For a hybrid employee, the typical Sunday evening might include relaxing with a Netflix show, a little bit of the Sunday scaries, and planning the upcoming work week. Will they go on-site on Tuesday or Wednesday? What desk do they want to sit at? Should they reserve a big meeting room for their upcoming presentation?
While employees are mapping out their hybrid weeks, workplace managers have a whole other slew of considerations running through their heads on Sunday night. Workplace managers are what drive the hybrid week forward. They make sure every employee coming on-site has a desk, meeting rooms are functioning, new hires feel comfortable in the office, visitors have a great experience, and so much more.
With the rise of hybrid work in 2022 (a staggering 77% of companies are choosing a hybrid work!), there are plenty of new tools, technologies, policies, and processes that make hybrid work, well, work. But that doesn’t mean that running a hybrid workplace is easy.
Creating a thriving hybrid culture—and designing a workplace that supports it—takes hard work and planning. Workplace managers need to adapt and take on new responsibilities to ensure a seamless hybrid experience for their employees on-site.
So where do you begin? In this guide, we’ll walk you through some tangible steps to planning an ideal hybrid work week. We’ll dive into the essential elements of hybrid work: tools, schedules, and experiences. And we’ll leave you with some tips on how to make data-driven decisions to improve your hybrid workplace.
The tools that support hybrid work
As a workplace manager, you are the superhero of the office. But every superhero needs tools and gadgets to help them save the world (or the office in this case). Hybrid work in the last few years has opened up a need for new tools that work for today’s offices. Hot desking wasn’t as common in the traditional workplace, but it sure is rising in popularity now.
As a workplace manager, understanding which tools will help you, your employees, and your organization successfully make hybrid work is the first step. These tools are essential to keep your workplace running, empower employees to collaborate on-site, and create a great workplace experience for your distributed workforce.
Confused where to start? Let’s walk through five types of tools you’ll want to invest in for successful hybrid work—and how to successfully get your team using them.
5 tools to make hybrid work
1. Hybrid scheduling tool
Employees live and breathe by their calendars. It’s how they schedule team meetings, one-on-one’s, time-off, and now, days in the workplace. In a recent survey, we found that one reason employees are hesitant to come into the office is because they don’t know who else will be there. Google calendar, alerts via email, or walking up to your manager and telling them which days you’re coming in aren’t really sustainable solutions in today’s world.
This is where a hybrid scheduling tool can come in handy. A scheduling tool will allow your employees to plan days to come on-site from an app on their phones. They can share their calendar with teammates and coordinate days in the workplace together.
This addresses the worry that someone would be alone in the workplace and helps employees plan their week better. It also allows managers to plan for team meetings, happy hours, or other on-site activities. Having a full calendar view of who will be on-site each day of the week is a superpower for hybrid teams.
A scheduling tool is helpful for workplace managers as well. You’ll be able to know exactly how many people and which people are coming in for the day and plan accordingly.
"Every morning, on my commute to the office, I check the number of registrations and the names of people coming in. The number of registrants prepares me mentally on what to expect for the day. The higher the headcount, the higher likelihood there will be ad hoc needs throughout the day and more time spent supporting folks in the workplace.
Workplace Manager, Envoy
2. Desk & meeting booking
Once an employee has booked their days on-site, their next consideration is going to be where they’re actually going to be sitting and working. A desk booking solution allows employees to quickly view available desks and reserve a workstation for the days they’re coming in. They’ll be able to select a desk based on its amenities, its proximity to other teammates, or its location in the office.
In addition to desks, employees spend a lot of time working and collaborating in meeting spaces. So you’ll want to a seamless meeting room booking tool as well. A meeting room booking tool will allow employees to book a room either in advance or on-the-fly.
Both space management tools allow your employees to plan out their hybrid week better, knowing they have booked and reserved their own space to work.
They also help you plan too. With analytics on how employees are using your desks and meeting rooms, you’ll better be able to set your workplace up for success. For example, if you see that your employees aren’t using 30% of your desks, you can remove a few desks and instead use that space for a shared workstation or an open meeting space.
3. Digital communication
When the pandemic first started and businesses went remote, communication played a huge role in keeping businesses afloat. That’s because you no longer were able to walk two feet and ask your coworker about a project. You couldn’t get career development advice from your manager while on a coffee run. Now, in a hybrid workforce, communication is equally, if not more important.
Digital communication tools like Slack, Microsoft Team, and Gmail help your in-office and remote employees easily talk with each other. This way, no matter where your employees are working, they can share quick project updates, ask for help from a manager, or share an exciting project win.
Plus, as a workplace manager, you rely on these communication tools to send company-wide, workplace-specific news to help you plan for the week ahead. For example, if your workplace is undergoing some maintenance during the workday, that would be something you alert your employees of via Slack or email.
Having a great digital communication system will help you alert your employees of essential information around the workplace, tools, and the business.
4. Virtual meetings
With employees spread out across the workplace, their homes, coffee shops, Airbnbs and more, meetings are what connect us. A good virtual meeting tool is essential for getting together as a team, having one-on-one’s with stakeholders, and moving projects and business forward. According to our recent survey, nearly half (49%) of employees in the workplace spend more time than they did pre-pandemic in virtual meetings with colleagues not on-site.
That’s why having high-quality virtual meeting software and equipment is key in your workplace. A few options to consider are Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or WebEx. No matter which tool you choose, ensure that it’s easy for your employees to use and helps them communicate effectively wherever they are.
5. Virtual collaboration
With more folks in the workplace, there’s more opportunity for collaboration. But with hybrid teams, it can be difficult to include both in-person and remote employees at the same time. There might be a whiteboard in the physical meeting room, but it doesn’t allow remote participants to fully contribute. And where do you store those ideas that are temporarily written on post-its and whiteboards?
Consider investing in a virtual collaboration tool, such as LucidChart or WebWhiteboard. Zoom even has a new built-in feature with a whiteboard tool. Plus, Google docs allow all participants to edit in real-time. You want to ensure that your virtual collaboration tools help people collaborate in a seamless way—wherever they are.
How to roll out new technology to your employees
Once you’ve established which hybrid work tools you want to invest in, you’ll have to actually get your employees using them. Most may be familiar with tools like Google Calendar and Zoom, but some may have never needed to reserve a desk before. How you roll out new technology can make or break whether those tools actually stick and add value. If you don’t properly train employees on how to use new technology and answer their questions, then that can lead to wasted time, money, and effort.
Create a roll-out plan
Instead of just bringing on a new tool and then letting your employees figure it out themselves, map out a multi-step roll-out plan and attach realistic dates to each step. Here’s how you might do this:
- Once you’ve acquired and installed a new software, schedule a few trainings. You’ll want these to be spread out throughout the week, with different times available for folks in different time zones.
- A few days later, schedule a Q&A session. These sessions open up space for new hires or confused employees to comfortably ask questions. You want to cultivate an environment of empathy for employees, because learning new tools can be tricky.
- After two weeks, get feedback on the new tool and see if there are any suggestions around the roll-out process. Your employees can provide you with valuable tips on how to roll out a new tool in the future.
If you replicate a similar process for any new tool you introduce, your employees will know what to expect and feel more comfortable with the process.
Invest in training
Make sure you train your employees on how to use the technology as soon as they start with your organization or whenever you bring in a new tool or feature. While onboarding new hires, give them a tour of the workplace and all of the various tools they’ll need to interact with (both in-office and remotely).
Make sure you host sessions regularly such as once a month on workplace tools to help new employees (or just employees who need a refresher) better understand the tools. Many times people find it easier to attend a group Q&A session to ask a question than admit they don’t know how to use a tool.
The key to getting new technology to stick is overcommunication. Let’s say it again. The key to getting new technology to stick is overcommunication.
It’s important to use multiple channels too. In addition to trainings, you should send out a recording for folks to watch on-demand and send detailed instructions by email and your digital communication tool. Your employees will need reminders, refreshers, tips, and tricks on how to use the tools to serve them best.
When rolling out new technology, I take into consideration the following: who is impacted, what’s the easiest route to get them to use it, and how can I overcommunicate this information? It’s essential to communicate through various channels and repeat to instill adoption.
Workplace Manager, Envoy
How to know if the tech is working
Remember, your employees are the ones using the tools every day. They’re interacting with them on their way to work, at home before bed, and while navigating the office. So their opinion on the tools should hold weight. Regularly surveying your employees to get a pulse check of what’s working and what’s not will provide you with invaluable insights of the employee’s experience and how to improve it.
After you roll out a new piece of technology, or even a new feature of an existing one, survey your team to get their feedback. You should also send out a survey each quarter to check in on what common issues people have experienced, what their wishlist would be, and what tools add value to their workday. Make sure you ask about impact and benefits. For example, “how does our hybrid scheduling tool impact your collaboration?” These questions will inform whether your hybrid work strategy is positively affecting your organization.
Types of hybrid schedules and how to plan for them
Now that you’ve got your tools set up in place, it’s time to think about how these tools will actually work with your company’s hybrid work policy.
The driving principle of hybrid work is that there is no one right way to do it. While this can be reassuring and exciting for employees, it can be overwhelming for workplace managers who have to plan for all sorts of working styles and models.
But don’t sweat just yet! With communication, the right tools, and data-informed planning, you can figure out how to plan a hybrid week that works across different schedules.
Before we dive in on how to accomplish this, let’s look at the different types of hybrid work policies.
4 types of hybrid work policies
1. Hybrid at-will
According to our At Work survey, 56% of companies that have adopted the hybrid work model have an at-will policy. This means that employees can choose which day(s) they come into the office. One employee might choose to come in on a Tuesday one week and Thursday and Friday the next week. There is no prescribed schedule employees must follow.
This policy is built on employee flexibility, giving the decision-making power to the employees. This is the most common hybrid work policy in 2022, but also one of the hardest policies to plan for since there are no set requirements.
2. Hybrid split-week
In the same survey, 11% of companies said they have adopted a split-week policy. This is where the company assigns days of the week for specific teams to come in. These decisions are based on team and function. For example, your marketing team and data team could be scheduled to come in on Tuesdays so they can work together, while your customer service and sales teams come in on Thursdays.
While the number of employees in the office might be different on each day of the week (depending on what team is scheduled that day), there’s a major benefit for planning. A hybrid split-week policy allows companies to plan ahead because they know exactly how many and which folks will be on-site on any given day.
3. Hybrid manager-scheduling
The hybrid manager-scheduling policy is the least common, according to our survey, with only 8% of companies going this route. In this policy, managers choose which day(s) their teams go into the office. This policy fosters high levels of productivity and collaboration. The main difference between the split-week and manager-scheduling is that in a split-week policy the company decides which on-site days employees come; whereas in a manager-scheduling policy, the manager decides.
Managers can schedule team days where their teams are on-site and participating in weekly status updates, brainstorms, and working sessions. Like the split-week policy, this policy allows for easier planning because you’ll know which teams will be on-site in advance. You can work directly with managers and team leaders to coordinate what those days will look like.
4. Hybrid mix
The last hybrid policy, hybrid mix, is exactly what it sounds like: a mix of all three of the above. 25% of companies are using a mix and match method where some employees come in at-will, some teams have scheduled days on-site, and some may be determined by managers. The primary benefit? All of them. With a hybrid mix, you can benefit from the flexibility, choice, and planning that exists in the other policies.
How to use data to plan for the hybrid week
No matter which hybrid policy your company chooses to use, the key to efficient planning is knowing in advance how many people you expect on-site on any given day. This not only helps you plan what core workplace resources you’ll need to prep for the week ahead, it also gives you data to plan engaging workplace experiences to delight your team. These key workplace analytics give you the insights you need to prepare your space, support employees, and delight every employee on-site.
Let’s break down the types of workplace elements you can plan for using data.
1. Meeting rooms
When you know how many people and teams are going to be on-site, you can better predict how many meeting rooms you will need available. No one likes running around the office searching for an empty conference room minutes before an important call only to end up taking the call at their desk. Use data on how many employees you expect on-site to ensure you have the meeting room space (or room reservation policy) to support them.
If your organization has set up a hybrid manager-scheduling policy, you can expect most teams to be coming in at least once a week for a big team meeting. That could mean setting up a meeting space for a different team every day. If you’ve got that data handy, you can anticipate which room, how many people will be there, and whether that team will need any special resources like enhanced audio equipment, a podium, markers, etc.
Next, look at your meeting room booking analytics to see how your space is being used. Turn data about room usage and scheduling into insights that help you make smart decisions about workplace design.
Just as employees need space to meet, they also need space to work. Many hybrid companies have adopted hot desking or hoteling to adjust their space for fewer people in the office each day. Since you don’t need an assigned desk for each employee anymore, you might have unused desks. Try removing those desks and creating a casual meeting space. Or push those desks together to create a shared workstation.
Desk booking analytics will allow you to see exactly how many, where, and which desks are being booked and maybe more importantly, which desks aren’t being booked. You can use desk booking data to ensure each employee on-site has a place to sit and is comfortable with where they are, and you can use that data for future space management planning.
3. Food and beverages
Let’s be honest. A major reason hybrid employees come back to the office is for the company-provided meals, snacks, and unlimited coffee. While this can be an incredible perk for employees, it can be a huge stressor for workplace managers who have to predict how much food and snacks they need in the office.
With a scheduling tool, you’ll be able to see exactly how many people are registered to come on any given day. If you know Tuesdays and Thursdays tend to be busy days, you can opt for a buffet style lunch. Whereas if you know Mondays and Fridays are much more light in the office, you can order just a handful of grab-and-go meals.
Partner with food delivery businesses that integrate with your current workplace tools. For example, Cater2.me is a meal delivery solution that integrates with hybrid scheduling tools and automatically orders a meal for employees coming into the workplace that day.
4. Team events
In-person team events have made a comeback in the last year. Whether you’re planning an all-day training for the sales team, a trivia event for the marketing team, or a company-wide happy hour, having information on who you expect on-site will make that planning easier.
You’ll be able to order supplies based on headcount and rearrange office space based on the number of people attending the event. If you need to use a specific meeting room or space to host an event, you can plan ahead and mark that meeting room as unavailable so others don’t book it.
Planning the office around flexibility
The hybrid work week is built around flexibility and adaptability. The nature of hybrid work means that you may not always be able to predict exactly how that week will unfold, so it’s important to plan for the unexpected.
For example, you might be expecting 20 people in the office and only 15 people actually come in. Now you have extra meals that you’ve ordered. Don’t panic! Pack those extra lunches in the fridge and offer them to folks to take home after work. Any leftovers you can donate to a food recycling program.
Also, remember that flexible work hours mean people will come in at different hours of the day. You should plan to have people arriving and leaving at various times. So consider how to make the workplace pleasant and productive at any hour. You might do this by making sure you keep office lights on throughout the day with plenty of coffee on tap. You might also want to train your employees on how to “unlock” and set up the office if they’re the first one in or “lock up” if they’re the last to leave.
Flexibility needs communication to work. So encourage your employees to overcommunicate their schedules and needs, as well as any changes that come up so you can plan accordingly.
Designing on-site experiences to excite your teams
When you’re on-site with your work besties and you’re sharing a laugh over a meal or in a team meeting, you can feel a real connection to your workplace. With more and more employees heading back to the office, it’s key to create opportunities for shared workplace memories and experiences again. Creating a great workplace includes designing on-site experiences that bring a smile to your employees.
When sitting down to plan out the ideal hybrid work week, think about what special events you can organize that week. Whether it’s a happy hour, team training, hackathon, or employee resource group meeting, you’ll want to consider how you can make those events the best they can possibly be.
Let’s walk through a few types of events and how you can plan for them:
1. All-hands meetings
All-hands meetings are opportunities for executive leadership to speak directly to employees. They allow your entire organization to get together to sync on high-level company priorities and company-wide matters. If you have a large and distributed team, you might have people visiting (or just calling in) from all over. You’ll want your center stage to be in the office, so find a large area that you can convert into a gathering space.
You’ll need a podium or desk at the front in which you can angle your cameras. You’ll need good audio equipment and a screen display that allows the on-site folks to see the remote and vice versa. Again, knowing how many people to expect can make planning for this kind of meeting a lot easier. If your registration data shows that 50+ people will be in the office, that will require a more robust seating set-up. You might need to clear desks to make space for more chairs. If your data shows that only five people are planning to be in the office, well, maybe you can just convert a meeting room into the all-hands space.
2. Social events
Happy hours are a great way to bring people together to socialize, chat, and enjoy being in the workplace with friends and coworkers. On-site happy hours can be as simple as a few drinks and some chips and guacamole, or they can be elaborate and connected to a special theme. For example, perhaps you host a holiday-themed happy hour or a board games and brew theme happy hour.
Once you’ve picked a day (and maybe a theme too), announce it to the company and get folks to RSVP by registering to come on-site in your scheduling app. That way you can secure a vendor and place an order of food based on how many people have scheduled to come on-site that day. This doesn’t have to be an exact science. In fact, it shouldn’t. You’ll want to account for more people being there than you expect.
Consider planning a happy hour once a month or once every three weeks, depending on the size of your organization. You want these experiences to excite your employees but not overwhelm them with how often they are.
Niantic is engaging folks with fun on-site experiences, such as catered brunch during all-hands, professional headshot sessions, and partnerships with ERGs. The company also believes that food brings everybody together! They provide coffee carts on Mondays and Thursdays.
Global Workplace Experience Manager, Niantic
3. Onboarding new hires
With the pandemic (mostly) behind us, new employees get to onboard in person again. Depending on your company’s hiring plans, you might be hosting new hire orientations every few weeks. To keep up with frequent onboarding experiences, create a plan you can replicate every time you have a new class.
You’ll want to make sure someone is at the lobby to greet and direct new hires to where they need to go. You’ll also want to set up a specific conference room for use for the whole day. This means booking a room well in advance so employees don’t try to snag it.
Remember, not every single new hire will be at your headquarters. Encourage your new hires to register for whichever office they’ll be in, so you know who to expect on-site and who to expect remotely. This not only helps you to plan meeting and desk spaces for the on-site crews in your different office locations, but it also helps you plan what remote tools you’ll need for folks to dial in. For example, you might need to work with your IT and HR team to ensure your remote folks have their company laptops mailed to them in advance of their first day.
4. Hybrid events
When planning on-site events, don’t forget about your remote employees. Just because they’re at home, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to join in on the fun. Consider planning events that can be easily conducted both on-site and via Zoom.
Movie nights, for example, are a great way to include remote folks, since they can Zoom in and watch the movie on their own screen. Setting up a movie night in your office shouldn’t take more an hour. You’ll have to clear out a movie viewing space, set up chairs based on the number of registered employees, sync up your video and audio equipment, and pop a ton of popcorn.
You could also consider trivia nights, stand-up comedy, or cooking classes. You just want to be mindful of replicating the experience for both on-site and remote teams by providing them all the necessary materials and the meeting information.
When your employees come into the workplace, their first drop-off point is going to be their desk. And while a desk may just seem like a place to get work done, it can actually be made an exciting part of the work day.
Make sure each desk comes fashioned with the essential amenities your employees need to get through their tasks like monitors, keyboards, laptop stands, and more. You can vary the amenities on the desks to allow employees to choose a desk based on their needs for the day. For example, if your employee knows they’ll be looking at a ton of spreadsheets that day, maybe they’ll do their work better on a desk with two monitors. Or maybe someone prefers a standing desk or an ergonomic chair.
Aside from amenities, you can also plan fun desk surprises that will put a smile on your employee’s faces. For example, if there’s a major company milestone, you can place a company-branded shirt or swag on every desk that’s registered for the day. If there’s a holiday like Halloween or Valentine’s Day, consider handing out treats or snacks on registered desks. These kinds of gestures don’t take too long and are an easy way to delight your employees when they come on-site.
Team events & trainings
Being back in the office means a return of in-person trainings and fun team events. Your engineering team might be organizing a hackathon, your sales team might have an on-site learning luncheon, or your data team might be hosting an analytics workshop. These kinds of training and work-related team events will require coordination with managers and department leads, especially if your organization uses a split-week or manager-scheduling policy.
On top of booking a meeting space for these events, you might need to bring in materials such as computers, special equipment, notebooks, snacks, and more. Plus, you might have some folks participating in the training while others going about their normal work day.
Be sure to look at how many employees registered for the training or event as well as how many employees total will be on-site. That way you can plan for enough lunch and space to accommodate everyone on those days.
Planning for team events, whether they are big team meetings, fun team experiences like birthday lunches, or team trainings all takes advanced planning and coordination with managers.