So many models for the future of work! Onsite, remote, distributed… Learn why so many companies are experimenting with hybrid work and how to make it work for you.
- “Hybrid” refers to workers splitting their time between an office and home (or coworking space).
- At its best, hybrid work combines the benefits of in-office and remote work.
- Besides office costs, the main downside of hybrid work is choosing between flexibility and an even playing field when it comes to pay and promotions.
- To increase their chances of success and limit confusion, companies should implement a hybrid work policy as soon as possible.
- A shared team calendar app like Clockwise can help teams coordinate their time seamlessly across geographies and even time zones.
After more than a year of working remotely, some of us are excited to head back into the office. But others aren’t quite ready to give up the convenience and flexibility of working from home. One recent poll showed that 45% of workplaces plan to implement a hybrid work model to hopefully offer workers the best of both worlds. Just under a third said they plan to require all workers to work full-time on-site. The rest are going fully remote or distributed.
Work culture expert Anne Helen Petersen spoke with “dozens” of analysts, H.R. experts, architects, consultants, real estate agents, and office furniture designers who agreed that “the mandatory universal fully in-office 40-hour work week office is all but over.”
What is hybrid work? What are the pros and cons of this model? This guide will answer those questions, and offer tips on how to handle the challenges of hybrid work, setting up the optimal hybrid work schedule, and working well on a hybrid team. First up, let’s define our terms.
What is a hybrid work environment?
In a hybrid model, workers split their work time between the office and home (or a coffee shop).
There are many ways to do hybrid work. Each model has its pros and cons. The main difference between them is how flexible they are.
For example, in some companies everyone comes into the office on certain days and everyone works from home other days. Other companies allow workers to choose between working from home on certain days and working fully remotely. Still others enable workers to be in-office or remote whatever days and during whatever hours they want.
What are the benefits of a hybrid work schedule?
Why are companies such as DoorDash and Microsoft embracing hybrid work? In short, the future of work is flexibility, according to experts including CEO of New America and former State Department policy planning director Anne-Marie Slaughter, Calmatters, and Gartner.
Knowledge work has been hybrid for a long time, but in a worst-of-both-worlds kind of way. Pre-pandemic, the average knowledge worker clocked 50+ hour workweeks in the office and answered Slacks and emails from home.
Hybrid work has the potential to offer the best of both worlds instead. It offers the benefits of remote work, including workers who are more productive, happier, report better work/life balance, and are more likely to feel their company is committed to their well-being.
Nearly a third of American workers have small children at home and more than one in six take care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend. Most sometimes need to tackle their caregiving responsibilities during “normal” working hours. Without flexibility, most caregivers end up having to rearrange or decrease their working hours or take unpaid leave.
At the same time, spending some time working in-person together in an office helps address all of the challenges of working fully remote. A hybrid work model means fewer meetings and shorter hours. It facilitates collaboration and greater trust. The social aspects of in-office work improves mental health. And, hybrid work can also help close the gender pay and promotions gaps associated with fully remote work.
What are the challenges of a hybrid workforce?
With a hybrid workforce you’ll still have to pay for an office, furniture, etc. The rest of the downsides depend on how you set up your hybrid work model. You’ll need to choose whether to allow workers to choose their days, times, etc. of coming into the office. If there are some limits, what are they? Will you allow some workers to work fully remotely or distributed across the country or world? Does everyone need to work the same hours whether they’re in-office or remote?
According to a recent Slack survey, a flexible work schedule is key to a positive remote experience. The downside is that models that offer more flexibility put workers who choose less facetime at a disadvantage when it comes to pay and promotions. When you reduce the flexibility, you also get a more even playing field.
Let’s look at a model where everyone works exactly the same hours and days and all come into the office at the same time. The benefit here is that everyone gets the same amount of facetime with everyone else. But the downside is that workers have to give up some flexibility for that equality.
Or take a model where people can choose not to come in at all, and you have some team members distributed across the country or world. The benefits are an expanded talent pool and the ability to save money by hiring from low-cost areas. But, again, those fully remote teammates are often somewhat left out relative to their in-office peers.
The biggest challenge in a hybrid model is setting it up for success. We’ll cover how to do that in the next section.
How to set up a hybrid work model for success
Companies should implement a hybrid work policy as soon as possible. A hybrid work policy and agreement articulates what the company expects of remote workers and what the remote workers can expect of the company. By making these decisions and communicating them clearly ahead of time, you can avoid confusion and stress later on.
Every hybrid work agreement should cover these five topics:
- In-office flexibility
How much flexibility will workers have in choosing when and how often they come into the office? Does everyone have to come in the same days and hours or can workers come in and go when they want?
- Remote flexibility
How much flexibility will workers have in when they work when they’re not in the office? Does everyone need to work the same hours regardless of whether they're at home or in the office? If some employees work fully remotely in different geographies (aka a distributed model) do they still need to work pre-set hours? What about workers in different time zones?
- In-office requirements
Will every worker need to come into the office some of the time or can some employees work fully remotely? Do some roles require full-time in-office work? Are some roles best suited for fully remote work? Under what circumstances will employees be allowed to work fully remotely?
- Remote setup and equipment
Employers are starting to set expectations on home office setups. Do you have internet speed, desk, camera, or lighting requirements for workers’ home offices? Will you subsidize home office upgrades? For example, in Clockwise’s hybrid model all Clockwise employees are working remotely for at least a portion of each week. So all employees can expense up to $500 (one time) on home office space upgrades.
- Remote tech support, safety, and security
How will you ensure remote/distributed workers have a safe and secure work environment? Will you restrict where employees can work based on safety and security? For example, can workers work from coffee shops with unsecured WiFi or coworking spaces that are poorly ventilated or maintained? How should remote workers connect to the internet and contact support? Do they need a VPN? What’s your BYOD policy? How are you ensuring the office is safe and hygienic?
How can I optimize my hybrid schedule?
No matter how you configure your hybrid work setup, you’ll need to do a lot more online collaboration than you did in the fully in-office work world. We recommend a shared team calendar app like Clockwise to help you coordinate your time seamlessly across geographies and even time zones.
Our team availability calendar shows you who’s working that day based on their calendar, no manual data input needed. It also offers instant insight into your team's bandwidth. Find out who has enough Focus Time to hit their goals with real-time analytics. We also help protect your No Meeting Day.
Our Slack + Google Calendar integration uses your calendar to let teammates know whether you’re in a meeting, outside working hours, or deep in Focus Time. It can set an automatic Do Not Disturb status when you’re outside working hours. And, it can send you a daily digest of your upcoming meetings, along with updates when your meetings change.
“Hybrid” work is becoming increasingly popular as teams want the benefits of both in-office and remote work. The main thing to consider when implementing a hybrid model is that there are many options each with their own pros and cons. Generally speaking, the more flexible your arrangement, the more you need to be careful that in-office workers aren’t given greater pay and promotion opportunities than workers who spend less (or no) time in the office. The other thing to consider is setting up a hybrid work policy ASAP to nail down questions rather than deciding things as you go on a case-by-case basis.
Lastly, consider a shared team calendar app like Clockwise to help automate some of the busywork of working together at a distance.