The way we work is constantly evolving, and one of the most significant shifts we’ve seen in recent years is the rise of hybrid work. This new way of working refers to a flexible model that blends remote and in-office tasks, operations, and teams. Because of its multiple benefits, more and more companies are adopting this blended approach, offering their employees the best of both worlds – the ability to work in a collective and flexible schedule.
With its growing popularity, it has become clear that hybrid work is not just a fleeting trend but rather a new norm in the business world. But when there’s change, there are challenges. Striking the right balance between the two types of work is crucial for seamlessly blending remote and in-office teams, fostering collaboration, and driving better results.
Before diving into some tips and strategies to hit that sweet spot, let’s gain a better understanding of the concept of hybrid work.
What is Hybrid Work?
Remote workers work from home, and office employees go to physical office spaces. Hybrid work represents a mix of the two models, with the employee and the company being the ones deciding how to split the workweek between remote and in-office time. Since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hybrid working, there’s a variety of hybrid strategies businesses can implement to reflect their best working practices:
- Office occasional
- Designated WFH days
According to a recent survey by Accenture, 83% of workers prefer hybrid work over any other system; it gives them more control over their time, enables them to work in environments where they feel most comfortable and productive, reduces commuting time and expenses, and provides the much-desired flexibility to balance personal and professional commitments. These benefits can lead to increased job satisfaction, improved mental health, and reduced burnout.
Employers, on the other hand, can reap the rewards of a more engaged and satisfied workforce, resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover rates. Additionally, hybrid work offers the opportunity to hire talent regardless of geographic location. Finally, this model reduces the need for office space, which translates into savings on overhead costs, allowing companies to invest in other areas of the business and become more resilient.
In a nutshell, hybrid work is a win-win situation for both employers and employees that demonstrates the undeniable appeal of hybrid work arrangements. However, there are also things leaders must consider when transitioning to this model, as it requires careful planning and effective communication to blend remote and in-office teams and operations efficiently.
Implementing a Successful Hybrid Work Model
When implementing a flexible hybrid work model, it is important to set clear guidelines and expectations for remote work, such as setting specific hours of availability and ensuring regular communication with team members.
It is also crucial to provide the necessary tools and resources, such as reliable software, a secure virtual communication platform and tools that aid collaboration. Providing training on hybrid work best practices and technology can also help bring remote and in-house teams together and ensure a smooth transition. Here are some key strategies that will help you better support and manage hybrid and remote teams:
1. Lay the Groundwork
Establishing a strong foundation is crucial when integrating hybrid work. To achieve this, it’s essential to adopt a thoughtful approach that can adeptly address uncertainties and encourage employees to embrace this new system. Clear communication of your hybrid policies and procedures is essential to ensure a smooth transition. Here are some key steps to consider:
- Provide Training and Support: Offer training sessions on best practices for hybrid work, including effective virtual communication, time management, and remote collaboration. Provide resources and support for employees to navigate the challenges and opportunities of hybrid work successfully.
- Establish Clear Policies and Procedures: Communicate hybrid work policies and procedures clearly to ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities. Establish guidelines for employees who wish to transition from in-office to hybrid working, ensuring a transparent process.
- Ensure Adequate Infrastructure: Guarantee that everyone has the essential infrastructure and tools, including computer hardware and software, to work effectively from any location of their choice. This step is fundamental for a seamless hybrid work experience.
- Strategic Budget Planning: Plan your budget meticulously by evaluating your resources, business needs, and future objectives. Align your budget with these insights, investing only in tools and technologies that enhance efficiency and facilitate the navigation of hybrid work. Eliminate unnecessary expenses and focus on valuable investments.
2. Establish Clear Communication Protocols
Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful collaboration in a hybrid work environment. Clear and consistent communication ensures that everyone remains aligned, informed, and connected, regardless of their physical location. To master the art of communication in a hybrid setting, try the following strategies:
- Schedule Routine Touchpoints: Regular team meetings are crucial for reviewing progress, addressing concerns, and clarifying goals. Whether daily or weekly, these touchpoints not only keep everyone informed but also foster team cohesion. Utilise video conferencing tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to facilitate virtual face-to-face interactions.
- Use Diverse Communication Tools: While platforms like Slack and Zoom are popular choices, consider exploring a wider array of tools tailored to different communication needs. For collaborative work, for instance, Microsoft Teams is a good choice, while Trello and Asana can help visualise tasks and projects. Google Hangouts, on the other hand, offers a good alternative for quick chats and video calls. By diversifying your communication tools, you can cater to different needs and preferences to enhance collaboration between remote and in-house teams.
- Prioritise Clear Messaging: In the digital age, concise and direct communication is critical. Ensure that emails or messages have a clear purpose and avoid unnecessary jargon. By keeping communication streamlined and straightforward, you can minimise misinterpretation and enhance efficiency.
- Encourage Open Feedback Channels: A culture of open feedback is vital for collaboration and continuous improvement. Encourage team members to share both positive and constructive feedback openly. Anonymous feedback sessions using tools like SurveyMonkey or Google Forms can ensure that everyone’s voice is heard, regardless of their location.
- Respect Boundaries and Availability: With hybrid work, it is essential to acknowledge the different time zones and flexible schedules of team members. Utilise “Do Not Disturb” features or custom statuses in communication tools to indicate availability and ensure that everyone is aware of their team members’ schedules, even when not sharing the same physical space.
- Embrace Asynchronous Work: When team members don’t need to be online at the same time, this can be a valuable approach in a hybrid work model. Consider instant messaging apps for quick queries and discussions and utilise shared documents or online whiteboards for brainstorming and collaboration.
3. Designate Specific Workspaces
Creating designated workspaces is crucial for maintaining focus, productivity, and work-life balance in a hybrid work environment. Encourage remote employees to create dedicated work areas at home that mimic the structure and mindset of an office setting. These spaces help create a clear separation between work and personal life, reducing distractions and improving focus.
- Emphasise the Psychology of Space: Designated workspaces play a pivotal role in creating a mental zone explicitly crafted for work. A well-arranged desk, ergonomic chair, and comfortable environment contribute to productivity and concentration. When employees enter their designated work area, their minds automatically shift gears, readying them for the tasks ahead.
- Provide Necessary Tools, Technology and Resources: To enable seamless collaboration and productivity, ensure that all team members have access to the necessary tools and resources to create effective workspaces. This includes a reliable internet connection, secure virtual communication platforms, project management tools, and any other equipment or software needed for their specific roles, regardless of their physical space. Offer training sessions to familiarise employees with these tools and ensure they understand how to use them effectively. Additionally, assess your existing technology infrastructure and budget to ensure they align with the needs of hybrid work. Invest in relevant technology and appliances that add value and support efficient workflow while eliminating redundant expenses.
- Reconsider Your Office Space: In the office, create a variety of workspaces that cater to different needs. Include open-plan areas for collaboration, meeting rooms for team discussions, and quiet zones for focused work. By providing a range of work environments, employees can choose the setting that best suits their current tasks, needs and preferences.
4. Create a Hybrid Workplace Culture
A company’s culture is a set of shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices amongst all team members at an organisation. These parts contribute to the way people feel about their work, where they see the company going, and their place within it. While this is typically formed over time through organic relationships and culture-building activities, in a hybrid workplace, culture must be formed and nurtured in a setting where employees are working in-office, at home, or some combination of the two. This comes with its own set of challenges, but since hybrid work is not going anywhere any time soon, here are some approaches to consider:
- Encourage Collaboration and Team Building: Promoting collaboration among hybrid and remote teams is crucial for team cohesion and productivity. Virtual collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom have become essential for remote work, but there are other ways to strengthen relationships and build a sense of community. Consider implementing a shared virtual workspace where employees can collaborate on projects, share ideas, and ask questions in real time. Encourage non-work activities such as virtual happy hours, trivia nights, or online escape rooms to foster team bonding and alleviate workplace stress.
- Foster Trust and Accountability: Both are crucial for hybrid teams to thrive. Establish clear performance expectations, encourage open communication, and cultivate a culture of mutual trust. Encourage team members to take ownership of their work and collaborate effectively, regardless of their physical location.
- Focus on Outcomes and Output: In a hybrid work model, it’s important to shift the focus from hours worked to outcomes and quality of output. Encourage employees to set clear goals and deliverables and provide them with the autonomy to decide how and when they achieve those goals. By focusing on results rather than micromanaging the process, you empower employees to take ownership of their work and unleash their creativity. Moreover, this approach allows individuals to work at their most productive times and locations, leading to higher efficiency and job satisfaction.
Bonus Tip – Regularly Evaluate and Adapt
Hybrid work is a dynamic and evolving model. Regularly evaluate its effectiveness and make necessary adjustments based on feedback from employees and the evolving needs of the organisation. Continuously refine policies, procedures, and processes to ensure that hybrid work remains a successful and sustainable approach.
Aimee Treasure is the Marketing Director and D&I Lead at Templeton and Partners, a diverse tech recruitment agency supporting some of the world’s largest businesses. A Chartered Marketer, Aimee’s accolades include Marketing Week’s Rising Star of the Year and Account Professional of the Year at the Recruitment Marketing Awards.