hybrid work modelA hybrid work model incorporates a mixture of in-office and remote work in an employee’s schedule.  In this newly evolving work arena, leaders must embrace a “test-and-learn” mindset. Work from home (WFH) employees are discovering the need to clearly reconcile their work boundaries with professional expectations.

Organizations are configuring different working models to address their need for employee satisfaction, client expectations and production output. Components of a hybrid work model include different physical-space layouts, flexibility between remote and in-person office work, and collaborative electronic tools.

Businesses are trying to balance individual productivity with innovation.  Questions arise about how individuals and teams work effectively.A hybrid work model is more complicated that a fully remote model which existed for many businesses during the height of the pandemic.   The hybrid work model is tricky to make work effectively, but without a doubt is has become a new normal for many businesses.

Creating a hybrid work environment will test all kinds of workplace norms.  It is well known that organizations thrive when there is a sense of belonging across the various departments and locations. Yet, in our current work environment, individuals’ lives no longer revolve around specified work hours.

Individuals request more flexibility in scheduling in person work so that traffic commutes are staggered.  They also are seeking opportunities for part of their work schedule to be completed remotely.  This is a new era where individuals are more interested in creating a more comfortable lifestyle with a blending of work and personal responsibilities.

Questions to consider when building a hybrid work model

  • What work is better done in person than virtually? What work can best be done remotely?
  • How will meetings work best? What technology is needed to install so that both remote and in-person employees can contribute effectively?
  • How do hybrid social networks work best, what are other ways to help employees establish high quality relationships, strengthen connections and bolster trust?
  • How do we avoid creating two cultures? Will the in-person culture dominate and disenfranchise the remote culture? How do we create a culture of inclusion for both in-person office workers and remote workers?
  • How do we construct team projects that can work productively and efficiently? Should teams physically gather in a single place while tackling a project, and if so, how often?
  • How can leadership communication to off-site workers as effectively as it does to workers in the office?
  • What is the role of the office? It needs to be part of a systematic reconsideration of what exactly the office brings to the organization.

Action Steps

  1. To improve outcomes using a hybrid work model, leaders should focus their attention in three key areas: (a) establishing criteria for work–life boundaries, (b) supporting employee well-being, and (c) ensuring that employee performance is evaluated based on results rather than time spent.
  2. Build continuous communication strategies across both remote and in-person workplaces. For example, try instituting daily regularly scheduled check-ins with those that work remote and those in the office.  The focus should be on what results have been accomplished rather than the amount of time they logged in.
  3. Really think through what the onboarding process will look like. It is critical to assist with enculturating new employees who may not have the opportunity, if working remotely, for hands-on coaching and meeting other staff members.  Don’t neglect remote workers when offering ways for employees to build new skills or learn of promotion opportunities. A culture can split apart if the pattern of promotions favors in-person employees or if they get the more highly sought-after assignments.
  4. Team experience is a critical driver of the hybrid work model. In this model, leaders must help teams adopt new norms.  Work patterns must change to maintain—and improve—productivity, collaboration, and innovation. A team comprised of both remote and in-person workers need to devise a strategy to gather and share information. Use online collaboration tools so that everyone can have equal input.
  5. To drive the creation of a human centric workforce, leaders must contemplate ways to communicate that allows for conversations to percolate around non-work-related topics. Without the water cooler, think through ways that workers can enjoy casual conversations. It is possible to ask questions over the communication platforms that spark friendly debate.
  6. With such a changing work environment, maintaining a learning organization philosophy is very helpful. Leaders should purposefully create a culture in which employees feel comfortable making mistakes, speaking up, and generating innovative ideas.  With the continued innovation in technology, expect to add professional development opportunities for employees to upskill and adapt to changes in how future work is done.
  7. Smart leaders keep abreast with automation and digitalization trends. This is especially important to include remote workers in collaborative projects.  Online collaboration tools, such as Trello, Slack and Google Docs, cam be highly effective in keeping everyone equally involved.  Messaging and meeting software, digital collaboration tools, and cloud computing, provide all employees the same ability to chat with one another during the workday; schedule and meet face-to-face virtually; and share, view, and edit documents in real time.

Building the Hybrid work policy.

Once your organization has made strategic decisions related to flexible work, it’s time to formalize your plans. Consider these key components as you design your flexible work policy.  Usually, handled by HR, having a well-defined plan for administering the policy will lessen any confusion as the policy is rolled out.

  • Definition and scope. Adequately defining what the policy is and specifying any limitations on geographic coverage or requirements for application will set the stage early on to minimize any exceptions.  Be consistent as you design your WFH policies.  Determine who makes the decisions regarding remote work.
  • Eligibility. Who is eligible?  Is this determined by job function?  What types of flexibility are available? Any other minimum requirements, such as tenure with the company (to learn the work culture or complete in-person job training) or performance rating?
  • Compensation and benefits. Find the right balance between equitable and appropriate compensation and benefits, and employee satisfaction and retention. What costs will be the employee’s responsibility and what costs will be the company’s responsibility?
  • Review. How will this arrangement be reviewed and by whom?

If you are implementing hybrid working practices, it is wise to have a clear hybrid working policy to outline the parameters of this work arrangement.  It currently is not required by law. Having a hybrid policy in place from the outset will help mitigate any issues or complaints moving forward.

To succeed in a hybrid environment, leaders need to create a comfortable environment and work schedule that protects the integrity of the work culture.  Leaders must consider how they will evaluate quality performance and effective time management as they continue to encourage knowledge and skill development.  The hybrid work model will continue to see changes in the future as it evolved but it most certainly is here to stay.

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