Successful Hybrid Work Models: Understanding the Meaning of Flexible Working

May 16, 2023
an employee working fully remote in a hybrid work model

Wakefield Research survey results reveal that 47% of employees will likely turn elsewhere if a position doesn’t offer a hybrid work model. Incorporating a flexible work pattern is common practice among many employers in today’s workplace.

Many workspaces haven’t gone back to their pre-pandemic routines of everyday commutes, with over a 47.8% office occupancy rate compared to pre-pandemic levels. Instead, the post-pandemic work environment has embraced a hybrid work model.

That said, injecting this model requires substantial tailoring to employer and employee needs. When done right, a hybrid work model can increase productivity, engagement, and other crucial KPIs.

Read on to know more about the benefits of the work model and how you can implement it in your organization.

What does hybrid working mean?

A hybrid work model incorporates in-office and remote work. In other words, the model flexibly allows staff to choose between working from home, the office, or any other place. Granting autonomy to employees results in increased productivity and better company outcomes.

The model addresses the work-life balance topic in an office workplace, while also taking note of issues surrounding remote work.

These issues can range from a lack of community to struggles with self-discipline. Subsequently, adopting a hybrid work model reduces the challenges of employee engagement and productivity.

future of hybrid work from the office

Why implement a hybrid work model?

Multiple companies believe in the success of a hybrid work model. Accordingly, 70% of companies in the United States applied the model to their workspace.

When implemented effectively, the model may provide employees with collaboration tools and remote technology. In turn, employees feel more included, productive, and engaged in their work. On-site and remote work allows employees to tailor work according to their lives.

When employees come into the office, their presence carries more meaning of collaboration, building social ties, and leadership meetings.

Evolution of the hybrid work model

That said, several companies consider the model mainstream. It evolved from days even before the pandemic.

A Gallup study estimates over 32% of the United States workforce adopted a hybrid work schedule in 2019. After the pandemic, the percentage significantly increased to 53%. The pandemic provided companies with a critical turning point.

The survival of many organizations necessitated the development of a remote work strategy. Corporations adapted and created the necessary tools for employees to work off-site.

Going into 2021, a record-breaking 3.8 million U.S. employees resigned in search of these very tools. Meanwhile, companies go through a trial-and-error phase to determine how a hybrid work model fits within their work schedule.

Speculations by specialists revolved around whether this trend is a short-term post-pandemic work fad or a long-term shift to a new hybrid work culture.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of the hybrid work model?

The duration after Covid-19 allowed companies to take a step back and reevaluate the type of work model that’ll offer the best return. Hybrid work models have become the norm in most scenarios. If your business is considering the model, here are some pros and cons to consider.

Pros of hybrid work models

From increased employee satisfaction to money-saving benefits, check out the pros of a hybrid workplace below.
  • Increases engagement

One of the Es of employee engagement is empowerment, which joins enablement, encouragement, and energy.

Offering your employees a choice between in-office and remote work options empowers your team members.

Working in different environments can enhance focus and work engagement since employees are less likely to get distracted by chatting with colleagues or attending numerous meetings.

Nevertheless, these chats, also categorized under the proximity principle, are also critical to workplace productivity.

A friend at work increases engagement by up to seven times, according to a Gallup study. For this reason, it’s all about balancing the employee’s autonomy and flexibility to achieve an effective hybrid model.

One of the best methods of how to engage remote employees is through employee recognition and check-in. Fortunately, tools like Workhuman®‘s Social Recognition® can assist management through this engagement-boosting process.
  • Boost in productivity

A recent study conducted by PwC delved into the effectiveness of hybrid work models in terms of boosting productivity. The results showed that 57% of companies achieved their targets in the past years.

A survey by Mercer found that 94% of 800 employees believed that productivity levels are the same or higher than before the pandemic. This is not an outlier either. There are numerous other studies advocating for a hybrid work model that can enhance productivity while working remotely.

These positive reviews of the hybrid model may reflect various aspects. Employees working from home tend to face fewer distractions and take fewer breaks. The reduced commute time also substantially impacts productivity.

To further build upon the model, you can promote productivity levels at work by advising employees to establish a set schedule, create boundaries, and reduce forms of distraction.

  • It’s cost-effective

Not only will traveling expenses be cut down, but your business can also save money on estate costs. You can expect to spend less on electrical bills, renting, and cleaning costs. Overall, office costs can plummet by up to 40% by hiring a hybrid workforce.

Employers can also ensure a cost-effective hybrid workspace by using tools like hot desking and office hoteling. You can also save up costs by implementing remote onboarding, rather than adding physical recruitment activity costs.

Cons of hybrid work models

While the benefits of adopting hybrid work models have proven their efficiency, some drawbacks may still be present. Employees are expected to provide the same level of work they would in an office space. Nevertheless, these expectations may prove difficult for some hybrid and remote workers.
  • Employee burnout

remote heads-down work environment has the potential for burnout

When struggling to set boundaries while working from home, employees can experience the negative end of the hybrid work model. Employee burnout is prevailing during the shift to hybrid work.

Now, a burned-out employee is someone who feels dissatisfied and uninterested in their work and daily tasks. In turn, they may procrastinate, leading to piling work and higher stress levels. You may be wondering why employees feel that way despite working in a comfortable work environment. 

Well, some management teams tend to pressure employees to work extra hours and take advantage of their remote workspace. Over 38% of employees agree with this statement. 

Plus, an unclear work-life balance affecting 61% of remote workers is also a likely cause of burnout. These employees tend to fit an unrealistic amount of work into their schedule in the name of efficiency and time management.

According to a Mckinsey survey, 49% of respondents reported feeling somewhat burned out. The report points the blame to several sources, such as the lack of certainty or clear vision of the corporation. Almost half of surveyors experience anxiety caused by ambiguity.

  • IT risks

Employers need to ensure that remote security is tighter before engaging in a hybrid work model. Otherwise, falling into cyber risks, such as data loss or stealing, is more likely. To ensure a top-notch hybrid work model, it’s essential to strengthen your technology’s security defenses.

Plus, employers need to invest in end-user and security training programs to avoid profit-losing issues. IT issues are likely one of the most impactful disadvantages of a hybrid work model.

  • Challenges with staff management

Managing a hybrid work environment can be challenging for supervisors. Employees may face difficulties when trying to collaborate with leadership, resulting in a less effective support system.

Additionally, managers are expected to supervise both remote and on-site workers, which impacts the team’s cohesiveness. For instance, one team could garner more benefits than the other depending on the supervisor’s focus.

A Gallup survey revealed that 13% of employee and manager relations are impaired due to a hybrid workspace. In this case, avoiding unconscious bias is one of the best practices leadership can impose. It can work by extending similar advantages to the office and hybrid employees.

To learn about promoting a successful hybrid work model, read our article “How to Create a Culture of Connection in a Hybrid Work Environment.”

What are the different types of hybrid work models?

Two of the most prevalent hybrid work models in the industry include the office-first and remote-first models. Learn more about each below.

Office-first model

Employees are on-site for most work days in this hybrid model type. Work-from-home days are either dispersed across the month or occur twice or once per week. Companies using this model value collaborative work.

That said, allowing employees to choose their off-site days isn’t effective in this model.  You may notice multiple employees working from home on the same days, which reduces the necessary collaboration element. In turn, management should schedule these work-from-home days.

Thirty-eight percent of employees work on-site for about three to four days per week. Adopting a weekly schedule can greatly enhance team productivity and collaboration. Plus, it adds flexibility without having to make too many adjustments, especially in the tech sector.

One of the largest companies implementing an office-first model is Meta. Staying in the office more often is an integral part of Meta’s work culture. Subsequently, the company requested employees a 50% office return rate in 2021.

Remote-first model

employee experiencing benefits and challenges in fully remote hybrid model

Unlike the office-first system, the remote-first model prioritizes remote work. Employees can choose to work remotely or in the office. On-site work is usually reserved for meetings, one-to-one discussions, and check-ins.

The hybrid system allows employers to place a substantial amount of trust in their employees. Trust can translate to employee engagement and satisfaction. Nevertheless, that’s not always the case, because 48% of employees experience a lack of emotional support from their leadership. In turn, this type of hybrid work model doesn’t supply employees with certainties and may leave them feeling isolated.

Aside from that, companies that implement the remote-first model include Dropbox, Quora, and Upwork. The first two converted their office spaces into co-working places. In addition, Dropbox is gaining momentum with this hybrid model thanks to its 12% increase in revenue during 2021.

How to create a flexible work model that’s right for you

Understanding the KPIs, tools, and drivers of a well-oiled hybrid workforce machine is critical when implementing the model. Here are some steps to assist you in creating a flexible work model tailored to your business requirements.

Step 1: Understand the drivers of a successful hybrid work model

The prime drivers of a successful model include focusing on company culture, people, processes, and tech. Hybrid environments need to enforce a clear culture that aligns with a corporation’s visions and goals.

On top of that, your employees need to be ready for the change. You can ask yourself questions like, “Are my employees prepared with the necessary resources?” and “What challenges may they face?” Addressing these issues is a crucial driver for an effective model.

The processes between the office and off-site work can differ. In turn, you need to optimize remote workers’ work processes rather than mimic an office one.

Lastly, technology is an essential component in hybrid models since it holds the tools, resources, platforms, and modes of communication of the organization.

Step 2: Find your hybrid work model type

Hybrid work models are plentiful. You can opt for a stricter office-first model, before shifting to a synchronized system. Alternatively, you could also dive into a remote-first work model and provide more employee flexibility.

These choices primarily rest on the industry and work culture of your company. For example, a manufacturing company will likely adopt an office-first route due to the necessity of face-to-face interactions and hands-on work. Meanwhile, employees work remotely more often in tech corporations, utilizing the flexible approach.

In terms of culture, your company may value face-to-face collaborations. For this situation, the most suitable models are either office-based or scheduled hybrid. Aside from that, you can also consider financial costs. If your company is willing to cut down on rental costs, it can revert to more remote-friendly models.

Step 3: Consider using tools

In an era where hybrid work models are becoming the norm, companies are grappling with the challenge of fostering a sense of camaraderie, recognition, and connection among their workforce. This is where tools can help bridge the gap.

Tools such as Workhuman’s Social Recognition® solution are the perfect antidote to these challenges. This tool transforms the way companies perceive and implement recognition and rewards, enabling peer-to-peer and manager-driven recognition with ease and efficiency.

Employees can not only acknowledge each other’s outstanding contributions but can also customize their recognition, fostering a sense of community and empowerment. This is key for hybrid work models because studies in Spain showed that peer-to-peer recognition is almost twice as effective as managerial recognition.

Moreover, the personalized social experiences create an engaging and immersive platform for each employee, tailored to their team dynamics and past interactions. This promotes a culture of gratitude and positivity while bridging the gap between remote and in-office workers to make everyone feel included and valued. You can also use an employee survey tool to create pulse surveys, gather data, and create benchmarks to track your employees’ satisfaction and engagement levels.

Using a tool that has the ability to provide actionable insights adds another layer of strategic value for management. For example, Workhuman’s Social Recognition® platform reveals patterns of recognition, aligns them with company values, and offers invaluable data for performance reviews and leadership planning.

In essence, Social Recognition® is more than a recognition platform; it’s a catalyst for cultivating a positive, inclusive, and high-performing work culture in a hybrid work environment.

To make professional growth isn’t one of the weaknesses of hybrid work models, you can opt for the Workhuman solution, Conversations®. It’s designed to build more successful feedback routes from employees to managers.

Step 4: Create an engaging work environment

Your number one priority when fostering an engaging workplace is to create an ideal communication route. Over 89% of HR specialists believe in the power of frequent check-ins and feedback.

In addition to giving employees a voice, you also need to lend an empathetic listening ear. Focus on the challenges your employees are facing such as burnout, stress, or altered work-life balance. Showing your care and compassion will increase loyalty and foster engagement.

Plus, you can keep the company culture lively by implementing remote team-building activities.

Step 5: Establish goals to manage the hybrid workforce

Over 60% of employees derive the company culture from their superiors, which places a heavy burden on management performance. For this reason, you’ll want to avoid negative cultures like the “Us vs. them” dynamic when working with different teams.

Communication plays a significant role in managing a hybrid workforce, whether it’s communicating expectations, words of encouragement, check-ins, feedback, or team decisions and updates.

You can create goals by measuring each factor, such as employee engagement, satisfaction, absenteeism, and other KPIs.

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Key takeaways

Implementing a hybrid work model is more than letting your employees work off-site. It’s about using successful management techniques, maintaining engagement levels, and enhancing production.

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