Is hybrid work the future of the workplace?
Before the pandemic, companies generally fell into one of two buckets: remote-first or office-first. But now there’s a newer bucket that’s emerging: hybrid work. Sitting somewhere in the middle, hybrid work empowers employees to choose whether they go into an office or not.
Before the pandemic, companies generally fell into one of two buckets: remote-first or office-first. Remote-first companies expect their employees to work remotely. While office-first companies expect their employees to work from an office.
But now there’s a newer bucket that’s emerging: hybrid work. Sitting somewhere in the middle, hybrid work empowers employees to choose whether they go into an office or not. The global pandemic has taught companies that, for many, it’s possible to run successful remote meetings and be productive from home. That gives employees the choice of where they work best. Technology allows us to connect these spaces, creating a unified place where we complete our work: the workscape.
Right now, many companies are considering switching to a hybrid work approach. Hybrid work models, done right, will allow organizations to better recruit talent, achieve innovation, and create value for all stakeholders. There are many variants of hybrid work that you should consider to determine the right match for your culture and company. Do you expect employees to commit to how often they will be in the office? Must they reserve a space, or can they come and go as needed?
Even the physical office can flex in this future workplace. Consider the different types of physical offices to choose from:
- Headquarters: the main office that houses central operations
- Micro-offices: smaller, flexible workspaces distributed in multiple locations
- On-demand offices: a workspace that is available when a business needs it, like coworking spaces and cafés
Genentech, a biotech company in South San Francisco, recently adopted a hybrid model. They give employees the option of working at five flexible on-demand spaces around the Bay Area.
In the past, many thought of remote work and office work in isolation. And while they operationally remain independent, the tangible workscape supports the intangible elements of our work experience. You should consider these together when exploring alternatives to the traditional work approach.
Slack, a software company whose headquarters are in San Francisco, used to be office-first. They preferred that employees be physically in the office to foster a culture of collaboration. But once they went remote, they realized that there was a misperception about how they thought about the workplace. Erin Figueroa, Sr. Director of Operations at Slack, shared, “When we went remote, we realized that San Francisco was no longer our headquarters. The product, Slack, was our headquarters. That’s where work happened before, that’s where work is happening now, and that’s where work will happen in the future. And once we reconciled that, it unlocked the potential of the company.”
Where a company was on the physical-virtual work landscape-scale a year ago is likely not where it will be a year from now. This shift will move a lot of companies from office-first into a hybrid work model. These companies will need a plan to address the blurred lines between the physical and virtual work environments.
The pillars of hybrid work
To help you think about this shifting landscape, consider the two critical pillars of hybrid work that are emerging:
- Workscape: The physical-virtual landscape that refers to the physical spaces where people do work.
- Work experience: The culture, traditions, benefits, and approaches to work an organization offers.
Both of these pillars are very specific to your own company. What works for others might not work for you. So it’s critical to consider where your company was before the pandemic, where you are now, and where you want to be in the future. Take an inventory of your tangible and intangible elements of work and see where they overlap and diverge. This will be the starting place for your hybrid work plan.
Understanding your workscape is the first step to rethinking your strategy. Next, you’ll want to analyze your work activity and begin to adapt your approach to work. How will you create a new work landscape that helps employees thrive in their jobs and accomplish the work that matters most in the short and long term?