Hybrid remote work is currently the most discussed work arrangement for businesses, but there’s some confusion around the term. Companies need to understand what it means and how it works to operationalize this strategy in the best manner possible. After all, there are many models they can implement, and some could be less than ideal.
For that reason, this article describes hybrid remote work, including its definition, driving force, advantages, challenges of implementing it, and six models businesses can consider.
Hybrid Remote Work Definition
Hybrid remote work is a model where companies enable in-office and remote work for their employees. This work arrangement allows workers to come in to perform tasks that would otherwise be harder or impossible to complete remotely. These tend to involve collaborative work, in-person meetings, and the occasional individual, focused work.
This hybrid work arrangement isn’t a universal solution. Each organization has its unique necessities, so they have to choose a practical answer that considers them. For example, some teams may have to come to the office every day, while the rest only for company-wide meetings. Meanwhile, another company could give its employees the decision about when and where to work.
Regardless of the pursued strategy, businesses that adopt hybrid remote work models must think through the decision. How can they effectively balance in-person and remote work? Is it necessary for them to redesign their offices?
Most companies are already working to implement these models. For instance, many are optimizing their offices for the projects and tasks that require in-person work. Some standard solutions involve implementing hot-desking strategies, investing in better meeting rooms with adequate technologies, and creating an activity-based workspace.
What’s Driving Businesses to Adopt Hybrid Remote Work Models?
While the pandemic encouraged companies to switch to a work-from-home model, several businesses were already exploring implementing a hybrid work schedule. There have been a couple of factors that contributed to this interest, including:
- Technology and workplace tool improvements: The hybrid work technology of today allows workers to work from wherever they want without compromising productivity or connectivity. With tools such as Slack, Zoom, Autonomous Hybrid, Microsoft Teams, and hybrid working has never been easier.
- Flexible work arrangement demand: Technological advances and the necessity for a better work-life fueled the employees’ desire for flexible arrangements. Nowadays, many professionals consider that it is a must-have when looking for a new job.
What Are the Advantages of a Hybrid Remote Environment?
As businesses try to satisfy the professional employees’ demand for flexibility, they turn to hybrid remote work models and wonder how this transition benefits them. Fortunately, there are several benefits of implementing it, such as:
Hybrid remote work models consider the employees’ desires to work remotely. When working from afar, they don’t have to spend time commuting. They can invest this time back into work or on personal activities, improving their work-life balance. Furthermore, any moment spent in the hybrid office becomes more valuable as it’s for specific reasons.
A hybrid remote work schedule can increase productivity as long as a company executes it correctly. In some models, workers can determine when and where they’re the most productive and decide their work settings depending on the current task they have to perform.
For example, an employee might perform individual, focused work best from home but can opt to come to the office for days that require collaborative efforts. After all, the office becomes a valuable space for productive meetings and work time in hybrid remote work models.
Companies that adopt hybrid remote work have the chance to reassess their real estate costs and determine whether they can reduce their footprint or augment it with flexible workspace equipment. As having a dedicated workspace for all employees becomes optional, businesses can condense their properties and optimize the leftover space.
Calculating businesses are always exploring ways to tap into new talent pools. Opportunely, this work arrangement makes it incredibly easy to do so, changing the hybrid workforce meaning. If companies implement an adequate hybrid work policy, they can fill their open roles with the best talent available, rather than the best talent close to the office.
What Are the Challenges of Implementing Hybrid Remote Work?
Although hybrid remote work has many benefits, businesses must still confront many difficulties if they wish to implement it successfully. After all, restructuring the organization to accommodate in-person and remote work without driving engagement down is a significantly complex problem. Here are some of the most common challenges companies might face:
Hybrid Remote Work Models Are Hard to Operationalize
Businesses often have many questions regarding operationalizing hybrid remote work models. Some among them are how office occupancy might look after adopting the work arrangement and how to ensure they have an adequate number of people in the office at the right time. Finally, the most crucial question they have to answer is: what do the employees require the most in the office.
To help solve this issue, some organizations are researching hybrid remote work policies that determine the best way to dictate who should be in the office and when. Others consider or have implemented technologies that allow workers to reserve workspace in advance, even with teams and colleagues. Most companies are reconfiguring their offices to ensure employees have an optimized space where they can remain productive.
Hybrid Remote Work Can Harm Company Culture
While the office doesn’t create a company culture by itself, it can be challenging to uphold one across dispersed workers, employees, and offices. It’s particularly true for young professionals or people starting their job as they need to build relationships with their coworkers, learn the company’s policies, and foster their careers.
Organizations implementing a hybrid remote work schedule face difficulties maintaining and growing their strong company culture while retaining a dispersed workforce. Some order managers and people in higher positions to come to the office at least some part of the week. Meanwhile, others turn to technologies and tools to ensure that the work location doesn’t impact the employees’ connectivity.
Hybrid Workplaces May Lead to Disconnected Employees
Although technologies and tools can enable virtual meetings and interactions, these can’t replace the importance of in-person conversations. Collaborative apps such as Slack and Zoom are better for transactional communications, but they aren’t effective at replicating workplace experiences.
For example, it becomes significantly challenging to engage in organic conversations before or after meetings. Moreover, people can’t approach colleagues several desks away whenever they need help with problems. Instead, they can only send a message.
Equity becomes equally concerning. Several people believe that if they’re working remotely, they have less priority at the company. This area is where investments in practical workplace policies and better hybrid remote work technology such as virtual meeting tools or video conferencing equipment may become critical.
Furthermore, the reliance on technology also brings about security risks, especially if the IT department doesn’t have access to employees’ home networks. If their devices break down or they misuse them, companies risk having employees feeling isolated from each other. It also comes with many security threats and possible vulnerabilities.
Businesses that wish to prevent these issues need to engage employees in conversation through polls, surveys, or other tools. It’s also vital to understand that there are teams that perform better in the office than others. Nonetheless, if the company changes its structures or priorities often, it can influence how and when workers perform ideally.
Hybrid Remote Work Models for Businesses to Consider Implementing
Many companies have a hard time deciding which hybrid remote work model to implement. After all, there are many unique aspects they have to consider when doing so. Nonetheless, here are six splendid models that organizations may consider implementing.
1. Office-centric Model
Companies implementing an office-centric model require employees to work at the office, but they allow them to work from another place one day or two each week. Businesses that opt for this model do so because they believe co-located employees can foster healthy work relationships and coordinate with their teams better. They feel that it develops a stronger sense of belonging in everyone.
Also, it’s good to note that this hybrid remote work schedule doesn’t have to infringe on the workers’ flexibility. Some companies that adopt this model give their employees some choice regarding their working hours. For example, they might work most of the week at the office and one day at home, but they might come in and leave the office a little earlier or later.
2. Fully Flexible Hybrid Schedule
In this model, employees can choose when and where they would like to work, whether in the office or any other location. An example of a company adopting this flexible work model is Ford. After considering implementing an office-centric hybrid model, it decided to adopt the fully flexible hybrid schedule instead, giving its employees maximum flexibility.
Among hybrid remote work models, this is one of the hardest to implement as it can cause many issues if the company doesn’t execute it properly. For example, it may cause some remote employees to believe that the company favors those who come into the office more often as they begin feeling isolated.
Moreover, coordinating projects and tasks can become somewhat complex, as it becomes difficult to predict who might come to the workplace without excellent communication. Overall, implementing this model isn’t impossible, but without careful considerations, policies, and office optimizations, it can fail quickly and negatively impact the company.
3. Remote-friendly Model
This hybrid remote work model contrasts with the last one, placing some guidelines on which workers can work remotely and when. For example, some companies might allow employees to work from home but not on specific days. Others might allocate a somewhat sizable portion of their staff to work full-time remotely, while the rest need to come in most days.
The remote-friendly model may be advantageous from a hiring perspective. As we’ve mentioned before, it can enable companies to tap into better, non-local talent pools. However, it also suffers from some flaws present in the previous hybrid remote work schedule. Concerns about potential inequities can also rise in this model as employees who physically assist the office have better access to information, more perks, and promotion opportunities.
4. Hybrid Remote-office
This hybrid remote work schedule involves offering workers several arrangements. These typically include fully remote, flexible work (similar to an office-centric model) and an in-office option. It’s more attractive than the fully flexible hybrid schedule because it offers more certainty, and it’s also better from an employing stance.
As always, equity problems may emerge depending on who chooses the in-office option, but it’s easier to handle. This model has worked splendidly for HubSpot, but it made sure to make some commitments and changes to its policies to make it work.
5. Remote-first Model
Most employees work remotely by default in this model. It can be from home or anywhere else. It’s essential to note that there’s a significant difference between remote-friendly and remote first. One merely allows employees to work remotely situationally, while the other authorizes them.
Additionally, there’s also an operational difference in how a company with a remote-first model builds and structures its systems, processes, and culture around its workforce. Compared to other hybrid remote work models, remote-first minimizes inequity as everyone is on the same playing field. However, it also makes it harder to foster a sense of belonging or a better hybrid work environment.
6. The Amazon Model
At first, Amazon claimed that it would implement an office-centric model, but it opted for another one with a slight twist. It has a baseline of three days weekly in the office, but team leaders can make some changes. They can decide what hybrid remote work schedule works for their team and go along with it.
For example, some team leaders stated that office work and in-person engagement often encourage better ideas, but there are instances where it isn’t necessary to assist. Apart from that, individual employees can choose a fully remote schedule for four weeks per year to work from any place they’d prefer. Companies that trust team leaders can opt for this model and make decisions they believe lead to the best results.
The Bottom Line
Hybrid remote work arrangements come with many benefits and challenges. Most of the models listed here have different implications, but they aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, the office-centric model is significantly compatible with most other models on the list, except for remote-first.
Nonetheless, regardless of the company’s choice, it must understand what hybrid remote work is about and its nuances. Fortunately, with hybrid work softwares such as Autonomous Hybrid, implementing these work models has never been easier.
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