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Considering a Hybrid Work Model

The pandemic has resulted in thousands of employees working from their kitchen tables or living rooms rather than the office or other workplaces.
However, as more Americans receive a COVID-19 vaccination and organizations
develop or update their return-to-work plans, some employees may still be eager
to continue working remotely, even if just for a few days each week.



This article provides an overview of hybrid workplaces, the work
model’s advantages and challenges, and tips for accommodating distributed
employees.



Overview of Hybrid Workplaces



Work flexibility is consistently cited as a post-pandemic trend
and some employers are already introducing hybrid work models in their
reopening plans. In fact, a Mercer survey found that 73% of employers plan to
implement a hybrid work environment. By definition, a hybrid workplace is a
flexible model designed to support a distributed workforce of both on-site and
remote employees.



In some form, a majority of organizations are opting for either
all-remote or hybrid remote arrangements. In the following workplace models,
employees are allowed to make their workday flexible outside of set days or
hours:



  • Flex remote
    means employees are on-site on set days. Flex remote is likely to be a popular
    model to provide employees the flexibility to be on-site some days and work the
    other days remotely.
  • Core
    hours
    means employees are available during designated times. Employers
    designate a block of time when employees are present, available for meetings or
    working at the same time. That model helps hybrid teams intentionally
    collaborate, which is especially helpful if employees are located in different
    time zones.
  • Custom
    scheduling
    may be an option for employees who want to request a specific
    hybrid work schedule. To support this, employers or managers may ask employees
    to fill out a form with their desired work schedule and locations.







These are a few examples, but the practical application of a
hybrid model may be a combination of several arrangements. Employers may also
consider whether certain departments or roles need to work on-site or can be
just as effective working remotely. Every organization will be different, and
the working model will need to be what’s best for both employers and overall
employee experience.



Location Considerations for Hybrid Workplaces



It’s equally important to consider what’s critical for businesses
when it comes to the physical workplace(s). Employers may consider a large
headquarters or one to two main offices. Depending on the business, it may make sense to create multiple
proportionately sized offices or small regional workplaces. Employees can
travel to regional hubs rather than a central headquarters location that may be
farther away. If a permanent office isn’t necessary for business, employers
could consider renting flex space for periodic collaboration. Keep in mind the
focus of flex space for a remote workforce is in-person collaboration, not
connectivity.



Hybrid workplaces can look very different based on the
organization’s priority of factors, including the ability to access talent,
individual and team productivity, and the cost of real estate.



Advantages of Hybrid Workplaces



Despite remote work being forced upon some organizations during
the pandemic, a long-term approach for a hybrid workplace offers several
benefits to both remote workforces and employers. Advantages of hybrid workplaces
can include the following:



  • Wider talent pool as a result of removed geographical
    limits
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Stronger employee engagement
  • Better collaboration
  • Greater schedule flexibility
  • Healthy work-life balance













If the timing on leases and other workplace contracts works out,
employers could also realize reduced operation costs. It’s essential to
evaluate if any office locations or expenses are redundant or underutilized.



Challenges of Hybrid Workplaces



Like any new initiative or strategy, a hybrid workplace also has
its shortcomings. Challenges of hybrid workplaces include the following:



  • Potential for different time zones due to
    geographically dispersed teams
  •  Communication misunderstandings due to availability
    of visual cues
  • Lack of real-time collaboration
  • Shortage of team-building opportunities and
    events
  • Loss of belonging and shared purpose as a
    separate on-site culture and remote culture emerge
  • Cybersecurity and reliance on IT infrastructure













Employers can reduce the prevalence or impact of such challenges
by being intentional about decisions and trade-offs. They must be empathic and
listen to individual employee needs while also being creative when developing connected
and effective workplace solutions.



Strategies for Hybrid Workplaces



Taking hybrid workplace advantages and challenges into
consideration, employers can develop their ideal hybrid workplace and bring
that idea to life in a return-to-work plan. The process may involve making an
organizational culture shift, which may also reshape organizational goals and
objectives.



Most organizations have norms in place for on-site employees but can
also adapt a mirroring set of standards for those working remotely. It’s
important for employers to accommodate all employees, but also to create
practices that treat all employees fairly. To best accommodate a distributed
workplace, consider the following tips:



  • Formalize
    hybrid work processes.
    For hybrid work processes to be effective, employers
    should establish clear expectations and communicate them often and openly. It’s
    especially important to formalize technology and other remote-specific policies
    or guidelines. If employers are accommodating custom schedules, a formal remote
    or hybrid schedule request process will streamline the process for managers and
    HR professionals.
  • Be
    transparent about remote and hybrid work expectations and decisions.
    There
    are a variety of reasons why some employees may be expected to work on-site
    while others are granted the opportunity to work remotely. Being transparent
    about decisions can facilitate a friendly and open environment for distant
    teams to effectively collaborate.
  • Plan
    meetings to be friendly to all employees.
    Remote employees attending a
    meeting via a conference line or video platform can be just as active as those
    sitting in the conference room chairs. At the beginning of a meeting, leaders
    should introduce participants joining remotely and ensure that all participants
    have a chance to share their thoughts or ideas.
  • Create an
    open chat.
    Chat tools can facilitate dialogue for both remote and on-site
    employees. Channels can be created for efficient work-related communication—or
    even to replace water cooler conversations and help build camaraderie within
    teams.
  • Ask for
    and listen to feedback.
    It’s equally important to elicit employee feedback
    and concerns to optimize return-to-work plans or working arrangements.











A thoughtful hybrid workplace approach combines the best aspects of
an organization’s on-site and remote workplaces.



Conclusion



Hybrid workplaces can help maintain a great work-life balance for
employees and an employee-centric work environment for employers and
organizational leaders. In general, employers should prioritize employee
engagement and well-being in workplace strategies and plans. Contact us today to
learn more about developing and managing a hybrid workplace.


For additional resources regarding best practices the remote workspace or more information about employee benefits, our services and products, please contact HANYS Benefit Services by email or by calling (518) 431-7735.

This HR Insights is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as professional advice. © 2022 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved


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