The hybrid work model: what is it, and how do you make it work?

The idea of a hybrid work model has been on the rise for years, and with good reason: it promises to give employees the best of both worlds.

The way we work is changing. It’s no longer about coming into the office and staying there for as long as possible. Employees want to be more flexible with how they spend their time, whether working from home a few days a week or taking full advantage of videoconferencing.

Not only is it more efficient than working from an office, but it can also improve team spirit and productivity. In fact, we’re realizing people do their best work when and where they feel most comfortable — and that isn’t necessarily tied down to the office nine-to-five.

Why is remote working on the rise?

One word: Covid.

Okay, so remote work was rising before the virus hit, but the recent health crisis has resulted in many companies shifting to a new way of working. Doors closed, and employees had to work from home offices, bedrooms, living rooms, and…um…bathrooms.

As restrictions lift in various parts of the world, some workers are heading back into the office. But many aren’t: after getting a taste of the WFH lifestyle, they liked it.

On the other side of the coin, employers saw that it was not only doable, but in many ways, preferable. Technology has made it possible for us to stay connected at all times, which means we can help colleagues with questions or urgent tasks even when we’re not physically present.

Here are some eye-opening stats:

  • 77% of remote workers say they’re more productive when working from home.
  • 85% of managers believe that having teams with remote workers will become the new norm.
  • 74% of workers say having the option to work remotely would make them less likely to leave a company. (Source: findstack.com)

The findings show that working virtually instead of face-to-face is becoming an increasingly popular trend for both employers and employees alike. But is it all just hype? First, let’s take a look at what hybrid working means.

What is the hybrid work model?

A hybrid work model is a combination of working in person at the company and working from home. Employees have varying degrees of flexibility to choose the method that works best for them.

Hybrid working takes many forms, depending on the needs and policies of the organization. For example, employees might work from home on specific days and come into the office for the remainder of the week. Or, employees might primarily work from home and only come in for meetings and other company events. In some industries, workers might have to split time between working at a client site, the office, and home.

In most cases, flexible workers still have access to open office spaces and equipment like printers and copiers. However, they can also make use of more quiet areas inside or outside the building if needed.

Hybrid is essentially an extension of the flexible working model. So, how is it different? Well, it’s all about its delivery.

It’s not about simply giving employees office space, then letting them work from home whenever they need to. Hybrid work models are about offering a range of tailored solutions built around the employer and the employee’s needs. Most importantly, this work style helps everyone involved achieve a beneficial balance between professional and personal obligations.

Variations on the hybrid work model

Office-first. Home-first. Remote-first. Feeling a little lost? We’re not surprised. Here’s what each of these hybrid work styles means:

  • Office-first: the employee works in the office most of the time while only working from home when it’s really necessary. 
  • Home-first: as the name suggests, this involves a fully remote arrangement of working from home. However, if there’s some reason the employee is needed at the office (such as a meeting on short notice), workers must comply with the request.
  • Remote-first: the employee has the freedom to work remotely whenever they need or want to, but they’re also encouraged or required to spend certain times within the office. In this arrangement, there’s an emphasis on being part of team bonding so that the employee can get a better sense of company culture.
  • Hybrid first: the employer has a preference for working in an office, but will allow remote access if there are valid reasons to do so.

The benefits of hybrid working

There have been many studies on whether working from home or in an office is more effective. Some findings suggest remote employees are less productive due to distractions, loneliness, and a lack of support. However, most research indicates that workers are equally happy when choosing either option, which comes down to personal preference.

Cutting out the commute saves time and benefits the environment.

The WFH life reduces the number of people on the roads overall, which in turn, lowers pollution in cities. Plus, it benefits commuters who would otherwise waste significant amounts of time traveling to and from work.

Commuters end up in a daily grind of waking up early and losing valuable hours sitting in traffic or on a train. By the time they reach work, many employees have already been on the move for several hours and shed much of their early-morning energy. And when they fall into a constant cycle of working too hard and getting minimal sleep time to recharge, it becomes a recipe for burnout.

A flexible schedule increases energy and focus.

Employees are also forced to perform during set timeframes when working onsite, regardless of how their energy and focus wane during those eight to 12 hours. Working from home allows staff to set schedules that are attuned to their individual energy levels throughout the day. As a result, they’re more likely to commit to work periods of high concentration and get more done

Working remotely gives workers more freedom.

Employees get to choose when and where they work. Family or personal obligations no longer pose a conflict, as remote workers can set their own hours. As long as they still achieve the right level of productivity, it doesn’t matter if all employees are working at the exact same time.

Remote work allows employees to choose where they live.

Another benefit to working remotely is that people are able to live where they want. Job opportunities aren’t tied to geographic location because employees can move to a different place from where they work.

In fact, remote work has sparked a rise in the popularity of ‘digital nomadism.’ Employees use online collaboration tools to conduct business worldwide, so they can choose an ultra-mobile lifestyle and never set foot inside an office building.

The benefits of hybrid working for employers and business owners

From an employer’s perspective, there are benefits, too. The cost savings of reducing office space and equipment is one example.

You have to consider the boost in morale and productivity as well. Employees get to have more control over their workday and environment, dealing with less noise and fewer distractions (in most cases). Research shows that people who work from home tend to be happier than those who work in an office. They’re less likely to take sick days, and they feel like they have more free time.

Employers who support good work-life balance rather than discouraging it reap the rewards through improved employee retention. People have lives outside of work. Whether they want to spend time with family, care for elderly relatives, or pursue uplifting hobbies, employees value jobs that allow them to work around personal commitments.

Companies also report that employees who have flexible work options are more engaged. Workers are more likely to perceive the business as having a positive workplace culture that promotes trust and flexibility.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of a remote work model is that it enables companies to hire the best talent, regardless of where they’re located. Businesses have greater access to highly qualified professionals without having to pay relocation costs or agree to other incentives, which would otherwise put a strain on resources.

The disadvantages of remote and hybrid working

A major disadvantage is that it can be harder for remote workers to establish themselves as part of a team due to a lack of face-to-face interaction. The solution here is pretty straightforward —communication!

Truthfully, it can be challenging to strike a balance by getting all parties to feel comfortable with different levels and methods of communication. For example, some people may prefer shorter emails or instant messages via your team chat app over long phone calls. Others might like video calls best.

Ideally, workers should share their preferences in advance so that teammates are crystal clear on expectations. And don’t forget to run virtual team-building sessions to boost morale and bring the team closer together.

Distractions are another potential issue. Anyone who has other people in the home (especially parents) is at risk of losing focus because of noise or interruptions in their environment. Workers who struggle with self-discipline are also prone to procrastination and may have difficulty maintaining productivity. 

Making hybrid work: tips for business owners

1. Always be flexible

If something isn’t working, try swapping things around or changing your mind. Don’t be afraid to push back on your employees if they’re proving less productive at home. But a word of warning: before revoking WFH options, look for ways to make the situation better. Perhaps, your employees need more direction, better technology, or more regular check-ins. Try to fix issues first before ditching a remote or hybrid work model.

2. Use video

Have team catch-ups and important meetings via Skype or Zoom rather than individually by email or phone. This will help create a strong company culture and increase morale during the first couple of weeks when everyone is still getting used to being together again.

3. Check in regularly

Many people struggle to self-motivate, and the lack of supervision can lead to employees feeling lost. Employees who work from home miss out on lots of face-to-face communication, so it’s important to keep in regular contact where possible.

4. Trust your team

It’s a challenge to let go of oversight. Yet, if you give employees trust and autonomy, they’ll repay you in spades. Rather than focusing on time spent at the desk, keep your eyes on the prize and look at sales performance, collaboration, task management, customer feedback, and so on. If your remote team is delivering results, then your employees are clearly making productive choices.

5. Plan your workflows carefully

When employees aren’t sitting in the office next to you, it can be difficult to keep track of who is working on what at any given time. Collaborate with your staff members to manage schedules and gain a realistic expectation of when certain tasks can be completed.

By encouraging communication between managers, team members, and freelancers, businesses will feel more like one unit than several independent parts. Project management software is a must if you want a convenient way to organize and monitor these workflows.

6. Commit to flexibility

It’s no longer enough to simply say you’ll give staff the hours they need or support work-life balance. Put the right tech in place to accommodate a remote, collaborative environment. A common mistake among employers is to promote a hybrid work model, but go back on the arrangement whenever it suits them. Eventually, this leads to resentment, and workers leave at the first sign of a better opportunity.

If you offer a WFH option but then constantly expect employees to show up in person with little notice, they’ll look for jobs that provide true flexibility. Work with employees to come up with an acceptable WFH policy, and then stick to it.

7. Invest in tech

Tools like project management software, cloud storage, online payroll and HR management, and time-tracking apps will give employees the freedom to work from anywhere. 

Final thoughts

The hybrid work model is much more than a trend; it’s quickly changing the way we work for the better. Flexible hours are no longer just something companies promise their employees. Smart organizations are turning remote work into an achievable reality by closing communication gaps, investing in tech, and being accommodating to schedule changes.

When choosing your approach, there is no one correct answer. No single model works for every company in every situation. It’s essential that you find a solution that reflects your corporate culture and makes sense in terms of what you’re trying to achieve as an organization.

The trick to making it work is to have effective tools in place. Offer employees broad flexibility without worrying about how they’ll manage a project or whether or not important files are being stored securely offsite.

From project management software to chat apps and diagramming platforms, Nulab offers a suite of cloud-based tools designed to boost collaboration and communication among virtual teams. Investing in tech to bring your team together means you’ll get their very best work, whether they WFH or right there with you in the office.

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