With the effects of COVID-19 starting to subside, employers and employees are bracing for yet another shift — work in a post-pandemic market. Many employers are struggling with the decision to continue with the remote work model developed during the pandemic, bring all their employees back to full-time onsite work or develop a new hybrid work model, which offers both remote and onsite work options.
Our research shows that workers might be ready for an end to full-time remote work. According to our Randstad Workmonitor research, 78% of the global workforce is ready to come back to the workplace, at least part-time. Although, some of these employees are not exactly ready to come back full-time. In fact, one in three employees believes a hybrid work model to be the most ideal working arrangement and nearly one in four want flexible hours.
Taking these statistics into consideration, it should come as no surprise that major companies, such as Microsoft, Google, Randstad Global and Ford Motors, are already investing in hybrid work.
What is a hybrid work model, and will it work for your company? This guide will provide more information about hybrid work models as well as tips for creating a productive hybrid workplace.
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what is a hybrid work model?
A hybrid work model incorporates aspects of both the onsite and remote work models. It can work in two different ways. The most common option is where employers allow their employees to work some days from home and some days in the office. The second hybrid work model is where some employees can work remotely, while others must maintain an onsite work schedule.
There are some great benefits for investing in a hybrid work model, including:
- increased productivity: Our research shows that 34% of employers admit that they noticed an increase in productivity from remote workers.
- greater employee satisfaction: Additional research shows that 35% of employees surveyed consider a hybrid work model to be the ideal work schedule.
- larger talent pool: Requiring employees to only work onsite a few days a week can attract talent that is seeking greater flexibility at work as well as those who don’t want a daily commute.
- better preparedness: Although the effects of COVID-19 are starting to subside, the future remains uncertain. Maintaining a hybrid work model can ensure your employees are prepared for any future workplace disruptions.
best practices for a hybrid workplace: do’s and don’ts
If you are considering implementing a hybrid model, it’s important to have a plan in place right from the start. To help you get started, we have created a list of do’s and don’ts regarding hybrid work best practices.
do: understand your employee’s needs
By and large, employees across the globe stepped up and did what they needed to do to get through the pandemic. While things are slowly returning to normal, many of the extra stressors on your employees' work and personal lives remain. Certainly, you can’t create a work model that addresses every employee’s needs, but you can get a sense of the major challenges facing your workers.
With this understanding, you can create a hybrid model that promotes productivity and employee morale while helping your workers maintain a healthy work-life balance. It’s equally important to schedule frequent check-ins with your workers to monitor the success or weaknesses of the new work model and adjust as necessary.
do: set clear expectations
Research shows that employees want greater guidance when it comes to hybrid work options. Basically, they want to know what’s expected of them. According to our Randstad Workmonitor research, 27% of employees want stronger policies on work hours, while 24% are looking for more stringent protocols involving both remote and onsite work.
When creating new policies for the hybrid workplace, always be clear and concise. Workers should understand what their responsibilities are (work hours, communication obligations, etc.) whether they are working from home or at the office. Your workers should also know exactly how performance will be measured and who to contact for various issues.
do: invest in communication tools
Communication is one of the biggest challenges to the hybrid work model. However, it’s imperative to ensure both onsite and remote workers are up-to-date and on the same page. Otherwise, you risk your company’s reputation due to miscommunication.
If your workers have been remote since the pandemic, it’s likely that you’ve already dealt with multiple communication issues. Fortunately, the advancement of technology in recent years has involved the development of a vast number of communication tools. Take the time to identify your company’s communication pain points. Then, seek out alternative communication options that can help your company overcome these obstacles.
do: restructure the office setting
A new work model involves a new way of working, which, in turn, may require a new work environment. Think about the way your employees will be working from home and at the office. Onsite work days should focus on team building, collaboration, meetings, brainstorming sessions, and training. Having space available for teams to hold these types of meetings will be extremely important as your company transitions into a hybrid model.
This doesn’t mean that your company needs to invest in costly renovations or move to a new location. It just means you need to reimagine the workplace. For example, if your employees are working alternative days, you may be able to create shared office space and convert the other offices into meeting rooms.
do: make safety a priority
While employees may be ready to go back to the workplace, it’s not without some level of anxiety. Of those experiencing anxiety about returning to the workplace, 45% rank COVID-19 safety concerns as the prime culprit. Employers can go a long way to alleviate this anxiety by taking steps to create a safe post-pandemic workplace.
Providing safety tools, such as masks and hand sanitiser; implementing COVID-19 testing procedures; promoting social distancing; and allowing for flexible scheduling can help to make your employees feel safe in the workplace.
don’t: put all the decision-making in the employee’s hands
It may seem like the ideal model to just let each employee determine what days they want to work from home and what days they want to come to the workplace. Unless these employees work independently of their coworkers, this type of arrangement could incur multiple challenges.
First, most employees are going to choose to work Monday and/or Friday from home. So, if your goal is to have fewer workers at the workplace on any given day, this could be a major challenge. Secondly, if team members have alternative days off, using the workplace to enhance innovation, creativity and team-building will not be possible.
A better hybrid work model is one where team leaders or even the company sets the parameters for remote work. You can still offer some flexibility with hours, but the remote model works best if daily schedules are set at the team, department or company level.
don’t: rush to make permanent decisions
It’s important to understand right from the start that creating a hybrid work model takes time. It’s highly likely that the policies you put in place today will have to be modified over the upcoming weeks and months. In fact, it could ultimately take several years to develop a hybrid workplace that is ideal for your company. These changes are ok because this happens when implementing any new business process.
The one mistake you don’t want to make is promising that these new work arrangements are permanent. Instead, let your employees know that developing a hybrid model is a work in progress and that the company will evaluate its effectiveness periodically and initiate changes if necessary.
don’t: create an “us versus them” workforce
Another problem that can quickly occur within a hybrid work model is the development of an “us versus them” mindset. This obstacle is particularly challenging when some employees are working onsite full-time, while others are working remotely or even hybrid. Many workers are so used to working onsite that it can be difficult to remember that their offsite coworkers are not there to hear all conversations or to have knowledge of events happening at the workplace.
It’s vital to have safeguards in place to ensure all workers are kept up to date and have access to the materials they need when they need them. For example, onsite team leaders can create a daily end-of-the-day memo that provides important information of the day. When held accountable for this passage of information, onsite employees will make a greater effort to share all pertinent information.
don’t: allow for digital overload
Digital burnout is real, and it can affect productivity. Recent research conducted by Microsoft showed the number of team meetings doubled from 2020 to 2021 and these meetings more than tripled in length, extending from just ten minutes in 2020 to an average of 35 to 45 minutes in 2021. It also showed a spike in the number of chat messages and emails sent daily.
For remote work to become an effective reality, employers must face the challenge head-on. Some tactics that can help alleviate stress include:
- encouraging leaders to send employees an agenda before meetings to ensure only the people that need to be there attend
- allowing workers to have do-not-disturb time frames, so they can work without distractions
- urging employees to be more thoughtful as to who and why they are sending emails
don’t: focus on all work and no play
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There’s a lot of truth to this. Studies show that the lack of breaks throughout the day can lead to creative block and hinder innovation. Other studies reveal that workers who take breaks tend to be more productive than those that don’t.
Additionally, 27% of workers said a major challenge to remote work was the feeling of isolation. Your company can help to alleviate this feeling of isolation and spark creativity at the same time by hosting social breaks throughout the day for both onsite and remote workers. Consider having breaks, such as virtual coffee breaks, lunchtime trivia games and even an after-hours virtual happy hour.
- 78% of the global workforce is ready to go back to the workplace, at least part-time
- More than one-in-three workers want a hybrid work schedule
- 54% of employees surveyed are already allowed to maintain a hybrid work schedule
- Strong communication tools are key to keeping remote and onsite workers connected
- 24% of employees want employers to develop stricter policies involving onsite and remote work
- Employers must take the lead when creating hybrid work schedules
- Creating a new workplace environment that promotes collaboration and COVID safety is a must
- Employers can help avoid digital burnout in the workplace by developing meaningful workplace practices that limit digital touchpoints
For more tips about developing an effective hybrid work model that improves production, job satisfaction and retention rates, download our mini-guide to improving employee engagement in a hybrid work environment.