Demand for hybrid work is high: 71% of employees want this flexible working model moving forward. While some organizations are grappling with whether hybrid is right for them, Spotify, Uber, Cisco Systems, Lionsgate, and many others have already embraced it.
As popular as hybrid work has become, many organizations have concerns about it. Will hybrid work create an “on-site versus remote” culture? Will remote employees be at a disadvantage for having less face-time with executives? Will work still move forward if people have more flexible schedules? These challenges are only exacerbated at enterprise organizations where rolling out hybrid policies at scale can be a slow, tedious process.
For hybrid to work, organizations need to address these challenges head on. If they don’t, it could lead to issues across the enterprise—a mass employee exodus, culture problems, and people not coming into the workplace, to name a few.
That’s where your preparation and expertise will be invaluable. With your leadership, you can help your organization keep workplace experience top of mind as it transitions to hybrid work. Yes, this is easier said than done. That’s why we created this guide that outlines four steps to building a workplace that works for everyone.
Read on to learn how to:
1.What is workplace experience and why does it matter?
Before diving in any further, let’s get clear on what workplace experience is and why enterprises should care about it. Workplace experience is a holistic approach to creating the optimal environment for employees to do their work. It examines how space, technology, and people can come together to drive better business outcomes. This includes boosting employee productivity and engagement, retaining talent, and lowering real estate costs.
Workplace experience is made up of three core components:
- Space – the physical surroundings in which employees do their work
- Technology – the systems and tools employees use to do their jobs
- People – the relationships, policies, and cultural standards that impact how work is done
Space, technology, and people are often the top expense categories for enterprises. Focusing on them can help organizations maximize the value they get from these costly resources. A great workplace experience leverages real estate budgets more effectively, improves employee experience, and increases employee engagement. These are all critical in a hybrid work setting where workplace traffic changes day to day and people need more support connecting with their coworkers. Now that you understand what workplace experience is, it’s time to learn how to create one that works for every employee.
2. Step 1 – Find the right hybrid model for your organization
Hybrid work is a major draw for employees because it typically gives them more say in their work schedules. On the whole, employers are aware their people crave more flexibility: 57% worry their employees will hit the job boards if they don’t offer a hybrid arrangement.
There’s more than one type of hybrid model and choosing the right one is critical to forming a workplace experience that works for everyone. This is especially tricky for enterprises since they tend to have many teams, employees, and locations to consider. Below we’ll walk you through the four most common types of hybrid work schedules: cohort schedules, staggered schedules, manager-set schedules, and employee-set schedules.
1 – Cohort schedules
What it is: Employees work certain days or weeks on a regular basis. The most common method is to schedule one cohort to come in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and a second cohort to work on-site Tuesday and Thursday.
Who it’s best for: Companies whose employees need to be in the workplace but don’t need to engage with other departments to accomplish their work. Manufacturing companies that can’t operate unless employees are on the factory floor find this method works well. This method can also work well for agencies or professional services firms with independent teams.
2 – Staggered schedules
What it is: Employees must come in at a set time to prevent lines from forming at the elevator or security stand.
Who it’s best for: Workplaces that need to control how many employees arrive at one time to prevent overcrowding or long lines. If you work in a building with multiple tenants who all use the elevator or stairs, this model prevents a deluge of people from arriving at once. This is the model Lionsgate chose for its organization.
3 – Manager-set schedules
What it is: Managers coordinate with project teams to set their schedule each week.
Who it’s best for: Companies whose employees work in shifts and must be on-site with the same people to do their jobs, such as manufacturing, service work, and film production. This is the model Spotify chose for its organization.
4 – Employee-set schedules
What it is: Employees set their own schedules without any oversight from their managers or a workplace team.
Who it’s best for: Companies whose employees expect flexibility and can be productive when remote, such as tech companies. Employee-set schedules are also the best option for companies whose employees need to collaborate in person across many departments. This is the model that Cisco Systems and Uber chose for its organization.
It may be tempting to set different schedules for your different locations. However, keep in mind that you want to support an optimal experience for all of your employees and sticking with one schedule across the enterprise can help you achieve that.
On that note, remember that the point of establishing schedules is to provide employees flexibility while making things more manageable for your team. At the same time, schedules can be limiting if policies work in the favor of some people and not all. One of the best ways to ensure an optimal experience for everyone is by empowering managers to work with their team members to accommodate extenuating circumstances.
3. Step 2 – Make sure on-site collaboration is a breeze
Too many of us have experienced working with remote employees with poor lighting and choppy WiFi. These experiences are frustrating. Not only is it harder to collaborate, it makes it next to impossible to build a productive working relationship between coworkers. Remember: great remote work setups create a better experience for folks who are on-site.
Employees who are on-site shouldn’t have a poor experience when collaborating with remote folks, and remote folks should have an equally great experience working with their on-site counterparts. Below are a few tips to help achieve this.
- Ensure remote environments are set up for success – Employees who work from home need access to foundational equipment like monitors, high-speed internet, and ergonomic furniture. Making sure remote employees have the resources they need improves the work experience for everyone. It’ll help give on-site employees a seamless experience collaborating with their remote teammates. As for the remote folks, they’ll be able to be productive regardless of where they’re working.
- Share remote best practices – Your remote employees will need some help with staying productive and engaged while away from the workplace. Here are some pro tips to pass along:
- Require remote employees to keep their messaging app status up to date so it shows whether they’re available or away
- Ask folks to establish remote routines that help them remain flexible and productive. Encourage them to communicate if they need to be offline for an extended period of time to build trust with their on-site coworkers
- Train employees on virtual meeting best practices
- Support hybrid collaborations – Similarly, ensure your on-site folks know how to best collaborate with remote employees. This will help employees feel like they can work productively with their on-site coworkers while remote. In other words, it’ll help make hybrid work. Here are a best practices you can ask your employees to follow:
- Always book a meeting room or booth to take calls with remote employees
- If you have a presentation or agenda, share your screen with remote folks so they feel like they’re on the same page as the people who are on-site
- Make a point to get input from remote attendees—it may be harder for these folks to join into the conversation naturally
In these tech-driven times, collaborating effectively from anywhere may seem like a simple enough task. In reality, it takes structure and practice. Luckily, you can help your employees hone their hybrid collaboration skills with a little guidance.
4. Step 3 – Design your space with company culture in mind
Space management is critical to ensuring the workplace supports everyone in it. A well-planned space has many business benefits, including optimizing real estate costs and enabling employees to work productively. Here’s what you should remember when building a workplace for your employees and their variety of needs:
- Ensure that your workplace has the right variety of spaces. Your space should support every kind of work your people need to do, whether it’s heads-down or collaborative. Assigned spaces, bookable desks, informal meeting areas, conference rooms, and meeting pods are a few staples. Leverage workplace space usage data to understand which types of space get the most use so you can double down on what’s working and improve what isn’t.
- Lessen the gap between on-site and remote employees. This goes back to the importance of making sure on-site folks can easily interact and collaborate with remote coworkers, and vice versa. Take inspiration from Google’s “campfire” meeting spaces, where employees sit in a circle and remote attendees appear on life-size displays in between on-site folks. You can also pilot adding smart screens throughout the workplace to help incorporate remote employees into on-site culture.
- Create an environment that represents your people. Take it from Nayan Parekh, Consulting and Real Estate Services Leader at Gensler. By creating opportunities for people to build culture, hybrid workplaces can be a space that works for all employees. Book clubs, employee resource groups, and tools like Donut that help spark “watercooler” moments are all great ways to achieve this.
Across an enterprise, the benefits of effective space management are significant. Keeping these tips in mind will enable productivity and sprinkle some delight into your people’s workday. In a hybrid work model, it can even make the difference between employees wanting to go into the workplace and avoiding it altogether.
5. Step 4 – Give employees a say in changes that will impact their day-to-day
And finally, if you want to ensure your employees have a great workplace experience, you have to include input from your people. Keep employees informed of possible changes to the workplace that will impact them. Here are some ways you can involve your people in your workplace planning:
- Organize employee focus groups – These groups are great for gathering candid opinions and ideas around workplace topics. Discussions are usually prompted by guiding questions prepared by the workplace team.
- Offer a workplace suggestion box – This is feedback written on slips of paper that employees can add to boxes located around the workplace. This type of feedback works best when boxes are placed in common areas.
- Conduct monthly pulse surveys – These are short surveys on topics like employee satisfaction, communication, professional relationships, and work environment.
- Conduct quarterly engagement surveys – These are longer-form surveys with a mix of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank answers. They cover the same topics as pulse surveys but dig a layer deeper.
- Hold annual feedback sessions – These can be in one-on-one settings with select employees. They can be formal chats or interview-style conversations led by members of the workplace team.
Choose two to four ways to collect feedback. It’s important to give your employees the right amount of choice. You don’t want to be too restrictive, but you also don’t want to overwhelm people with options. Too many options can result in no action taken at all. As with anything, keeping a regular feedback cadence will help boost participation.