As we return to the office, companies large and small are adapting to their employee’s new needs by replacing the traditional 9 to 5 with a variation of the hybrid work model - a combination of working from the office and working remotely.
And adapt they must. Bloomberg reports that 39% of U.S. adults surveyed by the Morning Consult say they would consider quitting their jobs if their employers did not offer remote work, with 49% of Millennials and Gen Z demanding the same. In a different study, 82% of workers said they’d like to continue to work remotely, at least occasionally. The people have spoken, and most agree - a flexible schedule that promotes a healthy work/life balance is now a top priority.
In this article, we discuss the benefits of embracing the hybrid work model, the benefits of each type of workplace model, and outline the potential pitfalls of the return to work transition you need to be aware of.
The Value of the Hybrid Work Model
Employees can work when, where and how they are most productive.
Just like everyone has different learning styles - some are visual learnings, others do well listening to instruction, and some need hands-on experience to truly master a skill - people also have different needs when it comes to maximizing output.
With a hybrid work model, employees have the flexibility to work from the spaces that inspire them the most - whether that’s alone in a cozy home office or collaborating with teammates in a coworking space. They also have the opportunity to work when they are at their most productive, be it the crack of dawn, late into the night, or anywhere in between.
Employees can more easily maintain their work-life balance.
A hybrid model gives employees the opportunity to create a healthier work-life balance for themselves. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 the average American spent 6 hours per week traveling to and from work - a number that had been steadily rising for the past decade. Plus, when employees have flexible work schedules, they can better balance their personal responsibilities (like running an errand, signing for a package at home, or caring for a sick child) with their work responsibilities.
Employees experience health benefits.
Apart from the fact that longer commutes are linked with higher rates of back pain, obesity, and stress, the hybrid workplace model has additional benefits applicable to the entire workforce. A survey completed in 2019 found that only 1 out of 10 employees stay home from work when they're sick, citing both having too much work to complete and not wanting to take a sick day among the top reasons why they worked while ill. With a hybrid work model, sick employees won’t feel pressured to come into the workplace, reducing transmission to healthy employees.
The hybrid model expands your talent pool.
When employees aren't tethered to a physical location, your company isn't tied to a limited talent pool. A hybrid work model means increased access to top candidates across the country or globe, making it easier to find the most valuable team players and expand to new markets.
Your business can save money.
Forbes predicts the hybrid work model will save companies “a fortune in real estate costs” alone, not to mention utilities, business travel, costs related to employee turnover, and much more. A hybrid work model leads to increased employee satisfaction, resulting in happier, more productive employees that do their best work.
Three Variations of the Hybrid Work Model - Which is Right for Your Business?
Tech giants such as Microsoft, Apple, and Google are starting to announce their future of work plans, all of which include a variation of the hybrid work model - with small, medium, and large businesses from a variety of industries (including Digital Realty) following suit. To build a hybrid model that works for your company, you’ll need to communicate with your employees to discover their needs, then establish the right framework to ensure a smooth transition. As you analyze the demand for hybrid work, consider the three following types of hybrid work models, how they can uniquely benefit your organization, and their limitations:
#1 Remote Permitted
Remote Permitted is the hybrid work model people are most familiar with. With this model, the office remains as the primary place of business, but employees are permitted to work away from the main office on occasion on either a scheduled or as-needed basis. A small percentage of employees may work fully remotely, but leadership is generally in the office.
#2 Office Occasional
With the Office Occasional model, a company will choose to keep their office space, requiring employees to come into the local physical workspace a few times a week. Employees who want to work in-house more often than required are permitted to do so.
#3 Remote First
Remote First (Twitter, Slack, and Facebook’s preferred hybrid work model) means that employees will not be expected to return to or work in an office, although many companies may choose to keep their campuses as collaboration and community-building spaces. Video conferencing and other forms of online communication are the prioritized methods of conveying information, with employees spread out across time zones and/or countries.
Potential Pitfalls of the Hybrid Work Model and How to Avoid Them
Although a plethora of studies continue to sing the praises of the hybrid work model, it's not without its faults. Thankfully, there are some simple strategies you can use to avoid the most common barriers to a successful hybrid workplace transition.
Remote workers may feel excluded.
Overall, the biggest pitfall of a hybrid work model is that remote workers can become disinterested and un-engaged if the remote vs in-person culture is unbalanced. When leadership defaults to working primarily from the office, staff may choose to work in the office space alongside them. The natural in-person conversation, collaboration, and decision-making produced in the office space can lead staff to feel underappreciated and excluded, ultimately disincentivizing remote work and undermining productivity.
How to plan for it:
To avoid remote workers feeling like an afterthought, consider moving to a Remote First model where the bulk of business is conducted virtually. If a Remote First model isn’t feasible, normalize remote-first work by encouraging leadership to work primarily outside of the office, and delineate specific purposes for office space. Some companies are even retrofitting their current offices to replace solo work stations with meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces or downsizing their facilities and investing in multiple co-working spaces for small teams to get together.
Remote workers may be passed over.
Just as remote employees may feel a sense of exclusion from an office-based workplace, a survey by Gartner confirmed that 64% of managers are more likely to give office-based workers a higher raise than remote workers, believing that office workers are higher performers. In reality, office-based employees are more visible and may simply just attract more attention to their work. When remote workers have fewer career opportunities, they start looking for employment elsewhere.
How to plan for it:
Again, consider a Remote First model. At the very least, managers should be trained to identify their own biases against remote workers when they’re conducting performance reviews and considering staff for raises and promotions. A hybrid work model demands that businesses find proactive ways to help remote employees grow with the company.
Remote workers can easily feel out of the loop.
When remote workers are not aware of certain conversations or decisions that have been made in-person, the results can range from annoying and inefficient at best to disastrous at worst. Prioritizing online-first communication goes a long way in creating a successful hybrid workplace.
How to plan for it:
If communication can’t be moved fully online, companies should plan meetings and events with remote workers in mind. This means centering remote staff’s experiences and investing in communication tools that enable robust communication, like video conferencing technology. Establish company-wide communication best practices that prioritize communicating online over in-person to create a more equitable space for all employees.
BlueJeans video conferencing solutions make return to work planning inclusive and productive. Our platform offers the flexibility to experiment and identify the ideal hybrid workplace for your business. BluesJeans features include:
● Smart Meetings - Capture and share meeting highlights, tag and transcribe important discussion points, and quickly assign action items and next steps to keep in-person and remote staff on the same page.
● Ability to record moments - BlueJeans gives you the ability to record everything that happens in your meeting, capturing video, audio, screen shares, slides, and other vital content.
● Dashboard/Command Center - Review in-meeting analytics, receive real-time alerts, and access live meeting controls for complete meeting oversight.
● Powerful mobile collaboration - BlueJeans offers fully featured iOs and Android apps for remote workers to stay productive on the go.
Ready to take a deeper dive into the hybrid work model? Access the BlueJeans webinar on hybrid model strategies for Microsoft Teams, read Frost and Sullivan’s whitepaper on Embracing The Hybrid Workplace, or get started with a free video conferencing trial today.