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Hybrid work: what it is and why nearly half of employees want it

The workweek has looked the same for generations. Before March of 2020, a handful of companies had alternative work models. But for the most part, going to the workplace five days a week was the norm. Cue a global pandemic—work hasn’t been the same since.

Hybrid work is a drastic departure from the traditional work model. In this post, we’ll explore what it means to have a hybrid work model and the steps your workplace team can take to transition smoothly to one.

What is hybrid work?

Before going any further, let’s talk about what we mean when we say “hybrid work.” In general, a hybrid work model offers employees flexibility in when and where they work. 

Hybrid work has many variations. Some companies might allow every employee the flexibility to work on-site and remotely part of the week. Other companies might have employees working either full-time remote or full-time on-site. And others might allow a combo of the two.

Hybrid work model options

The value of hybrid work

A recent survey we conducted with Wakefield Research shows that almost half of employees (47%) would likely look for a job if their employer didn’t offer flexible work opportunities. It’s clear employees see value in hybrid work, but what attracts them to this kind of work? Let’s look at some of the perks of hybrid work for employees and their companies.

Likeliness to search for another job if employer doesn’t offer hybrid work

1. Employees can do work when and how they’re most productive 

In an office-first model, people are expected to be on the clock between 9 am and 5 pm every workday. Hybrid work gives employees more flexibility to get work done when they’re most productive. For example, some people work best early in the morning while others do better in the evening. They can also choose to work with teammates on-site or do heads-down work from a remote location.

2. Better work-life balance

A recent study by Slack found that flexibility is a key reason employees are attracted to the hybrid work model. Finding balance is easier in a flexible work arrangement. When employees have more control of their work schedules, they can free up time to take care of the things that crop up in their personal lives—whether it’s running an errand, picking up kids from daycare, or being home for a delivery.

3. Reduce exposure to illness

In our survey, a majority (66%) of employees say they’re worried about their health and safety when it comes to returning to work. Fewer people in the workplace lowers the chance of a sick employee infecting others. And since people have the option to work remotely under most hybrid work models, a sick employee can stay home altogether. 

4. Save on real estate expenses 

In a hybrid work setup, fewer people are on-site at any given time. For some companies, this may mean they don’t need to hold on to all of their costly real estate investments. By rethinking your workplace strategy, you can lower real estate costs by 30 percent. Your company might reinvest cost savings to provide work options for employees, like satellite offices and smaller co-working spaces.

5. Hire talent across the globe 

In a hybrid work model, your company can hire talent from all around the globe. Having access to a wider talent pool means you can hire people with specialized skills. This can give your organization a competitive edge, help you move into new markets, and ensure around-the-clock productivity.

How to adopt a hybrid work model

To make hybrid work for your company, you need the right people, processes, and technology. Let’s take a look at a few things you should consider when moving to a hybrid work model.

Survey your employees to find out what they need

To build a hybrid model that works for your company, speak with your workforce to learn their needs. These are the people who will have a lot to gain—or lose—from changes made to your work model. By involving them in the process, you can create a working model to keep your workforce feeling motivated to do their best work. 

Send out a survey to help gauge employee sentiment around hybrid work. Be sure to ask questions about the working setup they’d thrive most in and include examples. Here are some questions to consider including:

  • Have you moved away from your assigned work location in the past year?
  • How many days per week do you anticipate wanting to work on-site?
  • If you had access to an office space closer to home, would you prefer to use that instead of commuting to the office?

Once you analyze the results of the survey, you’ll understand the demand for hybrid work at your organization. You should also see what flexible working arrangements appeal most to employees and begin to tailor your work model accordingly.

Develop employee personas

Employee surveys are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of how your employees feel in real-time. But you won’t always have time to survey your people. To keep your team moving fast, develop a set of employee personas. Personas are a set of semi-fictional characters that represent your employees—their needs, behaviors, and preferences. We won’t spend too much time talking about how to build personas since we have a toolkit (linked above) that’ll walk you through how to create them.

For companies with a hybrid work model, personas are a must-have tool. They help you remain agile as things change—and they no doubt will. They’ll guide you as you create new experiences and manage your space to suit your employees’ evolving needs. Learn more about why they’re important in this post.

Build the infrastructure that’ll support flexible work

At its best, hybrid work will bridge the remote and on-site environments so employees can work together with ease. You’ll need to invest in technologies that enable this, such as communication tools and on-site video conferencing equipment. Decide whether you need new tools or if you can leverage existing ones in new ways.

Establish company-wide communication best practices and encourage team leads to set clear expectations with their employees. For example, you may adopt an asynchronous style of communication to accommodate employees working in different time zones. 

Finally, create office schedules to manage workplace traffic and provide employees flexibility. There are a number of ways to approach this. For example, you may decide employees will work on-site on certain days or weeks. Or, you could allow custom scheduling where managers set their team’s schedules.

Invest in company culture

Be intentional about reinforcing your company culture. This is even more important in a hybrid work model, where it’s not always possible to swing by someone’s desk or have a water cooler chat. Invest in opportunities that delight your employees, like gamifying part of your company’s onboarding experience.

Consider how you can create experiences for the hybrid work landscape around your company’s core values. For example, if your organization values teamwork, you might arrange a virtual team-building activity. At Envoy, we use the Donut Slack integration to encourage employees to meet people on other teams for a virtual coffee chat or peer learning exchange. 

The hybrid model used to be seen as an alternative style of work. But as more employees demand flexibility, it’ll become even more common. Companies must meet the needs of their workforce or risk losing talent to employers that do.

Take a look at which employee demographics are most likely to hit the job boards—and learn what you can do as a workplace leader to keep your people. It’s all here in our ebook: Employees have a vision for the future of work and it’s hybrid.