The world is going digital in multiple spheres, and there too must be a transition from the tradition to a more digital work approach. The work from anywhere model has been the de facto approach over the past year. While employees may want to continue enjoying the benefits of a flexible schedule and no commute, many companies will still need their offices to conduct business, and more focused work host their meetings. An attempt to synchronize both approaches has led to a merger of the traditional and remote work schemes, giving rise to hybrid work.
What is Hybrid Work?
When we speak of hybrid office culture, we refer to a scenario where half of a team works remotely. The other half follows the traditional pattern of in-person work, with varying schedules depending on the day. It is a “hybrid” of the conventional workplace model and the tending remote work structure.
Hybrid office culture seeks to eliminate the significant shortcomings of the traditional office workplace, as not all workers would need to be physically on-site to work. That means team members can have work-from-home programs for greater convenience. There is also room for team members to have supervised focused work sessions for maximum work input in the office.
Hybrid culture may very well be the future of work, and its benefits are great as it solves a practical problem. Just as not everyone wants to work in an office, not everyone wants to work from home either! There are proponents for traditional and remote working models, and hybrid work culture attempts to bridge the divide. But the main challenge you could face with implementing mixed work is the thinness of the line between on-site and offsite schedules. There is the risk that some team members can get left out. It’ll take a conscious and intricate effort to minimize the chances of this happening by using practices like frequently scheduled communications, taking advantage of open-channel conversation tools like Orbital, and incorporating trust-building and inclusion activities.
It is essential to provide enough flexibility for team members to focus and collaborate in the way that best suits them. This would go a long way to sustain an engaging, productive, and enthusiastic atmosphere, and you can expect to have greater output from their work shifts.
Variations of the Hybrid Model
The Hybrid work model has some variations popularly enforced:
- Remote-First Hybrid Model
- Office-Occasional Hybrid Model
- Office-First, Remote Allowed Hybrid Model
1. Remote-First Hybrid Culture
As the name may suggest, the remote-first hybrid work variation would closely mirror a fully remote work system, with some exceptions. But for the most part, the company would function with a fully remote culture modus operandi as employees would be spread out across time zones and defaulting to online communication schemes.
Companies that adopt this operation model would mostly keep their offices as space for employees to work from. However, some proponents of this model would have some employees work from their offices if the job requires their physical presence. This means employees can freely relocate to different regions and even continents and still work. The company would maintain the office space for employees who’d still like to show up to the office site to work.
It is worthy of note that remote-first hybrid culture doesn’t mean teammates would never see each other. Seasonal retreats, meetings, and conventions can be organized to bring together team members occasionally to keep the team spirit.
2. Office-Occasional Hybrid Culture
Unlike some remote-first hybrid working models in which office spaces serve mainly for collaboration purposes, the office-occasional hybrid model uses the office to blend in-person collaboration and solo work. The main idea behind the office-occasional hybrid approach is that employees come into the office a few times a week. The policies to enforce this can either be quite loose or quite firm, depending on the company’s needs. For example, employees may be required to show up to the office two days a week of their choice, or they could be expected to work from the office every Monday.
The core of this hybrid model variant is that they may choose to keep an office and require employees to spend some time in it. This may be because they don’t want to lose money on unused office space, or maybe they aren’t entirely sold yet on the remote culture. Either way, the results would be a primarily local workforce rather than distributed, as employees would have to come into the office occasionally.
This hybrid work model sits in between the remote-first and office-first hybrid approaches, and it’s imperative to establish communication paradigms if it’s to continue to pose as the ideal average of both extremes.
3. Office-First, Remote Allowed Hybrid Culture
And to wrap up this list, there’s the office-first, remote allowed hybrid culture. This hybrid model keeps both the office and remote work but designates the office as the primary workplace. Before the covid pandemic, companies used this setup as they had a small percentage of their workforce working remotely, and the rest worked from one central office space. And it makes sense if the entire leadership team is in the office.
In this hybrid model, the company offers a remote work policy with some employees scattered and some working in the offices. And if the bulk of employees work from the office, then this hybrid work culture can work. But there would be some sort of dividing line between the two working options by the connections and opportunities in-office folks get by working so closely with the leadership team.
Hybrid Work Culture vs. Remote culture?
Hybrid work incorporates all the benefits of remote working while limiting some of its significant drawbacks. The various hybrid culture schemes allow for some degree of connection to the in-person work culture while sustaining the benefits of remote working.
Our surrounding environments significantly impact our work, and their impact varies from person to person. For example, an individual with dedicated home-office experience would have varying strengths and challenges than someone who works from home with children in the house. The latter would always be plagued with distractions, and there needs to be a remedy. Therefore, incorporating some in-office workdays would ensure sustained focus and attention on work matters even amidst home distractions, without stripping out the convenience benefits of at-home work. Also, to make it work, leadership can skip on the whole day of back-to-back meetings with everyone in the same time zone, preferring shorter check-in schedules that are more flexible and synchronous. This would maximize the remote work time while still maintaining some degree of supervision.
Creating and Sustaining a working hybrid model
In understanding the roles employees and management play in creating and sustaining a healthy hybrid work environment, we must realize that maintaining a conducive hybrid work culture would require strategy and caution and incorporating several leadership roles like Head of Remote. Simply replacing in-office social interactions with awkward video games and video call discussions wouldn’t suffice to make hybrid culture stick. It’ll require managers to be more in tune with the individuals on their teams and consciously plan ways to build trust and psychological safety. And it doesn’t only have to be through social activities and events. The essential tools to consider here are open-office policies in apps such as Orbital and clear designation of areas of responsibility.
Pros and cons of hybrid office culture
Hybrid work culture combines the benefits of in-office and remote working into one working model.
#1. Better space efficiency: The hybrid work model uses fewer people on-site each day, thus reducing rowing at the office. You could make more efficient use of available physical space., and efficient space management can create a more conducive work environment, thus enhancing work efficiency. This could also mean the company may need less office space, therefore, cutting down on overhead costs.
#2. Greater engagement in the workplace: When people have greater flexibility in where they work, they’re more likely to balance their workloads, increase their participation in work activities, and find satisfaction in the work they do. This is precisely what hybrid work culture brings to the table, as it embodies the pros of remote working.
#3. Improved company culture: One typical fear company executives have when considering hybrid working is the termination of company culture. However, when you give employees more say when they have to work on-site, that’ll enhance the culture. The hybrid working model provides more power to the employees to switch between different environments as per their needs and objectives. As such, when they go to work, they’ll feel more purpose-driven about doing so.
Despite the gloomy advantages of the hybrid work model, there are still some notable drawbacks, as with any other work model.
#1. Remote employees can be at a disadvantage:
With the hybrid work model, remote employees may have difficulties communicating with team members who work on-site. Spontaneous conversations, immediate responses, and face-to-face interactions are crucial elements that help build workplace relationships, and hybrid working may help diminish such interaction points. However, to get around this, you could employ tools like Orbital for seamless communication, invest in higher quality communication gadgets and internet connection services to keep the company culture alive even from a distance.
#2. The workplace may feel dull: Despite the flexibility that hybrid working brings to the table, those who work on-site may have to endure a dull environment, especially if there aren’t many people around. The absence of the entire team may mean just a fraction of the energy and life that comes to the office. One way to work around this is to incorporate hospitality tricks like the warm welcome of employees to get them excited about their workday, creating delightful moments through the workday with snacks and drink carts. All these would go a long way to spark interactions at the workplace, breezing away the dullness.
#3. Difficulty keeping track of who’s on-site and when: The challenge of keeping track of when a particular team member is on-site can arise, which can create resourcing issues for the management if too many persons come on-site at the same time and too little at another. There could also be miscommunication among team members who may not know when their fellow members are on site. One way around this is to use employee schedules to structure the traditional work model while benefiting from the flexibility of hybrid work.
A step-by-step guide to building a hybrid office culture from scratch
1. Create clear expectations and areas of ownership. This would help your team to measure their own performance and help avoid conflicts that arise when roles overlap.
2. Ensure equal access to management for all employees, be it in the office or outside of it. You could Schedule a 1:1 meeting, as well as being present virtually, using apps like Orbital, instead of only being available for pop-in questions for those in the office.
3. Dispense a budget for workers to set up their home offices, knowing that not all employees have a dedicated workspace at home.
4. Pay attention to feedback, even if it’s just occasional anonymous surveys. This would help identify areas that need improvements.