Unlike remote work, which many companies had to institute quickly and then tweak as time went on, businesses have more of an opportunity to prepare for the next big shift in work: the hybrid working model.
Generally speaking, this is a work model with many different interpretations (explore nine of the most popular variations below), accommodating numerous work-from-the-office and work-from-home setups.
Surveys show many executives plan to allow employees to continue to work from home at least part time after the pandemic — they also show it’s what a lot of employees want. In other words, it’s a win-win.
At a high level, hybrid working models allow individual firms to forge a path that retains the pros of an office environment with the pluses of remote work. That’s not to say it will be perfect, though.
There are nearly as many combinations of hybrid work models as you can imagine. What’s more, different employees will undoubtedly have different wants and needs. Then there are the overall wants and needs of your business, which may not exactly align with those of your employees.
After more than a year at home with a lot of freedom, your employees may not take kindly to being told where to be at a certain time again — not to mention the persisting COVID-19 challenges you’ll have to accommodate, which require adjustments like masks and social distancing.
On the flip side, it’s possible to create a safe place to work in your office (should you choose to retain it), to equip employees with the tools they need to perform from anywhere, and to position your staff to grow and succeed in this bold new world.
What to consider when choosing a hybrid working model
Before implementing a hybrid working model for your team, consider the following elements carefully.
For starters, you’ll need a clear policy that defines your hybrid working model. This should lay out who is expected to be in the office and when.
It should also include details regarding if and when employees will have to ask for permission to work remotely, how you’ll ensure staff can work productively together no matter where they’re located, and how you’ll guarantee employees who work from home don’t become victims of proximity bias and fall behind in their careers.
Before you create this policy, solicit feedback from existing employees about their ideal scenarios. (You’ll have a little more leverage with the employees you hire thereafter.) You may not be able to cater to each employee’s specific needs, but having their input will help guide a policy that best serves the greatest number of staff members.
Also, keep in mind that the best hybrid working model may not encompass the entire company; instead, it may vary department by department. Sales reps, for instance, may need to be in the office more frequently for client meetings, while your billing department can send invoices from anywhere.
Here’s another good idea to consider: You don’t have to adopt the be-all, end-all policy right away. Instead, you may want to test a hybrid working model with select staff members to work out the kinks and see if it’s the right fit.
Once you land on a model that works, outline your policy and share it with staff, clearly explaining why you opted for the hybrid working model you did and how it benefits the company as a whole.
Ready to get started? Here are nine potential models to try.
In this scenario, some employees work from the office full-time, while others work remotely full-time.
Pros: It’s fairly straightforward, offers staff flexibility — and consistency — and allows you to hire for some positions from a much wider pool of talent because staff can work from anywhere. With fewer employees onsite, you may also be able to move to a smaller office and reduce overhead.
Cons: It’s more rigid than other models and can result in proximity bias if you don’t have steps in place to prevent it.
2. Employee choice
In this hybrid working model, your entire staff has the freedom to work from both the office and home. Automaker Ford and financial services firm Citigroup are among the companies that have reportedly adopted this model for salaried employees.
Your individual company needs will dictate how you’ll determine who comes in and when. You could require employees to come into the office Tuesday through Thursday and work from home on Mondays and Fridays, for example.
Or you could bring some employees into the office on certain days and other staff members when the first group of employees is at home to reduce the total number of people onsite at any given time.
Pros: A staggered schedule can help ensure social distancing. It’s also a flexible model and, like the one above, can reduce overhead if you’re able to downsize your real estate portfolio. It may be better suited for businesses like banks that require in-person interaction with customers.
Cons: With only some employees seeing each other in the office, feelings of isolation can persist. There’s also more unpredictability here, so if certain employees need to be in the office on a given day, you’ll have to make sure everyone is on the same page. Tackle how to deal with that unpredictability in your hybrid work policy.
Then there’s a combination of the two models above, in which some employees are permanently in the office, while others are permanently at home or split their time between the two locations. CRM software company HubSpot has taken this route.
Pros: This is an incredibly flexible model that caters to virtually all employees’ needs. It, too, positions you to hire the best talent virtually anywhere in the world — and potentially turn your business into a 24-hour-a-day global operation.
Cons: This option can leave you with some unpredictability regarding the whereabouts of your staff. This can also create challenges around company culture and feelings of disconnection among those who aren’t in the office.
Here, employees come to the office most of the time but have the freedom to occasionally work from a remote location. How occasional that may be is up to you. Project management firm Asana is one company that uses this approach.
Pros: Returning to the office makes it easier to rebuild camaraderie and a shared sense of purpose among reunited staff. This model also retains a bit of flexibility.
Cons: It doesn’t give employees quite as much freedom and potentially opens you up to the familiar challenges of the pre-pandemic era.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it? That’s the thinking behind the remote-first hybrid model in which employees work remotely unless directed otherwise.
Should you find yourself with a surfeit of empty office space, you can follow the lead of retailer Target and eliminate unnecessary office space by getting rid of a building or two.
Pros: Similar to some of the other models, remote-first gives employees ample flexibility. And if remote work was successful during the pandemic, continuing it may be the most logical choice.
In addition, if you downsize your office space, you’ll reduce overhead, which puts you on better financial footing.
Cons: All of the challenges of the remote work era are applicable here, including distance and isolation. You’ll also have to ensure you have the processes in place to facilitate full-time remote work indefinitely — and to overcome proximity bias.
Unlike the remote-first model, the remote-friendly model invites employees to continue working remotely, but only under certain parameters.
That could exclude certain days or roles, helping businesses put up some guardrails to eliminate any concerns about productivity. Tech company Infosys uses a version of this model by tapping employee titles to determine who’s best suited for remote work.
Pros: It’s flexible to a point, which could help attract talent from other locations. It also ensures the right employees are onsite when necessary.
Cons: Proximity bias is still a potential issue — so is bad blood among coworkers if you don’t handle determinations about who can work from where carefully.
7. Half-time remote
If you still want some control over your remote work policy, there’s the half-time remote model in which employees work remotely at least 50 percent of the workweek. It also allows employees to request permission to work remotely more often, if necessary. Software giant Microsoft has adopted this hybrid working model.
Pros: An added tip is to prioritize the employees who are remote rather than those who work in the office to eliminate any possibility of proximity bias with this model. It’s also an appealing model for acquiring new talent, and it frees up desks, which you can reallocate or eliminate as necessary.
Cons: Unpredictability is also an issue here, along with scheduling, which can get messy since the five-day workweek doesn’t split evenly.
8. 40 percent hybrid
This hybrid working model allows businesses like aerospace company Lockheed Martin to benefit from the best of both worlds by retaining some office and some remote work with a slight bent toward the office.
It’s worth noting, however, that Lockheed Martin required its managers to undergo training so they’re better prepared for dealing with remote employees in the hybrid work era.
Pros: This is another model that offers the best of both worlds to the right companies and mostly allows employees to retain the status quo, which can help make the upcoming transition easier.
Cons: The unpredictability inherent in some of the models above is a potential challenge here as well.
If none of the models above sounds quite right, you can personalize a model for your company.
This is what e-commerce giant Amazon has done, blending an office-first model with a remote-friendly environment. At Amazon, the expectation is that employees will work from the office three days a week, but managers are empowered to choose the best setup for their teams.
Pros: This hybrid working model retains the potential for in-office collaboration while still providing some flexibility to staff members.
Cons: The challenges of remote work could resurface in the absence of a clear policy, along with discord among employees who face different requirements.
The ideal model for your business may be one of the hybrid working models above, a combination, or something else entirely. Whatever you decide, you’ll need the tools to get there.
Along the way, Jotform’s customizable forms can help — whether scheduling forms, vaccine surveys, or workspace reservation forms. It may take a bit of trial and error before you identify the right model and then work out the kinks in rollout. But embracing the future of work while leveraging your tools will set you on the path to success.