How to adopt a hybrid schedule and make it work for your team
At the start of the millennium, a fully remote or hybrid schedule seemed like a rare privilege. While remote work has slowly gained ground over the last few decades, the pandemic catapulted this work model into the spotlight. Covid made working from home a necessity, but as we emerged from global lockdowns, many businesses have realized it’s not only possible — in many cases, it’s preferable. Why?
- Remote teams get more done. According to research by Hubstaff, remote teams have higher levels of productivity and engagement.
- Flexible work models improve employee retention. Employees who can work remotely are 13% more likely to stay at their current job than on-site employees.
- Remote teams are cheaper. Having a remote team can massively reduce overhead costs.
Of course, not all workplaces can convert to remote work or even consider it as an option. Many jobs require direct interaction with the public, access to on-site equipment, or travel to specific worksites.
But when remote work is a possibility, it’s worth considering. For that reason, organizations should think about how to embrace a remote work model without sacrificing business-critical operations. The solution? Use hybrid scheduling to align business goals with employee needs.
In this article, we’re going to take a deep dive into hybrid work schedules with tips and examples to inspire you. Read on to learn more!
What are the different types of work models?
The most common types of work models include:
- On-premise: employees work exclusively on-site.
- Remote: employees primarily work from home. In reality, employees may work from any location outside of the business premises, but they’re required to be accessible during work hours.
- Hybrid: Employees alternate between working remotely and coming into the office as needed or desired.
What is a hybrid schedule, and how does it work?
A hybrid work schedule is a flexible arrangement where employees alternate between working at a business location and home. The business location may be the company’s headquarters or related premises, such as a client property or contract worksite. Depending on the arrangement, this change in locations could even occur during a single day.
Hybrid schedules can incorporate time spent in different locations daily or week to week. They may also consist of alternating days so that employees spend part of the time in each place. For example, you might come into the office Monday through Wednesday and then have the option to work off-site on Thursday and Friday, allowing you to take care of errands or appointments. While you would still need to stay available on remote days (via email, phone, video, or chat app), you wouldn’t have to be physically present at work.
A hybrid schedule gives employees more flexibility to balance their work and personal lives while also improving their productivity when they’re required to be on-site. On a broader scale, hybrid models reduce traffic congestion because people aren’t all driving into work at once every day of the week.
Types of hybrid work models
The right work model depends on the structure of your business and the priorities of your team. And with every option, you have plenty of room to further customize work schedules on an individual or team level.
Hybrid schedules typically fall into three main categories:
- Split team: in this model, employees split into two or more groups and work from different locations for a set time period.
- Shifts: employees work on the premises on certain days and off-site on others. Each person has a regular rotation.
- Flexible: employees can choose between on-site and off-site work.
You can divide them further according to type:
- Cohort schedules: employees work together during certain hours of the day, typically 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays.
- Interval schedules: people can work whenever they like, rather than at set times (for example, 6 am to 6 pm).
- Integrated schedules: employees may get the best of both worlds — working off-site some days and on-site others.
- Staggered schedules: employees have set hours in the office, but they don’t all arrive at the same time. For instance, if you always need a copywriter in-house at all times, you might have one come in from 9 am to 1 pm. Then, another writer would work the 1 pm to 5 pm shift.
- Flexible schedules (employee-led): if employees feel they need more time at home, they can adjust their schedules to fit their needs. One day, you might work from 8 am to 4 pm, while another day, you might work from 12 pm to 8 pm.
- Flexible schedules (employer-led): the manager determines when team members work in and away from the office, depending on work needs.
What are the advantages of a hybrid schedule?
Employee satisfaction is one of the biggest benefits of granting a hybrid work schedule. Everyone has personal obligations that occasionally conflict with work. When employees have the time and space to manage these concerns, they’re more focused and motivated during work hours.
Also, work styles and productivity levels differ from person to person. Requiring everyone to work the same restrictive hours means that some people won’t be in their most productive mindset. Allowing employees to tailor their schedules to their individual preferences increases the likelihood that they’ll feel good about the work they do.
So, how does this benefit the company? Higher satisfaction equals lower turnover rates due to improved job fit and greater organizational commitment. From a recruitment perspective, this also reduces operating costs. The more employees you retain, the less time and resources you’ll spend trying to attract new talent. And because there are fewer people on-site, you can lower overhead costs from utilities, supplies, maintenance, etc.
Increased employee engagement also leads to a more positive workplace culture overall. For one thing, your organization can attract and retain high-quality employees from around the world. You can find people who are the best fit for each team, rather than hiring solely in your immediate geographical location.
Secondly, happy employees are the best ambassadors for your business. Since they have a clear understanding of what the company needs, they’re in a position to refer qualified applicants who are likely to be a good fit.
What are the disadvantages of a hybrid work schedule?
Moving to a hybrid work schedule comes with a learning curve. Both employers and employees need to be patient as everyone gets comfortable with the new arrangement.
Be prepared to face coordination challenges in the beginning; it can be difficult to juggle flexible schedules while everyone is figuring out what’s expected of them. The most important thing is to set clear expectations right away, so all parties have a realistic understanding of the hours, schedule, and communication channels.
Finally, technology comes with its own set of obstacles. Remote workers will need a suite of collaboration tools; relying on email alone won’t be enough. Video, chat apps, project management software, virtual whiteboards — they all make the job easier, but they do require investment.
What are some tips for managing a hybrid work schedule?
Whether you’re an employee or employer, managing a hybrid work schedule could take a substantial commitment. Here are our suggestions for handling it efficiently.
Set and stick to boundaries
- Let your employer know if you won’t be able to work past your scheduled hours or take calls and emails during non-work hours. Respect yourself enough to say ‘no’ if you feel uncomfortable with a particular arrangement.
- Employers shouldn’t expect employees to be available at all times. Flexibility is a key benefit of remote work, so don’t pressure employees to stick to rigid office rules in terms of when they’re online. On the flip side, if you need your team to be available and online at specific times, clarify this agreement beforehand.
- Give advance notice if an employee needs to be on-site. Hybrid schedules become a burden when managers routinely expect workers to change their plans and show up in person on remote workdays. Calling someone into the office on short notice should be a rare occasion that only occurs when it’s absolutely necessary for the employee to be present.
Share communication and work preferences
- Take note of how everyone likes to communicate and respect their preferences. As a manager, consider outlining remote communication best practices, so everyone understands the proper etiquette.
- Avoid misunderstandings by setting expectations with your team, including what you need from them, when they should be online, how the transition will work, whether there will be training, and how the team will schedule hours.
- Accommodate remote and on-site workers in team meetings. Choose a communication method that ensures everyone who needs to be at the meeting can easily attend or obtain a recording.
- Communicate regularly with your manager or team. Lack of clarity can cause delays and misunderstandings. To avoid this, schedule regular check-ins to discuss when you’ll be on-site and what you’re currently working on. You should also outline your expectations of each other regarding communication and check-ins. Meanwhile, managers should schedule one-on-one chats with workers to keep rapport high, even if they’re working remotely.
Practice good time management
- Plan your schedule carefully and make sure you have all the necessary resources on hand. Split tasks into ‘things you can complete at home’ and ‘things you must be on-site to do.’ Then, you’re less likely to fall behind or find yourself going back and forth between locations at the last minute.
- Try to maintain a semi-regular schedule during the week so that your off time is guaranteed even if unexpected things happen at work. Many employees find it helpful to keep a weekly planner to track their tasks and time commitments. Don’t let one emergency derail your whole day of relaxation!
- Stay energized and motivated by maintaining boundaries between personal and professional time. Employees, make sure you block out time in your calendar for your workouts, family time, and any other important activities you have during the week. If you don’t make these things a priority on certain days, chances are, they won’t get done.
- Set aside extra time for yourself after working eight hours (or more). Before the week starts, figure out what kind of downtime you need to decompress after a long day before starting new tasks for the next day. This could be as simple as watching your favorite TV show or having a relaxing evening at home with a book.
Top tip: project management software can be a big help because you can plan tasks and schedules and share your location or progress with your team in real-time.
Choosing the right technology for your hybrid team
Working remotely means you’re probably going to use different technology than you would at the office. Phone calls aren’t the only option when communicating remotely (nor should they be). If you haven’t already, make sure your team knows how to use tools such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, Teams, or Skype.
You should also centralize your workspace. Why? It ensures that everyone has access to the most up-to-date version of a file, communication is standardized across the team, and nothing slips through the cracks in terms of tasks. It also makes it easier for team members to find what they’re looking for, since all information is in one place and not spread across various programs and files.
Key software features to look for
Choose software solutions that have everything you need for remote teamwork. Here are some things to consider:
- Reporting: real-time reporting features let you and your team track work progress without the need for phone calls and email spam.
- Talking: video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts or Skype allow face-to-face communication with teammates.
- Project management: track tasks, milestones, and deadlines in real-time, so you never miss a beat.
- Collaboration: sharing files and documents online helps your team interact seamlessly. Check out Google Docs and PM software that lets you share files and folders.
- Visualizations: charts and other diagrams make it easier to digest complex data. Look for tools that can turn data into images.
- Customizations and integrations: keep your team on the same page by choosing an online collaboration tool that matches your business needs.
- Activity logs: provide visibility into project statuses, deadlines, and other team activities.
- Notifications: make sure you can monitor the status of your tasks in real-time.
- Shared calendars: enable your entire team to stay on top of upcoming meetings and milestones.
- Access rights: ensure that only authorized users can access projects or files (to maintain security).
- Interactive boards: allow everyone to work together seamlessly. Team members should be able to organize their work quickly by dragging and dropping files anywhere within the platform. They should have the option to chat with teammates inside the whiteboard software, so they don’t have to toggle between multiple applications to communicate.
- Real-time commenting: eliminate time-consuming email exchanges by enabling members to comment on each other’s work directly within the project board.
Tips on how to roll out a hybrid work schedule
When it comes to rolling out a hybrid work schedule, remember there will be a learning curve — and not everyone will learn at the same speed. As the schedule is new for everyone, some employees may struggle with it initially, while others will be more comfortable.
Understanding this learning curve will help managers guide their teams through a successful transition to a hybrid work schedule. It also means managers need to be patient and empathetic during the initial stages of implementation so that they don’t threaten or damage employee morale before they have a chance to learn how to use flexible schedules productively.
While employees are getting used to the changes in their routines, managers should take time for thorough explanations and clear directives (without making them feel like children). Managers should also make themselves available to answer questions and help with any problems that arise.
Finally, ask for feedback from your employees. They’re the ones who have to work under this new system, and they might come up with some really great ideas for how to improve things.
Your team members could also be struggling. Some employees may not want to tell their managers that their schedule isn’t working well because they don’t want to complain. Make it clear to employees that they’re in a safe space where they can openly discuss their obstacles — both in and out of the office.
Make hybrid and remote work a part of your company culture
Keep in mind that the company culture will influence the success of your hybrid work schedule.
It’s all well and good to promote a hybrid or remote working model, but if employees feel pressured to come into the office, then it’s as good as nothing. To avoid this, make it a part of your company culture.
- Implement a program that makes it optional for employees to work from home. People who take advantage of this perk shouldn’t feel left out of important events because of their schedules. On the other hand, people who prefer in-person work shouldn’t feel pressured to go remote for everyone else’s convenience.
- Encourage and support remote employees, instead of shaming or alienating them. Your organization needs to fully support telecommuting by offering flexible schedules and communication tools. If you truly believe in these principles and practices, everybody wins: your employees will be happier and more productive, and your company will benefit from it, too.
- Donate time to your employees if they need to work on something outside of the regular nine-to-five, and encourage them (without pressuring or demanding) to work off-site.
Regardless of the final outcome, give it time. And don’t forget that choosing a hybrid schedule should be a win/win situation for everybody!
Employee checklist: questions to ask
- How often do I need to be in the office?
- Am I locked into certain days, or is there flexibility?
- How early do I have to arrive?
- Can I take breaks when I need them, or are there set times when everyone leaves for lunch?
- Am I required to stay late or log in after-hours?
- Does my schedule change every week, month, quarter, etc.?
- What happens if something comes up, and I can’t make it to work one day?
- Do I still get paid if the weather is bad and my commute is too long/crowded/dangerous for me to travel? Are remote workers expected to be available at all times in case of an emergency?
- What are the expectations for email communication during off-hours (i.e., nights and weekends)?
- Am I a good fit for a hybrid work schedule? What’s expected of me, and what can I expect from the company offering the position?
- Will there be any changes in our sick leave policy?
- Do we get stipends for home office supplies?
Manager checklist: questions to ask
- Which people or departments need to be on-site?
- Which employees are working on which schedule, and for how long?
- How do you ensure that employees don’t take advantage of the schedule and try to work as much as possible during their time off?
- What are the expectations for email communication during off-hours (i.e., nights and weekends)
- How is performance measured on a hybrid schedule — by hours worked or output/goals achieved?
- What are your expectations for company social media use?
- How many people can the office safely accommodate?
- How will you consider an employee’s need for inclusive flexibility?
- Are there legal obligations to consider?
Offering employees a hybrid work schedule is a brilliant way to show them their time is valued and the company is willing to work with them. It opens up all kinds of new opportunities for employees to balance their work lives, which offers some excellent benefits for the business as well.
However, it’s crucial to prepare before entering into a hybrid schedule agreement with employees. But with the right tools, a little patience, and good planning, you should be able to offer employees a flexible work schedule that’s beneficial for everyone involved.