In times past, working from anywhere other than the office seemed a rarity. If anything, your company only made exceptions in limited circumstances, like for freelance consultants and independent contractors to work from a distance.
Of course, modern times have called for flexible solutions. A 2021 survey found that 48% of respondents wanted to be fully remote and 44% favored hybrid working arrangements – so, it’s safe to assume that nearly half of your workforce want remote work of some kind.
Smart businesses are already undergoing a process of future-proofing and digital transformation. As a result, these industry leaders are better prepared to employ and manage hybrid workforces – in future, they will be able to maintain business continuity in the face of any unforeseen events.
What are hybrid workforces?
The definition of a hybrid workforce has constantly been evolving since 2019. Initially, it referred to a small group of team members and independent contractors who worked remotely under well-defined conditions and organized schedules.
Now, hybrid work involves providing greater flexibility to employees about how, where, and when they work. For some companies, these may be a little more rigid at the moment, but the future workplace should be one that adapts to meet the needs and demands of every team member and the organization.
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash.
Hybrid teams can be made up of full-time employees, part-timers, consultants, and other kinds of independent professionals. Some will be from the office and others spread across various locations.
What does a hybrid schedule look like?
When it comes to organizing your hybrid workforce, there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Sure, a hybrid integration platform can help guide how you go about forming your team and how it will work, but there are other factors. The size of your company, teams, and which departments are involved will affect what type of hybrid work schedule is needed. It will also be influenced by the types of services you offer.
The sky is truly the limit. You can shoot for the moon and come up with something unique; but to help guide your thinking, here are the four main types of hybrid workforce schedule:
- At-will – employees choose which days they come into the office. This gives your team the highest degree of flexibility to meet their daily lives. The employer defines how many days in the office are expected each week or month (if any).
- Split-week – the organization designates a specific day or days during the week when employees must be in the office or working remotely. This helps companies plan better and stay more organized with hybrid workforce logistics.
- Manager-based – each department or team manager assigns which days their team comes into the office. This means that everyone in the team will be on-site at the same time for great collaboration and in-person interactions. This allows teams to tailor their remote and in-office hours according to their individual demands and the type of work they do. Management apps can help you implement this hybrid work model.
- Hybrid solution – like many things, sometimes a mix of everything works best. With a hybrid solution, an organization will use some combination of at-will, split-week, and manager-based scheduling to suit their needs.
The pros and cons of hybrid working
Hybrid workforces are the way of the future, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily suited to every company’s individual needs. When considering how to implement hybrid working at your organization, you must weigh the benefits against the drawbacks.
Happier employees – some employees prefer to focus at home and will be able to better balance their non-working lives. Others prefer face-to-face interaction and socializing. Hybrid working helps keep everyone happy.
Better recruitment – many of the most talented people aren’t located where your offices are based or wish to work remotely. With a hybrid workforce, you can better draw from untapped talent pools and find the best person for each role at your company.
Increased employee retention – by offering flexibility and recruiting top talent everybody wins. Your team will be happier and much more likely to stay with the company.
Reduced costs – hybrid and remote working teams allow your organization to downsize its office footprint. Implementing ‘hotdesking’ or sharing desks between multiple employees can reduce the number of desks and other workspaces as well as IT and other equipment.
In fact, A study by Global Workplace Analytics found that an employee working half-time remotely could save businesses an average of $11,000 per year.
Image sourced from Fit Small Business
Potential burnout – with hybrid workforces there can be an increased possibility of overworking. Remote workers may feel the need to do more because their work isn’t being “seen” by management every day. And those in the office may feel the pressure to contribute more as they are the ones more visible to management.
Team divisions – those who work together in the office may form stronger relationships than those who have to call into a meeting. This can result in the formation of some “us” and “them” divisions.
Communication silos – when employees are rarely or never in the office, it can be difficult for them to stay in the loop. With the number of variables involved, it’s easy for something to be overlooked or miscommunicated — and much harder to fix after the fact.
Whatever decision you come to, it’s important that your staff’s needs and feelings are kept front of mind in your decision making. It might be worth using an online survey to gather the insights you need.
Tips to better manage your hybrid workforce
Now that you’ve weighed the pros and cons, you’re likely leaning towards building or boosting your hybrid workforces.
Below are our tips on how to build or improve your hybrid working set-up, avoiding some of the cons listed above.
Build a remote working culture
It can be easy to build upon your existing work environment. Avoid being tempted by quick fixes that rarely work long-term and, instead, build a remote-working culture from the ground up.
Free to use image sourced from Unsplash
This means making hybrid work the priority throughout your planning. Make use of cloud-based tools and services that will work for your employees regardless of their location. If you don’t know how VoIP works it’s time to find out. Use a centralized platform for unified business communications.
Create meeting protocols that allow team members to easily create video meetings, and attend them seamlessly. Also, be sure to send meeting notes out to every attendee.
Trust in your employees
When managers are in the office, they should delegate based on skill and experience. It’s true that they should always be “just down the hall” and readily available to help when needed. But they also need to trust in their employees, or else why were they hired in the first place?
And remember, with access to project management software, video calling, and chat software, being remote doesn’t mean you can’t offer help and advice when needed.
The main goal is for them to do what’s asked of them and perform at a high level. It’s not our job to see how things get done, but that they do get done.
Regular two-way communication and feedback
An efficient organization with a healthy company culture relies on constant two-way communication. When people are in the office daily, it can be easy to touch base and catch up with team members and management.
According to a report by McKinsey, organizations with clear communication see greater well-being and productivity. A communicative environment reduces employee burnout by as much as 300% and increases productivity by as much as 500%.
As mentioned before, hybrid workforces have access to a huge number of tools to help them communicate effectively. The key is to keep the conversations going regularly. This includes weekly or bi-weekly 1-to-1 video appointments with every hybrid or remote team member.
Make sure employees know this is a time for them to receive and give feedback about schedules, projects, well-being, or just about anything else. Use these meetings to find any specific needs that aren’t being met for your hybrid team and correct the course if necessary.
Keep team members connected
Image sourced from Buffer.
A recent survey by Buffer found that some of the biggest struggles for remote employees were loneliness and difficulties with collaboration and communication.
Two-way communication with management is important; however, we also need to ensure hybrid team members feel as connected as those in the office day-to-day. This can be accomplished by setting up team-messaging channels with tools like Microsoft Teams direct routing.
Don’t forget to have a non-work-related channel for people to discuss lighter things like sports, music, streaming shows, and other things. You can also schedule short video hangouts.
During normal meetings, allocate a small amount of time for water cooler chat and life updates. When it comes to fostering a culture and connection, it’s little things like these that make the difference.
With team members working in different locations and on different schedules, it’s increasingly important to drive focus and accountability. When assigning projects and tasks, it’s important to have SMART goals.
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Where it makes sense, you may choose to go with measurable goals like KPIs. Management should set out these goals and expectations clearly with every employee. This will make sure every team member is evaluated fairly, regardless of whether they are hybrid, remote, or in the office full-time.
Hybrid workforces are the future
A 2022 report found that 97% of remote workers would recommend it to others. In a recent Gallup poll, 59% of employees now prefer a hybrid work model–up from 32% in 2019! In just three years, the desire for hybrid working has nearly doubled.
We must assume it will continue to rise. Is your organization willing to lose out on top talent and operational costs? Or are you ready to step into the 21st century and embrace hybrid workforces?