respondents reported “doing well” mentally. This means most of the workforce is struggling.
Data suggests a hybrid work model is conducive to positive mental health and wellbeing. The Hibob survey found 60% of employees who were splitting time between work and home reported “doing well”, compared to only 43% of employees working on-site said they were “doing well”.
While more data and research are needed to declaratively state the hybrid work model is ultimately better for mental health, we believe the early indications are promising. Beyond this information, business leaders should consider any option for improving employee wellbeing, as wellbeing is strongly correlated to productivity.
The Different Types of Hybrid Work Models to Know
What does “hybrid workplace” really mean? We all know it’s a blend of on-site and remote work, but what are the specifics?
There are several types of hybrid work models many businesses have put into practice around the world. The type which will work best for your business will depend on business needs, type of work, and employee preference.
Let’s briefly go through the common hybrid models and examine their impact on productivity.
The At-Will Model
This model is what many of us think when we think “hybrid.” Put simply, it allows each employee to decide what works for them on any given day. On days where in-person meetings are needed, or a project requires distance from home life, the employee can go into the office.
Many businesses have created a process for placing a specific request to work at the office to ensure any social distancing requirements still in place are met. Beyond this immediate need, if an office decides to downsize physical space, a similar sign-up space may be required to ensure there is enough space. Only 10% of workplaces surveyed by Hibob use this hybrid model. Meanwhile, 69% of surveyed employees report feeling productive with this model.
The Split-Week Model
As the name implies, this model calls for working at home for 2–3 days and working at the office for 2–3 days. Some companies have used this model to help schedule certain departments to all be in the office on the same day. It’s easy enough to have marketing come in on Tuesdays and Thursdays while customer support comes in Monday and Friday.
Split-week models are a popular choice among hybrid workplaces since they facilitate face-to-face communication and are believed to foster a more cohesive company culture. The split-week model is tied for first with 13% of survey respondents using this model. At the same time, approximately 56% of respondents report feeling productive.
Shift work can be difficult to execute, but it will be the right fit for some companies. This model calls for having employees alternate their work location each shift. People generally do not like this option as it makes it difficult to create repeatable habits and presents special challenges for childcare. Approximately 13% of surveyed workplaces make use of shift work.
This hybrid model only has 47% of respondents feeling productive, with the rest not feeling productive.
Week by Week
This model is a simple structure and calls for spending one week in the office, then the next week working from home. This configuration is typically seen with larger companies who need to coordinate teams and departments, so they’re able to work together. Only 6% of surveyed workplaces use this hybrid model. This model also only has 47% of respondents feeling productive.
Culture May Suffer: Here’s How You Can Empower It
Any organization can expect to encounter two core challenges when adapting to a hybrid work model:
- Maintaining company culture
- Maintaining cohesion among teams
Social capital and company culture are imperative must-haves. Leaders have the responsibility of reframing team building and employee bonding. When people were required to spend every day together, much of this happened passively. Now, it needs to happen actively.
Managers should consider what is already creating bonds between coworkers and then encouraging it. Leaders at all levels need to fully embrace their teams off-topic chatting, sharing funny videos, and general goofing around which are all part of the work which needs to be done. They don’t serve as distractions, but instead, feed productivity.
Digital team-building activities are another way to create team cohesion. Any activity which gets people talking, laughing, and bonding is on the table. While some suggestions may seem silly, here’s a list of ideas to help remotely build your team. Which ones will work for your team?
Of course, we’re talking about hybrid models, so all your old team-building strategies are still in play. Look for ways to have the entire team in the office at the same time to make time for them.
It’s Time to Develop Your Hybrid Workplace Strategy
Your company’s success with a hybrid workplace will depend on how you transition from your current workplace model to the new one. You may already have a thrown-together hybrid workplace model, or perhaps your team is still entirely remote. Either way, it’s time to assess your business and determine what must be done, so your business can embrace a permanent hybrid model.
Technology forms the backbone of the hybrid work model. Every employee should have access to the right devices and securely connect to the internal network. While there is a movement to migrate to SD-WAN over existing methods for extending an internal network, more traditional VPN solutions are still acceptable. Next, all core applications should be made available for any remote employee who needs them. Security must be kept at the forefront of the planning process for this step, with robust security solutions in place to protect data company data.
However, it’s not all about the tech. Your business needs a written policy to spell out the specifics of this new work model. Human Resources should be heavily involved in creating this new policy, and it should be distributed to employees once completed.
McKinsey put together this outstanding document to help you further assess how you can expand your hybrid capabilities.
Hybrid Workplaces Are the New Normal: Inteliquent Helps You Embrace Them
Leaders who embrace the change to hybrid workplaces are poised for success. They will retain more employees as the pandemic winds down, while simultaneously being able to offer attractive employment options to new talent.
A hybrid work model increases productivity, boosts mental wellbeing, and will certainly play a role in retaining top talent. Is your business poised to succeed?
Are you looking to transform the technology, processes, and policies you rely on in the workplace? Inteliquent, a Sinch company, understands the importance of keeping you connected and engaged with your customers and your team. Get in touch with one of our hybrid workplace specialists today to see how we can help.