The hybrid workplace is becoming the new normal for many businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is your company ready for this change? Learn what you need to know about:
- What the hybrid workplace is
- Why employers are adopting it
- What the pros and cons are
- How to migrate to a hybrid environment
What Is a Hybrid Workplace?
As the name suggests, the hybrid workplace is a combination of a brick-and-mortar office with a digital workspace.
In contrast to the conventional office, where employees work on-site 5 days a week, in a hybrid workforce, employees only work in the office part of the time, or some employees work in the office while others work remotely. However, in contrast to exclusive work-from-home models, some employees still come into the physical office at least part of the time.
The hybrid work model is flexible in several respects. It is flexible with respect to location. Employees may work in the office, from another location such as home or from both places at different times.
The hybrid paradigm can be adjustable with respect to scheduling, too. Employees may work on a conventional first-shift schedule or they may work on other schedules.
Finally, the hybrid workspace can be flexible with respect to workflow. Some work processes may be handled through conventional workflows, while others may be handled digitally and others may be managed through a combination of conventional and digital workflows.
Why Are Employers Shifting to a Hybrid Workplace?
Today’s hybrid workplace transformation was accelerated by the COVID-19 outbreak. Concern for employee safety promoted a rise in remote work early during the pandemic.
In April 2020, the number of workers always working remotely rose to 51%, according to polling by Gallup. Although this had declined to 33% by September 2020, the number of workers sometimes working remotely rose to 25% from 18% during the same period. It makes a case that a hybrid model is the future of workforce management.
Both employers and employees agree that incorporating more remote work into the workflow has been positive. A survey by professional services provider PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) conducted at the end of 2020 found 83% of employers felt more remote work had been successful for their company. Fewer than 1 in 5 want to return to a pre-pandemic office model.
Employees concur, with 55% wanting to work remotely at least 3 days a week after the pandemic subsides. For their part, 29% of employers think 3 days a week in the office would be optimal for workers, while 18% favor 4 days, 15% favor 2 days and 5% prefer one day. About 21% of employers think 5 days a week is necessary.
Apart from safety, one big reason employers and employees both embrace a hybrid work model is productivity. Over a third of employees feel being a digital worker has made them more productive than they were before the pandemic, while more than half of employers say they’ve seen productivity gains with a remote workforce.
However, employers also feel that some on-site work is important for maintaining a strong company culture, and are more eager for employees to return than workers themselves are. According to PwC’s survey, 75% of executives anticipate that half of their workforce will be back in the office by July 2021, compared with 61% of employees who expect this.
What Are the Pros and Cons?
Why are employers divided over how much time in the office is optimal? The hybrid workplace presents a number of pros and cons which need to be considered carefully when planning the future of office workers.
Pros of a Hybrid Workforce
In the pandemic, one of the most compelling pros of a hybrid workforce is safety. The fewer employees in the office at one time, the easier it is to maintain social distancing.
Offering hybrid work flexibility can increase employee satisfaction, improving recruitment and decreasing turnover. For example, recruits or employees with children may find the option of working remotely part of the time a strong incentive.
Employee satisfaction promotes higher productivity, another important benefit of a hybrid work model. Remote workers tend to work more hours and take less time off. Worker productivity rose 13% during the height of the pandemic in May 2020 compared with the previous May because of increased remote work, a study by workplace culture resource provider Great Place to Work found.
Cons of a Hybrid Workforce
While a hybrid work model offers significant benefits, it also can have potential drawbacks. Reduced contact with office workers can make it challenging to keep workers engaged.
According to Gallup’s research, worker engagement is lowest among employees who work remotely either all of the time or none of the time. However, a balance of office work and remote work can optimize employee engagement. Engagement is highest among employees who work 3 or 4 days remotely.
A hybrid work model also may require employers to redesign office space to accommodate workers who are only in the office part of the time. For example, less space may be required if only part of the workforce is in the office, but work areas still need to be available for workers who come in part of the time. This can be worked around but may require some ingenuity.
Follow This 8-Step Workplace Transformation Strategy
To prepare for the digital future of work in a hybrid environment, companies can pursue an 8-step workplace transformation strategy:
- Determine which processes and positions will be handled digitally
- Build a supporting technology infrastructure
- Establish standard operating procedures
- Train key personnel how to manage hybrid processes
- Recruit hybrid workers
- Train your hybrid workforce
- Promote hybrid employee engagement
- Monitor hybrid performance
The first 7 steps will help you implement a hybrid strategy that promotes worker productivity and engagement, while the last step will help you evaluate your strategy’s effectiveness so you can make adjustments and improvements.
For best results when following these steps, work with a human resources consulting firm familiar with the technological needs of a remote workforce.
1. Determine Which Processes and Positions Will Be Handled Digitally
The first step in building a hybrid workplace is to decide which business processes will be handled digitally and which corresponding positions can be handled remotely in part or in full. Not all digital processes need to be handled remotely, so part of the task is determining which should be managed from in-office networks and which can or should be managed remotely. Efficiency, security and cost are a few factors to consider when making this decision.
Once you know which processes will be handled remotely, there remains the step of deciding which corresponding positions will be responsible for these tasks. Some tasks may call for full-time remote workers, while others may call for workers who are in the office part of the time and remote the rest of the time.
2. Build a Supporting Technology Infrastructure
Once you know which business processes will be managed on-site and which will be handled digitally and remotely, the next step is to set up the required technology. This includes technology for handling in-office operations as well as for handling remote operations.
Part of this step is deciding how to utilize the cloud. Technology can be hosted entirely on-site, entirely in the cloud or on a hybrid of on-site and cloud servers. Review your needs with your information technology team and decide on the best approach.
3. Establish Standard Operating Procedures
Once you know how you’ll be organizing your business processes and what technology you’ll be using, you can set up your standard operating procedures. These will include procedures for both on-site and remote workers, as well as procedures for how on-site workers will interact with remote workers when shared workflow is involved. Your procedures should be documented and stored in a digitally accessible format where they can be used for training and reference.
4. Train Key Personnel How to Manage Hybrid Processes
To set the stage for hybrid implementation, key personnel will need to be trained in your new hybrid procedures. It will be particularly important to train employees who will be responsible for training and supervising others. This can include supervisors, managers and certain staff.
In some cases where hybrid procedures follow established procedures, personnel will already possess the necessary training. In other cases, new skills will need to be taught, particularly for tasks involving new technology adoption. For instance, during the pandemic, learning to use Zoom was important for many businesses.
5. Recruit Hybrid Workers
Shifting to a hybrid work model may require the recruitment of new employees or the hiring of outsourced workers. Review the list of positions you defined in the first step and identify any which need to be filled.
When recruiting employees who will fill remote positions, consider soft skills necessary for effective remote work as well as hard skills necessary to use remote technology. For example, remote workers need to be self-motivated and good at written communication. A staffing firm can assist you with recruiting and screening suitable remote work candidates. You may be able to fill some positions through internal recruitment.
6. Train Your Hybrid Workforce
New workers or existing workers tasked with new responsibilities will need to be trained in your new hybrid procedures. To train remote workers, you may find it useful to use a corporate learning management system (LMS), which is a software application allowing trainers to deliver instruction and track learning online.
7. Promote Hybrid Employee Engagement
With a hybrid work model, reduced on-site contact between workers needs to be offset by strategies that promote remote worker engagement. Having remote workers on-site part of the time can help maintain a sense of connection.
For fully remote workers, you can use strategies such as virtual meetings, virtual mentorship programs, corporate social media boards and other remote team-building activities.
8. Monitor Hybrid Performance
To ensure your hybrid workplace strategy is working, use key performance indicators (KPIs) to set goals and track performance. For instance, you might set goals for remote worker productivity, engagement or turnover.
Create standard procedures for monitoring your metrics, such as checking dashboards daily or creating reports for weekly review. If you find your hybrid strategy isn’t achieving your target numbers, analyze where you’re falling short and test adjustments to make improvements.
Embrace the Hybrid Workplace to Prepare for the Future
The hybrid work model combines the brick-and-mortar office with digital work to support flexible options for work location, scheduling and workflow.
The hybrid workspace has become more popular since the COVID-19 outbreak because it allows employers to provide a safer work environment while enjoying other benefits, such as increased worker satisfaction and productivity and lower costs. To enjoy these benefits, employers must overcome challenges such as managing remote workers and redesigning office layouts.
Employers can implement a hybrid workplace successfully by carefully planning how to manage hybrid processes and workers before recruiting, training and engaging their hybrid workforce. To optimize the success of implementation, track key metrics and use them as a baseline for making adjustments and improvements. Use these strategies to embrace a hybrid work model and position your company for success in today’s new business environment.