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What is hybrid work and why do employees want it?

In this post, we explore all things hybrid work, including what it is, how it’s changed over time, best practices, and more.

Amy Kirkham
By Amy Kirkham Content Marketing Manager

Hybrid work is a big departure from the traditional work model. But what exactly is hybrid work—and how has it changed over time? 

Hybrid work has transformed the way we think about work. It’s a flexible, modern way of working that’s been swarming around the working world for years. Yet, despite being popular with so many companies worldwide, hybrid work isn’t one-size-fits-all. Instead, it comes in different forms for different businesses and their employees. In this post, we’ll explore what a hybrid work model is, including how you can transition to one smoothly.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What is hybrid work?
  • The benefits of hybrid work (and the disadvantages) 
  • 4 types of hybrid work schedules 
  • How hybrid work has evolved—and some key learnings
  • Hybrid work best practices and how to adopt a hybrid work model
  • Technology you need to make hybrid work

What is hybrid work?

Hybrid work is a flexible approach that combines working in an office environment and working from home. Hybrid work varies in flexibility and supports a variety of different work schedules. It allows employees to choose how and where they work, and offers autonomy to employees to design their working week in a way that works both for them and with company policies. 

Organizations who use a hybrid work model can offer a better work-life balance to their employees. This in turn drives productivity and employee engagement at work, and helps businesses operate more efficiently as a result.

The benefits of hybrid work (and the disadvantages)

We know employees see the value in hybrid work. A survey conducted with Wakefield Research shows that almost half of employees (47%) would likely look for another job if their employer doesn’t offer a hybrid working model. 

So it’s no surprise that data from our April 2022 survey showed that 77% of companies have already opted to go hybrid in some form. What’s more, 56% of those companies are allowing employees to choose when and how often they wish to come into the office.

Naturally, hybrid work comes with pros and cons. Let’s look at some of the perks (and non-perks) of hybrid work for employees and their companies.

Benefit #1: Employees can 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. In a hybrid work model, employees have more flexibility to get work done when, how, and where they’re most productive. This means flexible schedules and locations. 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 onsite or do heads-down work from a remote location.

Benefit #2: Better work-life balance

In a report by McKinsey, 87% of employees would take the chance to work more flexibly if their employers offered it. Flexibility is what powers hybrid work, and according to Slack, it’s a key reason why 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. According to our very own Head of Sales, Justin Bullock, hybrid work gave him the flexibility to attend his 10 year-old’s birthday party. “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.”

Benefit #3: Hire talent across the globe

Looking to broaden your talent pool? 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.

Benefit #4: Save on real estate expenses

In a hybrid work model, fewer people can be on-site at any given time. For some companies, this may mean downsizing on their real estate. In the very least, hybrid working will help you figure out how much office space you need to support your employees. 

Rethinking your workplace strategy can help you lower real estate costs by 30%. This allows you to reinvest those cost savings elsewhere, like providing more work options for employees in the form of satellite offices and smaller co-working spaces.

Disadvantage #1: Harder to collaborate with remote employees 

Hybrid work will see people come into the workplace at different times of the week. It means that people will sometimes miss each other and the chance to collaborate on the fly. To get around this, investing in the right technology is crucial. With workplace technology, your employees can communicate with one another and get visibility about when coworkers will also be onsite.

Disadvantage #2: Requires oversight and maintenance to keep it working

Hybrid work needs a lot of care and attention to get right. If you want to allow freedoms and flexibility for your employees at work, it often means balancing that with appropriate oversight, policies, and maintenance too. For example, leaders might make it compulsory for their teams to be onsite on a certain day of the week in order to boost team morale and collaboration. This might conflict with flexibility and autonomy, but it’s necessary to get folks together so they can enjoy other freedoms like working from home for the remainder of their week.

Being adaptable is also key to maintaining hybrid work. Peoples’ needs change, so you might find that changing in-office days every now and again is necessary for the overall happiness of the team.

Disadvantage #3: Not suitable for all industries

Hybrid work models might not work for every industry. Some organizations have chosen to be fully remote, while others must be onsite in order to function, like nursing, teaching, or manufacturing. Because of this, employees are choosing different industries based on the levels of flexibility on offer. According to our 2022 Workplace Trends Report, the materials, utilities, and telecom services industries had the least amount of on-site traffic growth since January 2021.

4 types of hybrid work schedules

Hybrid work is a flexible work model, which means there is more than one way of making it work for your business. For example, it might be important to you to offer your employees maximum autonomy so they can design their work week with zero restrictions or mandates. You might also decide that requiring your employees to be onsite for a certain number of days will help everyone be more productive and happy at work.

Choosing the best hybrid work schedule for your business is important. With each schedule comes different benefits and challenges. Here’s a brief breakdown of the 4 types of work schedules out there.

  1. Hybrid at-will: Employees can choose which day(s) to come into the office
  2. Hybrid split-week: Your company assigns specific days for on-site and remote work by team or function
  3. Hybrid manager-scheduling: Managers choose which day(s) their team comes into the office
  4. Hybrid mix: A combo of all three options

How hybrid work has evolved—and some key learnings

Granted, hybrid work doesn’t exactly feel new anymore. In fact, with over 70% of US companies using a form of hybrid work in their businesses today, it feels pretty mainstream for many.

But hybrid work has been around a lot longer than you might think. According to Gallup, approximately 32% of the US workforce (around 60 million people) were working in some form of a hybrid work model in 2019. Post-pandemic, that figure rose to 53%. Why? Because the pandemic caused a huge shift in how people view work and the way it gets done–productivity became more important than location alone.

Over time, there’s been a lot of trial and error for those using hybrid work–and there still will be as many organizations figure out how it can serve them best. Here are some key learnings from hybrid work over the last two years.

  • Hybrid work needs the right tools to be successful. Hybrid work isn’t just the way people work in your office and at home, it’s also the way your office works for your people. Upgrade your office with the right tools. Examples might include hot-desking, room booking, or an easy check-in system for employees. For the right tools to make hybrid work, check out our blog post here.
  • Hybrid work serves the renewed purpose of the workplace. If your people are traveling into the office from home, you want it to be for the right reasons. Hybrid work works best when your employees have a purpose in the workplace–whether that’s collaboration with coworkers, team meetings, or heads down work. Ensure the office offers what they need to work in the best way for them. 
  • Hybrid work looks different for different companies. Hybrid work is a working model that changes depending on who’s using it and why. When you implement hybrid work, ensure it’s designed in a way that works for you. Some examples might be choosing the right schedule for your employees or offering smaller, co-working spaces alongside your main HQ. Remember that hybrid work isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • The future of hybrid work is still fluid. There is no set destination for hybrid work. We know what it is, but the future of hybrid work will continue to look different as more people return to work.

Hybrid work best practices and how to adopt a hybrid work model

Now that you know what hybrid work is, the different types of hybrid work schedules, and the benefits and disadvantages, it’s time to implement hybrid work into your organization. To adopt a hybrid work model, you need the right people, processes, and technology. Below are some hybrid work best practices for you to follow.

  • Communicate with your employees. Communication is key! When you roll out hybrid work, your decisions will affect everyone in your workforce. It’s important to keep them in the loop and ask for their input when rolling out hybrid work or making changes to your hybrid policy. 
  • Work with HR and IT. Working cross-functionally is important when adopting hybrid work to ensure your workplace technology is seamless and able to support everyone—no matter where they work.
  • Create the right work environment. No more rigid or boring offices. Hybrid work means the office must be a place where employees want to work, so creating a dynamic workplace is important. 
  • Delight and connect remote and onsite employees. Hybrid work will see some folks work from home while others work from the office. Finding ways to connect and delight everyone is an important part of keeping employee happiness and engagement high.

Following the above hybrid work best practices is important for its success in your organization. For more information on hybrid work best practices, be sure to check out our blog post.

Let’s now dive into a few things you should consider when moving to a hybrid work model.

Survey your employees and leaders to find out what they need

To build a hybrid model that works for your company, start by speaking with your workforce to learn their needs. Hybrid work must work for everyone, so asking employees and executives will offer valuable and different perspectives. Be sure to ask questions about the working setup each group would thrive in most, as well as how they use the office currently. By asking a range of people, you can create a work model that gets folks ready to embrace change and keeps them motivated to do their best work. 

Here are some questions to include in your survey.

  • Would you choose to work onsite to mainly focus on your own or collaborate with your team?
  • How many days per week do you anticipate wanting to work onsite?
  • If you had access to an office space closer to home, would you prefer to use that instead of commuting to the office?

Build the infrastructure that supports flexibility

At its best, hybrid work will bridge the remote and onsite environments so employees can work together with ease. Investing in technology in the workplace, such as remote communication tools and video conferencing equipment, will help enable this. 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.

Create office schedules to manage workplace traffic and provide employees with flexibility. There are a number of ways to approach this. For example, your hybrid work model may consist of a hybrid at-will policy where employees choose which day(s) they come into the office. Or, you might choose a hybrid manager-scheduling policy where managers control schedules and select which day(s) their folks come into the office.

Invest in company culture

Company culture is the heart of your organization. It can be a massive competitive advantage—and a major contributor to the success of your hybrid work model. Be intentional about defining your company culture to support hybrid work and distributed employees

It’s also important to create experiences for the hybrid workplace around your company’s core values. For example, if your organization values teamwork, you might arrange an in-person or 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.

Create a great workplace experience

Workplace experience is the number one ingredient to your hybrid work model actually working. While your employees may not come onsite every single day, it’s important to ensure that each day in the workplace is purposeful and intentional. The more people onsite, the better the experience is for those who are there to meet and collaborate in-person.

Creating a great workplace experience requires a focus on three elements: space, technology, and people. Thinking about how each component works together will elevate your hybrid work model. For example, creating more purposeful spaces in your office will improve your workplace experience because employees have different areas to choose from. That might be quiet zones, meeting pods, collaboration rooms, or lounge areas. Supporting different types of people and work will help support your hybrid work model. 

If you need some tips on how to create a workplace people want to visit, check out our ultimate guide to improving the workplace experience.

Gather continuous feedback

As you continue to build a hybrid workplace that’s ideal for your company, remember to gather employee feedback. Be sure to provide more than one way for employees to share their thoughts. For example, you might have an “always-on” Slack channel dedicated to employee feedback. In addition to that, you might send out quarterly feedback surveys to your workforce. 

Collecting this feedback will help you iterate as you go and build a hybrid workplace that works for everyone. Check out our blog post for more ideas on how to get real, unfiltered employee feedback.

Technology you need to make hybrid work

This ultimate guide has armed you with everything you need to know to implement hybrid work successfully in your organization. Now, it’s time to run over the hybrid work software that will power your working model and help transform your workplace. Here are 4 tools that will help uplevel your hybrid work game.

  1. Desk booking technology. Hot-desking allows your employees to book a desk for the day through their mobile app. It’s a flexible seating arrangement that helps your hybrid work model by supporting different employee schedules. It also allows your people to choose where they sit in the office–whether that’s with their favorite coworkers, teams, or alone to get in the zone.
  2. Workplace schedules. Sync your schedule with your coworkers and team to ensure you don’t miss each other in the office. With workplace schedules, you can easily see who’s coming in and when, as well as invite coworkers to join you for collaboration and onsite meetings.
  3. Office wayfinding. The literal map to hybrid work success! Office wayfinding uses a map of your office so your employees can search for coworkers, available desks, meeting rooms, and more.
  4. Workplace analytics. Get visibility on your foot traffic and space utilization, so you can continue to design a workplace that supports hybrid work.

 

The hybrid model is no longer an alternative style of work. It’s here to stay. But, like any work model, there are benefits and disadvantages. As workplace leaders, you must meet the needs of your workforce or risk losing your talent to employers that do.

Use this guide to adopt hybrid working into your organization. Remember, offering your people flexibility will result in greater productivity and results for your business. 

Want more ultimate guides to the workplace? Check out your ultimate guide library.

 

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Amy Kirkham
Author Bio Amy Kirkham

Amy is a content guru at Envoy, where she helps workplace leaders build a workplace their people love. Outside of work, you can usually find Amy drinking coffee, exploring new places, or planning her next trip.