Over the last few years, there’s been a major shift in the way we think about our work environment. The pandemic proved to many individuals and businesses that working from home can, for some industries, be just as successful as working in the office – and plenty of senior decision-makers have accepted that returning to the office full-time is no longer a viable or desirable way of working.
What is the hybrid workplace model?
A hybrid workplace model is a way of working where employees split their working hours between the company office and their home, or another remote location. There are three main hybrid models to consider:
Work from anywhere: these businesses choose to operate fully remotely. There is no central office space, but employees may have access to on-demand desks and meeting spaces.
Fixed hybrid working: with this approach, a business will establish fixed days where employees come into the office and work together. On other days, employees will work remotely (although there may be access to local desks if required).
Come and go: in this situation, the company may provide a central office that’s rented full-time, but team members will use it as and when they want to or are needed.
While each company will have a slightly different approach to hybrid working, there are usually shared key features and characteristics. It’s very common for hybrid businesses to think ‘remote-first’ to accommodate employees in different locations; discussions take place on online channels and team meetings are normally held in virtual meeting rooms as default.
How does the hybrid workplace model benefit businesses?
1. It improves employee retention
Giving team members the flexibility to choose their work environment and adapt it to their personal style and preferences – even if just for a couple of days a week – can help to show that a company is truly employee-centric. The positive impact on your employee engagement and job satisfaction can help your business reduce turnover and retain good workers for a longer period of time.
2. It boosts productivity
People produce their best work in different environments. While some people are mentally stimulated by background noise and a busy environment, others need personal space and complete silence to get their work done. Implementing a hybrid workplace invites your employees to fine-tune their remote environment to suit their needs; the result is often a positive impact on employee performance and engagement.
3. It can widen your talent pool
Full-time in-person working limits the number and quality of candidates applying for new roles. Implementing a hybrid workspace means that you'll be able to hire talent from a more diverse and wider geographical area, giving you much more choice to cherry-pick the best possible employees for the role.
4. It reduces your overheads
Office rental costs are climbing; between 2021 and 2022, UK office rental costs increased by an average of 13% (and up to 18% more for buildings more than 20 years old). Transitioning to the hybrid model and renting an office for fewer days per week can do wonders for your company finances.
5. It creates a sustainable company culture
Companies that use a fixed hybrid approach are able to offset the carbon balance and cost of renting a full-time office while maintaining enough social contact to facilitate teamwork and drive a collaborative culture. The savings gained can be put back into the business to make improvements to employee welfare, such as improved remote work conditions, remuneration or staff development. In turn, employees are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and alignment with the company’s purpose.
What are the challenges of hybrid working?
1. Isolation and disconnection
Removing face-to-face interaction and in-person collaboration can weaken the social ties between team members, causing feelings of isolation and disconnection from the company. While this is more common with remote working, hybrid workplaces still need to work to maintain a suitable office presence to ensure that employees have plenty of opportunities for collaboration and social interaction.
2. Blurred working boundaries
Working from home can make it more difficult for employees to know when to ‘switch off’, which ultimately causes overwhelm and burnout. A recent study by the universities of Essex and Chicago used data from over 10,000 working professionals and found that while the total hours worked increased by roughly 30% when employees were working at home, the average output did not change. When implementing hybrid working, managers and employees need to work together to set boundaries and prioritise healthy habits to ensure employees have a better work-life balance.
3. Complying with DSE
Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers’ health by carrying out a DSE (display screen equipment) workstation assessment. While many full-time offices are usually set up to be DSE compliant – such as supplying adjustable computer hardware and ergonomic chairs to support healthy posture – it’s far more challenging to carry out a risk assessment when employees are working remotely. Hybrid businesses may need to invest in a work-from-home budget and provide DSE training to help employees create their own safe and healthy workspaces.
4. Management difficulties
Hybrid working will require a different set of emotional skills from leaders than they may have been used to previously. Working from remote locations can reduce a manager’s visibility of a team, making it harder to check in with employees and collaborate effectively. Contacting employees too frequently can err on the side of micromanagement, while too much of a hands-off approach can result in a distant relationship and affect the team’s ability to meet deadlines and achieve their goals. Having a culture of trust is integral to the success of a hybrid business to ensure that managers and employees can work together effectively, regardless of location.
5. Onboarding challenges
The reduced face-to-face interactions that come with hybrid working can have a negative impact on new employee onboarding. Less experienced new hires, such as recent graduates or those starting out in a new role or industry for the first time, will need more guidance on the specifics of their role and may lose out by not being led in person. Hybrid workplaces may need to spend more time refining the onboarding experience and ensuring that new hires have plenty of opportunities for professional training, collaborating with others and socialising at a company level.
Best practices for implementing the hybrid workplace model in your business
1. Define your priorities
Before finalising your hybrid working approach, it’s important to define what’s most important to your business and what’s going to help it to succeed. This can look different for every company; while in-office collaboration is crucial to the success of some companies, others will be more likely to grow and attract better talent by employing flexible working. Make sure to check in with your teams too; each will have their own systems and characteristics, so maintain an open dialogue and keep them invested in the process. Ultimately, you’ll need to be firm to ensure you can meet the needs of your business while getting the best out of your employees.
2. Invest in the right technology
Hybrid working means that your employees will spend an increased amount of time carrying out tasks and communicating online. It’s essential that the software and apps you invest in are user-friendly, facilitate effective collaboration, and – perhaps most importantly – keep your company’s data and information secure. Take some time to research which tech, such as collaboration tools, project management software and cyber security, are right for your business size and industry, and budget accordingly.
3. Create clear guidelines
Hybrid working will be implemented differently by every company, so it’s important to make sure that all your employees are on the same page and know what’s expected of them. For example, is it important that all your employees come into the office on the same day or a set number of days per week? It’s wise to add a hybrid policy to your employee handbook and ensure the necessary clauses are added to new employees’ contracts.
4. Rent a hybrid office space
If you’d like to transition to a hybrid work environment for your company, it’s important to make the office space work for you. Choosing a hybrid office – for example, a place that’s rented by your company for half a week, and another company for the other half – means that you don’t waste space or money. When Pod Talent decided to share their office with another occupier on the days they didn’t need, they generated £100,000 in additional revenue and re-invested a proportion of this surplus into their employees’ salaries.
The future of work in a hybrid environment
In 2020, a study by Salesforce identified that 43% of Gen Z think that the hybrid workplace model is the most appealing work scenario. This is compared to the 31% who desire full-time remote work and the 26% who are interested in returning to the office full-time. This statistic is significant – as Gen Z are the newest introduction to the workplace, they’ll be shaping the way we work over the decades to come.
The future of work will ultimately depend on industry, function and characteristics – with different working approaches adopted within a business itself. For example, while developers are able to work successfully fully remote, creative professionals are more likely to embrace fixed hybrid working as a middle-ground with its opportunities for both focused work and team collaboration. Personal characteristics, such as introversion and extroversion, are also likely influence job seekers as they choose between companies with different working approaches.
The hybrid workplace revolution is in full swing – and it looks like it’s here to stay for the long-term. If you’re in the market for a hybrid office, Space32 can help you find a solution that works for your team. Find out more about hybrid office sharing or tell us about your needs at email@example.com.