This week marks one month of my new hybrid work reality. Envoy’s workplace opened up to vaccinated employees in late May. It felt wonderful to return after being remote for 426 days. I missed the open floor plan, the standing desks, the whiteboards (oh how I missed whiteboards!), the snacks, the view… But most of all I missed my teammates.
So much has happened over the last year and a half. Simply put, the world changed. People changed. And the length of time workplaces across the globe have been closed has had a monumental impact on where and how employees want to work. Before the pandemic, only 20% of employees worked from home during most of the workweek. Post-pandemic, more than half of people (56%) say they want to spend at least one day a week remote. As a result, many companies—Envoy included—have adopted a hybrid work model.
So after one month of working in a hybrid work environment, I’ve learned a few things. I hope my seven top takeaways will help others starting out on their hybrid journeys and give workplace teams a few ideas for how they can improve their strategies.
1 – Commuting again was jarring at first. But it has helped separate work and life
I live about an hour and a half away from the office, depending on traffic. It had been 16 months since I last commuted to work, so the first few days were strange. I could literally feel time being erased from my day. On more than one occasion I remember thinking, “It’s 7 pm already?!?!”
At the same time, the commute creates a break between work and home. I’ve started to use my transit time to catch up with colleagues, family members, and friends over the phone. To lessen the pain of commuting again, I recommend using the time to do something that serves you. Call a friend, read a book, listen to music. Resist the urge to check your work email.
2 – I’m happier and more engaged while working on-site
Despite feeling like I lose time commuting, working on-site is better for my long-term engagement and mental health. Seeing my co-workers in person has been amazing. My first hugs and high-fives felt both foreign and fantastic. And I’ve finally had the chance to interact in person with newer folks who’ve joined the company during the pandemic.
I’ve also realized how little I had been communicating with other departments while I was remote. Being back in the workplace reminded me how much I can accomplish in a two-minute conversation.
3 – Some things are difficult to replicate in a remote work environment
In my first month of working on-site, I saw new salespeople working through onboarding sessions together. They were able to pepper me with questions, which wasn’t as easy the last 15 months. Having to coordinate conversations over a scheduled Zoom or phone call isn’t exactly conducive to impromptu conversations.
I was also able to have quick conversations with engineers and even enjoy a beer on the roof deck with our Head of Product. These are the types of culture-building moments that often only happen in close physical proximity to others. They’ve been exhilarating.
4 – Being in the same physical space as my colleagues has given me a renewed sense of purpose
While it’s great to be back, not everyone has been able to share in this experience of being together in the same physical space. I’ve sensed anxiety from remote employees watching their co-workers gather together at our HQ.
This new reality is here and it’s real. There is FOMO. There is concern about becoming a “second class citizen” if you’re remote. As a team leader and as a colleague, I’ve been dealing with these challenges with open and honest communication. I try to spend a little extra time asking my remote colleagues about their experiences.
I also have plans to travel to Denver to spend some face-to-face time with our growing squad out there. It’ll be my first time meeting 20 team members in person.
5 – Workplace tech and the return to work go hand in hand
My first day back reminded me how critical workplace technology is for navigating a smooth and safe return to work. For example, the access control app on my phone didn’t open the building’s parking garage. That’s by design. The app integrates with the Envoy mobile app. To gain access, I have to register for work through Envoy. Once I’m approved to be on-site, I can use my phone to access the garage, the building, and the doors to our suite.
Even at smaller companies, manually managing who has access to the workplace can be tough. Companies need to employ tools and technologies that’ll enable a smooth return to work. They’ll not only help admins manage the return. They’ll also ensure employees feel confident about navigating the workplace in a more flexible work environment.
6 – Managing meeting rooms and other shared spaces is vital
On a day in early June, when 10 employees were in the office, I had free reign to choose any hot desk out of the 60 available. But when it came to meeting rooms, even at 10% of normal capacity, I still worried about securing a room with the right amenities.
Many companies adopting a flexible working model are touting that they plan to use their workplaces for collaborative work. To do this right, employers need to ensure they have the space types their people need to work together effectively. Meeting rooms and desks are critical. They must be available for the folks that need them and equipped with the right tools. They also need to be easy for employees to find and book so they can hop on impromptu calls with remote teammates.
7 – Hybrid work gives me more time for the things that matter most
I recently planned a WFH day on the day of my 10 years old’s birthday party. Several of his classmates got together for an outdoor laser tag event! Normally, I would have missed out, but having a flexible work schedule meant I was able to join the late afternoon excitement. As a parent, hybrid work helps me integrate these kinds of activities into my routine. That means more time for the things that matter most, which makes me happier and more refreshed to do work.
These days, the workplace isn’t one space—it’s many. I remain very bullish on the benefits of hybrid work. And I’m thankful to work somewhere that has not only embraced this work model but has built a platform to help companies optimize hybrid work for their people.
Want to learn how to build a great hybrid workplace for your employees? Download our ebook, How to build a people-centric workplace experience.