2020 was all about working remotely. The temporary closing of office doors and workspaces meant that, for many businesses, home-based working was the only option and employees had to quickly adapt.
As the world continues to slowly but surely open up again, it seems that for many employees, the desire to have the option to work remotely is here to stay. Companies can no longer claim that they can’t operate remotely, nor can they force their staff back into the office without incurring some form of backlash.
Some companies have switched to a full remote-based set up, but the approach we’re seeing many of the businesses we work with turn to is the introduction of a hybrid model.
What is the hybrid work model?
It’s a term that’s being referred to a lot at the moment as companies look to manage the return of their staff to the office in a way which is not only safe to do so, but that meets their new expectations.
Essentially, the hybrid work model involves a combination of working remotely and from an office. It’s a model that will differ from organisation to organisation, but there are a few clear themes and practices.
If you’re at a crossroads regarding your approach to the future of work in your business, or you’re still deciding on how best to implement hybrid working, we’ve outlined a few variations of the hybrid model and their relative pitfalls.
Remote-first, office allowed
Choosing to go remote-first will mean something different for every company, but in essence, it means that the company is operating as a fully remote company and defaulting to online communication and things like remote interviewing, onboarding, and training.
Many companies will keep an office space as a centralised hub, but employees are not expected to come into the office at all, unless their job requires their presence. This gives people the option to relocate whilst still being able to work for a company “based” in a different location.
Some companies, like Dropbox, have even said that employees ‘won’t be able to use their office spaces for solo work, instead they are to be used specifically for collaboration and community-building.’
One issue with going down the remote-first route is that personal relationships and company culture may suffer as a result of less face-to-face interaction. Companies have fought hard over the past 12 months to maintain engagement levels and ensure their staff feels like part of a great team, so this approach could do this harm in the long run.
Completely shutting the doors to the office space in the main will have a huge impact on this. Therefore, retaining some form of workspace and being clear that people are not expected to come into the office but can do so as and when they choose is key to ensuring that their culture isn’t impacted.
Office-first, remote allowed
This may be a throwback to how many businesses operated pre-pandemic, and this option involves designating the office as the primary place for working. With this option, remote working is allowed, but the focus is on having people in the office on a regular basis, more often than not.
This could be a favoured approach if the leadership team favours being in the office over remote working as they will generally be on hand to offer in-person support, collaboration, and have better conversations.
This presents an issue to those employees who prefer to work remotely. There’s a suggestion that they may miss out on the connections and opportunities presented to those working in the office, alongside the leadership team.
Likewise, if a large portion of a team are working together in the office, there’s the suggestion that they will form closer relationships with those around them, to the detriment of their team members working remotely.
As such, remote workers can feel excluded and overlooked for opportunities, which does little for employee engagement, output and ultimately, retention.
Occasionally in the office
With companies spending money on expensive office spaces, and staff keen to get out of the house and return to life as it was pre-pandemic, an office-occasional approach is a good option.
Employees will come into the office a few times a week and, depending on the company’s size and needs, how this works can either be in the form of a loose policy (e.g., come into the office on whichever days of the week work best), or employees may be instructed to come in on specific days of the week.
Setting up in the way allows employees to choose how and where they want to spend their time working and provides a good mix of remote work and in-person collaboration with others in the business.
The downside to this approach can be that without clear guidelines and communication, expectations can differ which can lead to conflict. Some may be in the office every day and some only once or twice a week, which can lead to projects or collaboration breaking down. This approach can take some planning and consideration, and companies need to establish best practices from the beginning.
The leaders also need to focus on how the approach is working across their teams and whether there are differing experiences when it comes to collaboration.
So, what’s the best option?
The answer to this totally depends upon the individual business and the people that work there. How these variations will play out remains to be seen, but what does look probable is that the workplace of the future will likely continue to be a hybrid blend of the old and the new – office and remote work.
It’s important to also remember that remote work doesn’t necessarily mean working from home and isn’t synonymous with never seeing colleagues.
Extra attention and planning on how businesses will continue to operate in the coming years can ensure the success of the hybrid model and will do more to include and engage those employees who prefer the remote option.
Whatever route your business chooses to go down, it’s vital the model allows people to work in a way that suits them and their situation best, and in a way that puts the whole company on a level playing field.
For advice on how to create an effective hybrid work model, get in touch with the team.