The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we work by accelerating a trend that was already picking up speed. The reason behind this was the decision of many businesses to send their employees home to work.
The expectation was that, when the pandemic ended, everyone would mass-migrate back to their cubicles and offices, and work would resume as usual. However, when the time came for office doors to reopen, many businesses chose to keep the new working model and maintain either a remote or hybrid workforce.
Of course, the pandemic changed much more than just how we work. It changed how we interact, travel, communicate, and enjoy ourselves. Big credit card companies cut their loyalty rewards programs to a fraction of what they were at the beginning of the pandemic but are now back in full swing, offering amazing cash back rates, welcome bonuses, and all sorts of benefits to attract new cardholders. We saw thousands of new FOMO-induced investors rushing to buy penny stocks, making millions for some and losing billions for others. We also saw the massive adoption of cryptos and blockchain technologies and the dawn of a new internet, a.k.a, the metaverse. But from an employee’s perspective, the biggest change was in their work.
Hybrid workplaces are predicted to become the norm as society continues to evolve from the lessons we learned during our fight against COVID-19. This prediction has many companies wondering how to adapt accordingly and how this will change the work week's schematics. If you're asking yourself the same question, you've come to the right place.
- What is a hybrid workplace & how does it work?
- How the hybrid workplace is reshaping the office
- How to make a hybrid workplace work
A hybrid workplace is actually not that different than a traditional work setting. It's only a bit more flexible in how it is arranged. In short, though, a hybrid workplace is any workplace that allows employees to work remotely part of the time but requires them to interact face-to-face for at least part of their working period.
There are several ways these hybrid workplaces take form.
In split-week scheduling, the company will assign specific days for workers to be in the office, but employees are encouraged or required to work remotely on unassigned days rather than come in.
Companies with many employees in various departments often use this type of schedule. For example, they might request that the Engineering Department work in-office on Monday, Accounting on Tuesday, Design on Wednesday, and so forth to minimize the number of people in the building at any given time.
This method works best where upper management is often stretched thin between departments, giving each department a day where the focus is solely on them.
As its name suggests, at-will scheduling allows employees to set their own schedules both in and out of the office. Usually, companies will request that their employees turn in a calendar at the beginning of the week, pay period, or quarter indicating which days they plan to work in an office and which days they plan to work from home.
Not only does this provide freedom for employees to choose days based on available transportation, childcare, or other factors, but it also gives employees the option to come into the business to work more often if being at home is an unwanted distraction for them.
In manager-scheduling scenarios, the managers will choose which day or days certain team members or teams come into the office. This gives managers a little added oversight over their employees and project task managment than split-week scheduling and provides each department freedom to plan according to their projects and needs.
Mixed scheduling is a combination of the scheduling types mentioned above. In this scenario, employees can request which days they'd like to work remotely, but those requests have to go through each worker's department manager, upper management, or both.
No matter how the hybrid workplace is set up, there is one common thread: they aim to offer a better work-life balance without a loss in productivity or quality of work.
The hybrid workplace has gained popularity but with mixed reviews. While some say that switching back and forth between home and office is inconvenient and exhausting, the majority of businesses and employees alike seem to be enjoying this new change in workweek scheduling.
Here are some of the most glaring reasons to consider a hybrid workplace:
More freedom for employees
One of the most widely touted benefits of working remotely during the pandemic came from parents who were happy to spend more time with their children. It was during the 2020 lockdowns that families really seemed to gain a more in-depth understanding of the divide between familial relationships and the everyday hustle and bustle of school and work.
Similarly, many families found that being able to cut their childcare expenses was a much-added reward for the awkwardness of navigating those first few weeks of work-at-home life. Saving money on transportation costs in larger cities was another highly-praised surprise.
Hybrid workplaces allow individuals the freedom to better schedule around their family needs, transportation limitations, and other interests in a way we hadn't considered in the traditional working format.
[ Related: Top 10 employee benefits for working parents ]
Lower operational costs
After several months of working at home, the news was fraught with stories of large companies actually selling their building headquarters and downsizing to smaller properties with the intent of staying fully remote.
This is because, while businesses were sitting mostly unoccupied, companies saved money by not paying for bottled water delivery, electricity, vending machine services, and other small costs that all add up over time.
These lower operational costs inspired even more companies to sell and downsize their properties, putting money back into their pockets and further reducing the costs of major mortgages or rent.
While Facebook and TikTok were full of hilarious posts and videos from remote workers making light of the distractions of working at home, there were also plenty of posts celebrating the perks of working remotely.
We're all guilty of enjoying the funny videos of co-workers showing off their cats on zoom calls, working with babies on their laps, and finally adopting that shelter dog they never had the time for in the past.
Not to mention the Tweets — from jokes about attending digital board meetings in your pajama bottoms to preferring fuzzy and four-legged co-workers over human ones. There was a seemingly endless stream of shout-outs from remote workers who were tickled pink not to have to hang out in their cubicles anymore.
Initially, the concern about remote work was simple: How much work can people really get done when they're rocking babies, training puppies, and making TikTok videos? As it turns out, it's a lot more than they can in a cubicle—at least in most cases.
There is a psychological reason for this. When we are stuck in an office or a cubicle, it's easy to fall into a hamster-on-a-wheel mentality. Many people feel it doesn't matter how hard or efficiently they work from their office; they're still stuck until 5 o'clock, so why work harder than they have to?
When employees work at home, they tend to be better about working productively and efficiently because doing so allows them more freedom during the day to also take part in the things they enjoy like short games of fetch with the dog or spending time with their children.
Remote workers can use productivity tools to stay on track while working from home or on the road. These tools can help them keep track of time and working hours, manage projects, and stay focused.
Better talent pool
By listing a job opening as remote or hybrid, companies can attract much better recruits than if it's an in-office job. These recruits include well-established leaders in their field who are happy with the industry but in need of a change of scenery that they can only get through a hybrid or remote arrangement.
Overall, the switch to a hybrid workweek allows employees to feel freer in their work, which translates into better overall mental health and more satisfaction with their employers. While the emotional and mental benefits are great, there are also fiscal benefits involved that make hybrid workplace solutions worthy of consideration by employers in any industry.
Regardless of its benefits, whether you're starting a new business or are already an established leader in your industry considering a change in format, there will naturally be concerns about a hybrid workplace setup.
Despite what we learned during the pandemic, much of the concern centers around how well the productivity and quality of work will stand up once the novelty of remote or hybrid working wears off.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure long-term success.
1. Balance physical & digital interactions
As with anything, a hybrid workplace requires a healthy balance. Often, in an effort to ensure that employees are actually working from home and completing the tasks managers expect, the latter run into the mistake of "hovering" too heavily. The last thing anyone wants is to be micro-managed.
That said, even in a hybrid setup, there needs to be oversight and a clear outline of expectations in place. The hybrid workplace makes this easy by providing an opportunity for regular in-person interactions while granting employees freedom to run with their work as they see fit in between. The key is to ensure the scales stay balanced so everyone reaps the benefits they deserve from the arrangement.
2. Flip open spaces
Many offices have decided, in light of a shift to hybrid workspaces, to get rid of cubicles altogether. As it turns out, keeping employees boxed in and separated hurts overall productivity.
More modern workplaces are opening up the floor by replacing cubicles with long, shared tables and airy, breathable workspaces. This encourages communication when teams are working together, increasing the team's productivity overall. It also aids in forming closer co-worker relationships, which leads to better communication and working experiences.
3. Un-fix the workload
Loosening up the workload seems like a counterintuitive move to boost productivity, but it works in most cases.
When we provide some leniency to our employees, they feel more respected and will, in turn, do a better job. Treating employees like children makes them feel belittled, patronized, and unseen.
Instead of demanding that your employees work on certain projects at certain times of the day, provide them a week's worth of projects to schedule as they see fit and turn in by the end of the week. Working in a group on one project, your team members can rely on collaboration software that helps employees discuss and delegate tasks at their own pace. In most cases, you'll be pleasantly surprised by how efficiently they work independently.
Bonus: This also takes the worry off of your plate, allowing you to focus more on bigger issues!
4. Balance work & play
Make sure that your employees are balancing their work with their home life. One adverse effect of working remotely is that some employees are unable to "shut off" the work day and even the work week and find themselves absorbed in work 24/7 (well, when they're awake, anyway).
One way to combat this is to set clear deadlines for the end of the week and then don't assign any more work until the beginning of the week after. When your employees have nothing to work on during the weekend, they'll be forced to rest, wind down and enjoy the free time.
5. Build a strong company culture
The most significant factor in remote or hybrid working is trust. You can build stronger trust between employees as well as between employees and managers by nurturing strong company culture. Create an atmosphere where your employees are proud of their work, feel respected for their contributions, and encourage the co-workers around them.
Doing these simple things to create a better working atmosphere for your employees will set them and your business up for success with the long-term benefits of a hybrid workplace.
[ Related: 6 best practices for diversity, equity & inclusion ]
The Covid-19 pandemic changed the world. It shook the global economy and impacted work in ways we're still learning about today. One of the ways it did so was by providing insight into the benefits of remote and hybrid work, thanks to which many companies today are looking to adopt this new arrangement with their collaborators.
Offering benefits to your workers like a good salary, paid time off, paid parental leave, medical insurance, a good dental plan, and even small tokens of appreciation like a pre-paid credit card or a gift card as rewards for a job well done are all good ways to attract great talent. However, offering the right working arrangement can be even more enticing for some workers, especially among the younger generations. A hybrid setup is one of the best ways to go.
There are many ways to set up a hybrid workplace that will save your business money and improve employee satisfaction and overall productivity.
By nurturing strong company culture, loosening the binds on your talent pool, and creating a balance between in-office interaction and out-of-office productivity, you can become a leader in your field and attract high-quality teammates along the way!
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