Vaccine distribution is widespread and restrictions are easing across the country, which can only mean that the “great return” to the office is upon us-sort of. While some workplaces are staying remote and others are already back in the office full-time, there’s another approach that employers and employees alike seem to prefer: the hybrid workplace.
So, now, employers must decide: head back to the office or stay remote
If one thing’s for certain, the future of work won’t look like it did pre-Covid. Pandemic-fueled policy changes like remote flexibility and a reduced workplace footprint are likely here to stay long term. But in order to accommodate all types of workers, employers are increasingly exploring that third option: a hybrid workplace. Here’s what you need to know.
What, Exactly, Is a Hybrid Workplace?
A hybrid workplace can provide the best of both worlds by giving employees the opportunity to work from the comfort of their own home as well as the ability to go into the office.
What does that look like, exactly? Well, that’s the beauty of it. The hybrid workplace model isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. “Hybrid” can mean different things to different organizations, and you can tailor it to best fit your company’s needs.
Some businesses, for example, are requiring employees to come into the office three days a week, with two “flex days” where they have the option to work from home or commute to the office. “We like this option because it doesn’t lock anyone into remote work if that’s something they want,” Ann Martin, director of operations of Credit Donkey Investments, says.
“We also think it will be helpful for employees transitioning back into the office after being away for so long. Having the ‘flex days’ to offset mandatory time in the office can help workers adjust instead of having them launch straight into a full-time office job again.”
Other hybrid workplaces are giving employees the option to work remotely or on-site whenever they choose. This means that a company’s headquarters could be based in Dallas, for instance, but their employees can live in another city, state, or maybe even another country, depending on how flexible the policy is.
“We want our employees to have more freedom when it comes to their work and the environment they choose to surround themselves with,” says Matthew Paxton, founder of Hypernia, a gaming server review platform. “As we saw little-to-no negative consequences of switching to remote work during the pandemic regarding the work our employees put out, we’re happy to offer them this choice. They’re welcome to switch up their workplace setting anytime, and we, as a company, will be able to attract more diverse workers and widen our talent pool.”
Is a Hybrid Workplace Right for Your Company?
While the majority (55%) of employers are planning to implement some sort of hybrid work model moving forward, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of doing so for your organization.
On one hand, hybrid work can greatly reduce the costs of paying for office space and supplies. It can also widen your talent pool and improve the diversity of your workforce, as previously mentioned. However, with some employees in the office and others at home, hybrid work can make it difficult when promoting team members — will in-office employees be favored over those working remotely? A lack of continuity can also make things like communication, onboarding, and training more challenging as well.
So, to help make your decision a little easier, Jacob Dayan, CEO and co-founder of Community Tax and Finance Pal, says that employers need to consider the size of their company, location, the age range of employees, and how the work environment was prior to the remote workforce. “When using these factors and taking the time to get to know your employee’s thoughts on the working environment, it will help determine which setting to foster for your company,” he says.
Whether you’re a small business owner or a key stakeholder within a large corporation, the size of your company may impact your decision-making when considering hybrid work. “When a company is small, they have the opportunity to cater a working environment for each of their employees,” Dayan says. You could even try polling your employees to see which work option they prefer best: fully remote, fully in-person, or a combination of both.
That becomes a bit trickier for companies that employ hundreds, if not thousands of workers. “Larger corporations could be making this decision based on what produces higher output and productivity levels,” Dayan says. “Having a hybrid workforce can provide a happy medium to the solution, but larger corporations will need to find ways to consistently check in on their employees and their satisfaction levels.”
Location, Location, Location
Employers may also have to consider the fact that in-person work may no longer be feasible for all of your workers. In the U.S., hen the world switched remote, data from the United States Postal Service shows that over 15.9 million people packed up and moved.
As an employer, you may have even hired remote workers during the pandemic who didn’t live within commuting distance of your office. “Location can affect the decision of having a hybrid workplace if there are employees who don’t live close to the office or are in a different state,” Dayan says. “When it is time to implement a hybrid workplace or anything in-person, it could be difficult for those employees to feel connected.”
The Age-Old Question
The age and experience of your workforce should also be factored into your hybrid work model. Seasoned professionals who don’t need close supervision or extensive training may enjoy the flexibility to work from home in their slippers, avoid the commute, and have the convenience of throwing a load of laundry in the wash between meetings.
But then there’s Gen Z to consider, the youngest generation entering the workforce. These young professionals want to see a career path and will crave networking opportunities and a company culture, which can be challenging to accomplish when you’ve never met your coworkers in person.
“If you’re successful in creating a thoughtful, high-quality hybrid work program, you’re going to be able to attract and retain top talent,” says Nick Lovacchini, co-founder of KettleSpace, a provider of flexible workplace solutions. “That’s what talent wants, and as Gen Z becomes more of the workforce, they will definitely want that.”
Conference Rooms vs. Computers
While the past year has proved that many employees can work just as productively at home as they can in-office, it’s also important to think back to what your workplace was like before the pandemic. Ask yourself: was most of the work already being done on a computer? “These types of tasks can be done from anywhere,” Jeffrey Zhou, CEO of Fig Loans, says. “If the bulk of your company’s work is done this way, you need to consider the benefits of a hybrid model at least.”
Zhou says you’ll also need to think about how your company fosters creativity and innovation. “If you have built a culture around sharing ideas in-person or collaborative brainstorming sessions with tactile elements like dioramas, art, and mixed media, it can be incredibly difficult to change that culture cold turkey,” he says. “How you facilitate creativity is likely what drew employees to your workplace in the first place, so contemplate how that could translate to a remote work environment, if at all.”
Is Hybrid Work Here to Stay?
Once you roll out your plan to go hybrid, understand that it’s not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. After all, hybrid work is still uncharted territory for a lot of companies, and it may take some trial and error before knowing what’s the right balance for you.
“It’s best to set it up with intention, make sure it’s clear, and then monitor, iterate, optimize, make it better, make it better, make it better,” Lovacchini says. “Then, over time, it’s a pretty well-oiled machine, and you’ll have the fluidity that’s going to be the future of work. We believe that the future will be hybrid and it will be sustainable, even though it may not be the easiest adjustment out of the gate.”
Want to Stay up to Date on the Hybrid Workforce?
Whether you’re in uncharted economic territory or not, it’s important to have access to the latest insights from the field. As you plan out your hiring strategy going forward, we have the job market analysis and tips that you need to navigate remote and hybrid work.