Future of Work
Hybrid work is one of the biggest trends to emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. We delve into all the details about hybrid work in this article, from what it means to the benefits and best practices and the results you can expect from implementing hybrid work.
With governments lifting lockdown mandates, companies are now faced with a choice – to call employees back to the office, to permanently shift to a remote work model, or to implement a hybrid work model. This shift is partly driven by the success of the remote working model during the lockdown, and employees wanting to continue working remotely.
However, implementing a hybrid working model involves more than having to make a simple ‘either-or’ decision. Two important factors human resource (HR) departments must consider when implementing a hybrid work model are the company’s growth plan and employee welfare.
If you are planning to implement a hybrid work model at your organization, but are not sure where to start, this article details some best practices.
Table of Contents
What Is Hybrid Work? Hybrid Working In 2022
It’s 2022, and no conversation about the Future of Work would be complete without referencing the hybrid working model. With the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, companies are re-evaluating the need to recall employees to the office, given that remote work, initiated during the pandemic, has proven to be successful. According to the EY 2022 Work Reimagined Survey , while 36% of employers wanted employees to return to the office full-time, 53% of employees wanted to work from anywhere permanently. Companies are therefore trying to design hybrid work models that suit both their needs and those of their employees.
Learn More: Crafting A Winning Employee Experience in The Hybrid Workplace
Definition of hybrid work
So, what is hybrid work? It can be defined as an arrangement where “employees are free to work both from the office or remotely. They can utilize both options considering all the different factors at play, as per their needs and the needs of their organization. In a hybrid work model, workers have more flexibility and can do their work wherever they are most productive.”
Meaning of hybrid work
Hybrid work offers the best of both worlds – the flexibility of working remotely and the opportunity to interact, in person, with colleagues and clients, as the need arises. It is a people-first approach that aims at maximizing productivity and job satisfaction, while addressing issues like isolation when employees are working remotely.
The Rise in Demand for Hybrid Work Worldwide
According to The Work Trend Index Report 2022 by Microsoft (a study of 31,000 people in 31 countries), 52% of employees surveyed were considering switching to an employer that allowed full-time remote work or had a hybrid work model as more businesses were mandating a return to the office.
A Gartner survey of 10,000 digital workers from the US, Europe, and APAC shows that flexibility was key contributor to productivity. While 43% of respondents said work-hour flexibility boosted their productivity, 30% said that the time saved on commuting increased their productivity.
What Are the Benefits of Hybrid Work?
By implementing hybrid work policies, organizations can provide employees with the advantages of working from home while benefitting from increased productivity, more employee engagement, and a reduction in overheads. Let us look at some of the key benefits of implementing a hybrid work model:
1. Flexibility and security
Hybrid working allows employees to work wherever and whenever they are most productive, and balance career progression with their personal commitments. For example, if an employee wants to enrol for a course that’s offered during standard working hours, they can work ‘after hours’ and focus on their coursework, when needed. As a full-time employment model, hybrid work provides greater financial security than freelance work or self-employment as it comes with a fixed salary and additional benefits such as sick leave and paid leave.
2. Employee health and well-being
Hybrid work allows employees to come into the office only when necessary. Studies have shown that people who spend less time commuting tend to have lower stress levels and better mental health compared with those who spend long hours traveling between work and home. The former are also more likely to experience positive outcomes, including improved health and well-being, and greater job satisfaction.
3. Increased productivity
According to The Future of Hybrid Work Report by Gallup, employees working in a hybrid model reported higher levels of engagement at work and less burnout than those who don't. A hybrid model, in contrast to a traditional work set up, allows employees to switch between working remotely and coming to office throughout the week.
Hybrid work has also shown to minimize distractions and improve focus. Not only do hybrid workers produce more, they also tend to be more creative than their office-bound counterparts – as evidenced in Betterup’s data report where remote workers showed a 56% increase in creativity and innovative thought.
4. Diverse talent pool
As companies move toward hiring more hybrid workers (with multiple skill sets), they're finding that it grants them unprecedented access to a wider talent pool. It also allows them to make teams more inclusive.
A diverse talent pool offers numerous benefits. It allows companies to hire people who bring different perspectives, which can lead to better solutions for clients.
5. Reduces costs
With less people in office, there is a saving on utility bills, cleaning services, cost of food and coffee, and office supplies like stationery. Since 2013, Dell has saved an estimated 42 million kWh of energy by offering flexible work solutions.
Learn More: Focusing on the Now of Work
Hybrid Work Set Up Methodology for HR
HR leaders must first understand the needs of both employees and the organization, to facilitate a successful transition from on-site work to a hybrid work model. The objective is to create a flexible, collaborative, and efficient work environment that allows employees to work at a pace, and in a setting, that will maximize productivity.
Here are a few tips to help your organization set up an ideal hybrid work environment:
1. Identify what model works best for you
If you are implementing a hybrid work model for the first time, choose one that best aligns with your organization's goals and values. Let’s explore five common hybrid work models that are being adopted in 2022.
- Office-first hybrid work model
In an office-first or office-based hybrid model, employees are expected to work from the office. However, there is still some flexibility to work remotely when the need arises.
The office-first hybrid work model is the most traditional hybrid work model. It is most beneficial for those who need a schedule and more traditional structure in their daily life.
- Remote-first hybrid work model
Employees in a remote-first hybrid work model are expected to work from their homes or any remote location. They may work from the office on occasion, but the expectation is that they do the bulk of their work remotely.
This model has shown to reduce turnover rates, as various studies have shown that employees tend to stay on at a company that offers flexible schedules. This can also result in fewer sick days because employees not being forced to come to office when they’re unwell.
- Flexible schedule hybrid work model
A flexible hybrid work model gives employees the freedom to work from home or the office. As the name suggests, employees have autonomy over their working hours and location. This model favours open-plan seating, with no designated workspaces.
- Fixed hybrid work model
The fixed hybrid work model is ideal for when employees have a set amount of time each week that they must spend at the office, but are free to work from home for the rest of the time. The benefit of this approach is that it allows people to enjoy some flexibility while also providing them with structure and accountability throughout the week.
- Partly remote hybrid work model
In a partly remote hybrid work model, the team is split into two groups: one is based in the office, and one works remotely. The group that works from the office will have employees who work better together in person, and the latter is for those who prefer to work alone most of the time.
The advantage of this model is that it allows greater flexibility for employees who prefer working away from office distractions. However, it can create challenges when employees in the office need to collaborate with those who are working remotely.
2. Set guidelines for hybrid work
With hybrid work becoming more common, companies should set clear guidelines for how often people should be in the office and what’s expected of them when they’re working remotely.
For example, hybrid workers may not be allowed to access sensitive information for security reasons. Employees also need to be given clear targets stating what they are responsible for, and what kind of support they will receive. Create written guidelines for your remote team members, including when and how often they should check in with their manager, and what type of communication methods will be available (e.g., email, phone calls, or video calls).
3. Set fair expectations
It's important to give employees enough information so they know what needs to be done when they are working from the office or remotely. Define what success looks like for everyone involved to prevent frustration among those who may feel that they are doing the heavy lifting. This will make it easier to ensure harmony, and that everyone is pulling their own weight.
4. Offer continuous training
Employees will need regular training to sustain a hybrid work model. This will help them develop new skills and knowledge and hone their existing skills. Training should also focus on new technologies or processes. It should also include best practices when it comes to communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution while working remotely. This should also include how to communicate with clients from different cultures.
Sessions can be conducted in person or virtually. Employees can also be given access to online resources such as videos and webinars to learn at their own pace. Apart from inhouse trainers, external speakers, who are experts in a particular field, can be invited to conduct sessions with employees.
5. Create a culture of trust and transparency
It's important for employees to feel confident in a new work setup. Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns or asking advice on handling an issue with a client or co-worker. There should be no fear of reprisal. When everyone on your team is clear about everyone’s role, it makes it easier for them to collaborate effectively. Communicate openly with your team members about projects, goals, deadlines – everything!
Learn More: Humanizing HR Technology – Innovations in the Hybrid Workplace
Hybrid Work Best Practices
Hybrid work is the new normal and ensuring that a distributed workforce stays productive is crucial. So, how can organizations guarantee that?
1. Use the right tools and technology
Technology is constantly evolving, and it is important to ensure that your team has access to tools that will maximize engagement, collaboration, and productivity.
- A good calendar app keeps team members updated about everyone’s schedules and availability. This ensures that there are no overlapping or missed appointments.
- An efficient project management tool allows teams to collaborate easily and share important documents. This minimizes unending email chains and keeps everyone updated about the latest developments on a project.
- A virtual shared workspace eases communication, collaboration on projects, and file sharing. Use one that includes private workspaces for when you want to keep things confidential and restrict access to only those who need to attend.
- Video conferencing software enables ‘face-to-face’ meetings with colleagues who are working remotely. This helps build a ‘real’ connection rather than restrict interactions to text chats and the office instant messenger.
- Time-tracking software allows employees to efficiently allocate time to various projects and tasks, maintain deadlines, and maximize productivity.
2. Encourage communication and collaboration
As we move to a hybrid work model, it’s important to remember that communication is key. These strategies will help increase effective communication in your organization:
Offer multiple channels of communication
It’s important that a company has multiple official channels of communication available to its employees, so that everyone is on the same page, and feels connected with each other and their work. Use an online chat app or instant messenger to send quick updates about ongoing tasks.
For longer conversations, consider using video chat apps. This is especially helpful if you need to discuss something ‘face-to-face’ with multiple people at once.
Finally, there’s traditional email, which though slower than a chat app, is still the preferred way for co-workers to communicate effectively.
Set clear expectation
If employee targets are not defined, their efforts will lack focus and direction. Set clear objectives and deadlines so they know what needs to be done and by when.
If your company uses a project management system, make sure goals are clearly defined so everyone knows what they're working toward – and how much progress has been made.
Build personal connections
Face-to-face interactions, even when meeting virtually, ensure far more impactful collaboration. Try and ensure that the employees interact on a regular basis to keep communication strong. If the role is client-facing, ensure at least fortnightly meetings with the client, preferably in person.
It can be hard for people who don't know each other well yet (or at all) to collaborate when working remotely. It’s important to strike the right balance and be communicative without crossing boundaries and interfering in a colleague’s personal time and space.
3. Encourage two-way communication
Encourage everyone on your team to speak up when they have ideas or concerns. It helps to keep things running smoothly when there is a consensus before decisions are finalized.
With two-way communication, you will find that your team members are more engaged with each other and their work. They will feel like their voice matters, which will keep them more invested in the company’s goals and initiatives.
Here are five tips to encourage two-way communication when working with remote colleagues:
- Make it easy for them to reach you
- Be proactive about checking-in with colleagues
- Ensure that email isn’t the only mode of communication you use
- Use your phone for urgent updates
- Consider video conferencing for complex discussions
4. Appoint technical SMEs
If your employees need help with technical issues, make sure you have subject matter experts (SMEs) who can solve them quickly and efficiently.
If your organization has a lot of remote workers, set up a tech support center where employees can report issues and get the help they need. If your tech support is short-staffed, schedule weekly or monthly meetings with teams to make sure there are no challenges.
Learn More: The Top 10 HR Best Practices for 2022
What Are the Results of Working Hybrid?
The hybrid work culture is based on three pillars: the necessity to work remotely, the need for face-to-face communication, and the desire to save time, particularly with commute. These three aspects should be considered when structuring the hybrid work culture in your company.
The hybrid work culture is uniquely suited to helping organizations remain relevant and competitive in today’s market. It offers several advantages, including cost savings, flexibility, and faster time-to-market. These are some of the other advantages it offers:
1. Increased ROI
A recent study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics indicates that companies that have both onsite and remote workers have recently seen a 21% increase in profitability. Hybrid workers are more engaged and productive, often resulting in higher sales, lower turnover costs, and increased customer satisfaction.
Researchers at the Harvard Business School, who studied the outcomes of hybrid work arrangements in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, found that productivity increased by 4.4 %, resulting in an estimated $1.3 billion in additional economic output for the U.S. economy overall. This suggests that company leaders and remote workers are working more productively when they have flexible arrangements, resulting in a higher return on investment.
2. Improved employee mental health and well-being
A hybrid work schedule can reduce the pressure of trying to schedule personal matters around a fixed work day. A recent survey by Salesforce found that 59% of employees felt a hybrid work model contributes positively to their psychological well-being because they were able to take care of their personal business without the pressure of rigid work schedules. Allowing employees to take breaks when they need it has shown to increase their performance, engagement, and mental health.
3. Reduced attrition
With more control over when and where they work, employees are going to be happier with their jobs overall—and that means they're less likely to leave! This saves employers from losing valuable talent that's hard to replace. It also helps an organization attract new talent.
Learn More: Adapting your HR Tech Infrastructure For Today’s World of Remote Work
Key Points to Remember
Hybrid work culture is not just a buzzword, but a viable alternative to the traditional 9-5 office-based workday. Hybrid work culture allows employees to work when and where they are most productive. The key is adopting a model that is aligned with both organizational goals and employee expectations.
Find out how Darwinbox can help you transition to a hybrid work model, by providing an engaging experience for all your employees. Book a quick demo today.
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