How will we work in the future? Regarding this question, there is no way around the hybrid work, i.e., the mix of office presence and home office. However, the implementation is associated with a variety of challenges. We have summarized what companies need to consider for hybrid work to lead to success.
The world of work has changed significantly as a result of the pandemic. After the mass relocation of office jobs to the home office, more and more companies are now relying on the hybrid model. Properly implemented, this form of work increases flexibility and resilience in unstable markets, employee satisfaction, and thus employee loyalty. New specialists are also easier to recruit. Because many applicants now make the opportunity to work both from home and in the office a condition. A report recently published by Poly shows that a lack of flexibility in choosing a workplace can be a reason for termination.
However, according to the survey, not even every second company has a strategy to deal with the associated challenges. More than 40 percent of the companies surveyed in Germany state that they are prepared for the mix of a home office and office presence in the short term but have not yet given any thought to its long-term design. However, hybrid working is not a temporary phenomenon. It is all the more critical to define concrete framework conditions and measures.
Here are ten things employers should consider to make their hybrid model work.
Table of Contents
How Hybrid Should The Company Be?
First, it is crucial to be clear about how hybrid you want – i.e., whether working from home should be the exception or the rule. Most companies are between “barely hybrid” and “hyper hybrid.” But there are also the “determined returnees,” i.e., companies that see a danger to culture, cooperation, and training in the home office. In many large banks, for example, young people are still personally looked after by experienced employees. With pioneers like Twitter, Slack, and Salesforce, the technology industry grants greater freedom. Employees can now decide how and where they work in many places. However, there are also departmental differences. Therefore, companies need instruments and framework conditions to adapt working models flexibly.
What Should The Hybrid Model Look Like In Concrete Terms?
One of the biggest challenges in the changeover is deciding what the hybrid model should contain: How many days do the employees have to be in the office? Is there a specific day of the week when their attendance is mandatory? Or are they free to choose their days in the office and the home office? Therefore, companies should check all tasks, projects, and work processes to see whether they can be carried out regardless of location.
Many companies struggle to hit the reset button. However, the precise definition of the model is critical, as the study shows: According to this, almost 60 percent of companies believe that they will lose employees or not gain new ones if they do not have a clear solution for hybrid working ready. The Germans are no exception: almost half of the companies see it as their duty to develop a hybrid work concept.
Inclusion And Meeting Equality
Before the pandemic, being in the office together was the norm. The establishment of professional networks and career opportunities were also closely linked to the physical presence. And this attitude is still widespread: In the survey, 60 percent of decision-makers stated that employees who are not present in the office could not form relationships relevant to their professional advancement. Gender inequality has also exacerbated the home office trend in many places: women are still expected to do most of the domestic chores and childcare while doing paid work from home.
Another point that increases the inequality is poor infrastructure in the meeting room, from which the digital participants in hybrid meetings usually suffer. With modern technologies, the gap between physical and digital presence can be bridged, and an absolute “meeting equality” can be achieved – no matter where the employees are. Collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are now established. But the right hardware equipment is also essential – speakers, headsets, and cameras.
Always-On In The Home Office: Protect Employees From Overwork
On the one hand, hybrid working has positively affected many employees’ well-being – through flexible working hours and a better work-life balance. On the other hand, the loss of traditional office hours often leads to longer working days, as a study by Microsoft shows. Accordingly, people often work in the home office after work. And the time for meetings has also increased. Today, the average MS Teams user spends 252 percent more time in online meetings than before the February 2020 pandemic.
Employees who work remotely also feel they must be constantly available for team colleagues and managers. Otherwise, they will be perceived as absent. Communicative measures and digital tools for working time planning can help. A culture of trust and cooperation can also prevent companies from working too long. However, as the survey shows, only every second company (49 percent) deals with this problem. And about as many fear a culture of overload. After all, two-thirds of those surveyed (67 percent) said that “with the change from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to flexible working, they feel a moral obligation to protect employees from being overworked”.
Promote Informal Exchange – Also Remotely
In the hybrid model, it is essential to synchronize the mix of physically present and remote workers. The informal exchange should not be underestimated either. Everyone knows how vital spontaneous conversations at the coffee machine or over lunch are for team spirit and corporate culture. Unofficial meetings are also often very productive. The same applies to creative tasks. For example, improvisation and informal exchange are crucial to success when developing ideas and products.
Therefore, technical solutions such as always-on video, which give employees a sense of belonging outside of the office, are in demand. Companies should also know how their employees work. In the report already mentioned, six different personas were defined, which differ in their working methods and requirements. This includes, for example, the “office communicator,” which only requires a third of the end devices that the “networked manager” uses for communication.
Adapt Office Space To The New Ways Of Working
With hybrid working, the company office serves as a hub for collaboration. This is where people meet, exchange ideas, and feel part of the company culture. At home, however, tasks that require concentration and calm are carried out. However, the reality is more complex. Many employees go to the office to concentrate on their work and meet their colleagues. According to a study by the Gensler Research Institute, six out of ten employees would like to have their desks in the office where they can get all their work done. Therefore, a variety of spaces are required: open areas for cooperation and communication and closed quiet zones for concentration and contemplation.
New Demands On HR, IT, And Real Estate Departments
With hybrid working, IT, HR, and real estate departments have to make many decisions to ensure the teams’ efficiency, fairness, and equality across all work channels. Roles are changing, and new job titles such as Chief Experience Officer (CXO) or Chief Happiness Officer are emerging. The HR department needs knowledge about which rooms and technologies the individual employees can feel comfortable and productive with. The real estate team may need to revise office leases, and IT has to implement many of the decisions made. That means they all need comprehensive data on how individuals within the hybrid workforce behave and what equipment they need.
Standardized Or Customized Model?
A crucial question when designing hybrid models is: should there be a standardized approach, or can employees organize their workday according to their ideas and with their preferred technologies? Too much freedom carries risks: if employees choose their equipment themselves, the number of technologies in the company increases. And that’s not only a challenge for the IT department; it also makes collaboration difficult. Ideally, companies find a balance between regulation and individual freedom.
New Standards For Office Evaluation
When employees are fewer in the office, it changes its purpose and the standards by which the space is measured. So far, this has depended on how many people can be accommodated in an office. Businesses today need a complete picture of space utilization that is more people-centric. Here, for example, factors such as the well-being of employees, CO 2, energy consumption, further training, team performance, and social interaction can be included.
Uniform Technologies In The Office And Home Office
When people work in the office, at home, in a co-working space, or on the go, there is no longer just one center – the office – but several. The support infrastructure must also be aligned with this polycentric model – with measures such as WLAN at home and remote diagnostic tools. And that’s not just a question of the IT budget but also shared values and ideas about collaboration. Technology concepts help with this. They lead to a democratization of work – regardless of where it is carried out.
Meeting equality and equal treatment is significant for the success of the hybrid model. For all employees to feel included, regardless of location, companies must consider how best to use their space, how employees want to work, and which technologies enable a seamless hybrid experience. Having the right equipment and a code of conduct for everyone is critical to a happy, healthy, and productive workforce in the hybrid workplace.