When the lockdowns started and nearly a half of the EU workforce was suddenly switched to the home office, there were questions about when “everything will be back to normal”. Now we know — never. The world has already changed and hybrid work is one of the key aspects to adopt in the new reality.
According to the EU data, the first lockdown has been a huge change on the verge of the mass social experiment. Starting from March 2020 nearly 40% of all EU-based workforce has switched into remote work. To show the scale — before the pandemic started, no more than 15% of all workforce has ever worked remotely. Not a single day of a hybrid work from home.
When it comes to working from home, only 5.4% of employees were doing so regularly. It was a perk rather than a typical way to work, available for specialists and management, not for a typical white-collar worker.
The pandemic was a game-changer for employees and employers alike, introducing new approaches to the way people work. According to McKinsey, the Covid-19 pandemic catalyzed the change comparable to the industrial revolution and the introduction of PCs. The former has transferred the majority of the workforce from fields in the countryside to the factories in cities. The latter has provided a huge boost to the office-based decision-making processes and opened the gates to big-data-powered changes.
McKinsey states that the lockdowns induced by the Covid-19 pandemic have opened the gates to the hybrid business model reality.
Three major approaches to hybrid work model
The hybrid work can be considered a spectrum of solutions between the fully remote working and no remote at all. Thus, there can be a myriad of models of hybrid work, using multiple heuristics and approaches to solve the problems.
The key aspect of the approach is to give the employee the freedom to choose between his or her home office and the company office without a preference for one or another. While there can be multiple ways to implement the idea, there are three major approaches seen:
- Office-centric — in this approach the company is mostly office-based, strongly encouraging the employees to work from the company-owned space. Remote work is allowed, but not during the majority of the week, for example on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday;
- Remote-centric — the opposite of the above. In this way, the company fully adopts the work from home trends. So what does fully remote mean? The remote-centric approach favors working from home and considers the office an additional space, that can come in handy for meetings, lunches, integrations, or brainstorming sessions. The employee is expected to work mostly from home and “forget going back to the office” could be adopted as a warcry.
- Balanced — the third model, that favors neither the office nor the home office. There is (or at least shouldn’t be) no preference for any way of working and the office-based employees work with these on their home office as equals. This approach leverages all remote work trends combined with the latest hybrid office innovations to deliver an experience unseen before.
The hybrid work is much more than a buzzword — it is a new philosophy of getting office work done.
Hybrid work advantages
Hybrid work comes with multiple benefits for the company and the employees alike.
According to the Stanford study, working from home has increased the productivity of employees by 13% over the course of nine months. This has come due to the quieter and more calm environment to do the stuff and enjoying a more convenient environment.
Improved work-life balance
The employees who need not commute save a lot of time and money. The straightforward conclusion is that working from home improves the work-life balance. According to the World Economic Forum-gathered data, over a half (51%) of employees value remote work for the opportunity to be closer to the family, or even to start one. Also, with the ability to have meetings with work colleagues online, the relationship with partners, family and friends, and children under 18 years old have improved (40%, 30%, and 44% respectively).
Source talents from all around the world
Liberating the work from the boundaries of the office comes with an opportunity to expand the team with offshore workers. This enables the company to compete for talents in other markets and employ the best people for less money. Also, this is an opportunity to build a more diverse team that leverages experiences from other cultures and countries.
Save on media and office costs
Let’s make this clear — offices are a cost. And this can be reduced by reducing the number of employees in the office. According to the Gallup estimations up to 37% of all desks used in the offices before the pandemic will remain empty after the pandemic ends.
There is no point in paying for an empty space, and hybrid work is a great way to redefine and rediscover the ways the office space should be used to fit the needs of the future.
Support employer branding
Considering the convenience and popularity of remote work, providing this possibility is a blessing for the employer branding efforts. This can be further supported by proper brand reputation management, which will build up the image of a modern and employee-friendly brand.
Hybrid work challenges
Apart from the advantages of the hybrid work enlisted above, there are some serious threats to think about when implementing this approach in the company. While some are obvious (security), others can be a phantom menace that hides beneath the surface and undermines the company’s effectiveness.
Employee mental issues
According to the data gathered by The Atlantic, remote work increased loneliness by 67%. Also, the KFF study finds that the share of adults reporting symptoms of anxiety disorder or depressive disorder rose in January-June 2021 by 41.1% compared to the same period of 2020.
Hard times of the pandemic result in people feeling lonely and insecure, and this affects people working from home. Appearing in the office is a way not only to work together but also to socialize and build relationships.
One of the most common stereotypes regarding remote work is the reduced engagement of the employees. In the more stressful days of the pandemic, rising job insecurity and overall pressure, up to 54% of employees are willing to keep their problems to themselves until reaching the breaking point — with the engagement sliding down the whole time.
Pretty straightforward one — with the distribution company composed of multiple ISP, routers, shared private and corporate tech stacks, there are more ways for malicious players to break into the systems, steal the data, or do any other harm.
Also, it is much easier for the employee to cause a breach involuntarily, for example by misclicking some sharing buttons using the private device that was used to do the job-related stuff a minute before.
Lack of communication
The physical separation results in mental separation. One of the main drivers of the loneliness mentioned above is the fact that the employees are sitting in their homes. In such an environment, every aspect of the problem needs to be discussed over and over to avoid miscommunication.
Distance and cognitive bias
Last but not least, according to the VitalSmarts study, one of the greatest pains of remote workers are managers and colleagues not sticking to the designed policies. Also, there is a greater room for biases and inequities rising in the team. The silent preference toward either office-based or home-based employees is the best example of the hidden bias that can harm the team spirit.
Having both the challenges and changes in mind, it is much easier to come up with the hybrid work plan consciously. But knowing the risk is not the same as mitigating it.
Steps to implement the hybrid model
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing remote work was a necessity forced overnight. But now, with the several lockdowns passed and the remote work being a new normal, the revalidation and redesign of the existing policies are necessary. If there are none, it is high time to transform the foggy status quo into a fully implemented hybrid work model.
Brainstorm and design new workflows
Even if not fully codified, there are countless workflows in the company, requiring people to cooperate, meet, evaluate their effects and do all the stuff that has been done in the office before. To make the hybrid work the new reality, the company needs a way to make all these workflows digital, without the preference toward one or the other way of working. Among the most challenging aspects one can name:
- Meetings — the obvious one — there is a need to deliver tech tools that can replace or effectively support the offline ones;
- Team building — to battle the disengagement mentioned above, the company and team leaders need to come up with ways to support the team building, tackle the disengagement, and battle the loneliness of the remote employees;
- Policy and rules — last but not least, to work effectively, the company needs a clear set of policies and rules to follow when building its hybrid work model.
The challenges listed above are only the tip of an iceberg and multiple traps and surprises are waiting in the real world to confront the perfect plans done on the paper. This leads straight to the next point:
Test out some concepts
The assumption that the designed plan is perfect in every detail is dangerous and foolish at once. To make sure that the designed system actually works, and performs better than the existing ones, the management needs to test the concepts and evaluate the results. To do so, there are two crucial elements:
- Clear KPIs — if there is a process implemented, one needs to clearly define the goal of the process and how the goal is to be achieved and measured. The regular and anonymous pools in the team can be seen as a good example of this practice;
- Constant evaluation — setting the KPIs is not equal to measuring the progress. The management needs to track the advances and identify the bottlenecks to make the best of the testing phase;
- Gather the feedback from the team — last but not least, the hybrid work model is the way to get the best from the team and encourage it to work smarter and harder. The overall feeling and the team buy-in are some of the pillars of success when it comes to the successful hybrid work implementation.
Design clear and legible policy
After the ideation and the testing phase, the company is ready to build a company-wide policy that will support the employees’ and employer’s goals alike. A clear, legible, and reliable policy is the cornerstone of the successful building of the hybrid work culture in the company. And it can be the last nail to the coffin of the effective remote work culture in the company. A good and dependable policy is built upon the following foundations:
- Equality — from CEO to intern, everybody is equal when it comes to sticking to the remote work policy. This is about the obligatory (or not) presence in the office, any preferences regarding the way of doing business, or the official ways to run the day-to-day operations. Requesting a leave of absence is a great example of such a situation, one of numerous;
- Managing expectations — from all-time vacations to endless working days at home, there are multiple visions of remote work. The policy needs to make clear what to expect and what to follow. Is it forbidden to turn off slack after working hours, or not? Should one be available for the phone call at any time given? Who is responsible for a hybrid work schedule? It is a core of a good policy.
- Specify the roles and responsibilities in the team — the policy needs to specify who is going to be responsible for the day-to-day remote operations in the team, who and how will provide the team with a judgment regarding the policy abuse;
- Security issues — the remote work policy needs to include all security matters and provide the team with instructions on sticking to them. Is using private devices allowed when connecting with the company assets? If not, how is the company going to ensure the smooth operations of the distributed teams? If yes, how is it going to ensure the security of work?
- Tech stack — last but not least, the policy needs to specify the tech stack used to do the job. The set of preferred tools needs to be delivered to meet the security requirements as well as provide the users with all tools they need and avoid situations where the company doesn’t deliver the tools required to work.
Pick the right tech stack
Speaking of which, the tech stack is the backbone of remote work and stays behind the hybrid work environment in the way the desks and chairs build the office. The pandemic has delivered a huge leap in remote work tech development, vastly boosting the quality and availability of popular tools like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Google Workspace. But the tech stack of choice needs to encompass all needs of the team and provide tools that will meet all needs.
Time clocking app is the key tool to ensure that both parties, the employee and employer, are not abusing the policy and there are neither unpaid over hours nor undertime. It is also the first data point when it comes to measuring the performance and productivity of the teams. Finally, with the implementation of the flexible working environment, the time clock app enables one to shape his or her working schedule in any way desired, including the break for a midday yoga or early morning focus time.
Calamari is a perfect pick for this task.
Leave management software
When the absence in the office says nothing at all, there is a need for the place to check if one is available in the office and when he or she will take a leave. Regarding the desired level of flexibility, the attendance and leave management software is crucial for providing the employees with the freedom of shaping their working schedule while getting things done.
Also, the leave management software like Calamari enables the team to process the leave request fully remotely, without the need to exchange the papers — a highly convenient feature for distributed and international teams, with different legal environments and needs.
Again, Calamari fits these requirements perfectly.
The project management software is a control center of the ongoing work to be done. Filled with tasks, deadlines, estimations, and milestones, it needs to be a one-stop shop for every employee who needs to manage his or her tasks efficiently.
When going online, the team needs a convenient and reliable online meeting environment. The tech tool needs to be as invisible as possible, remaining the meeting the core, not the software. Also, it needs to provide all the features required in an offline meeting, like a way to express emotions or the ability to blur the environment.
Google Meet or Zoom are common picks that deliver the desired effect.
Last but not least, the distributed and online teams need convenient and effective tools to communicate with each other. The great paradox of online work is that the distributed and working from home team needs to connect even more frequently than the team united by the office.
Slack is probably the most popular tool of choice when it comes to online communication tools for teams.
Onboard your staff
Onboarding people who are already on board is not as crazy as it sounds. Implementing the new policy and introducing the new way of working. Even if there were some organically-grown policies in the company, the new one needs to be announced and it can be ill-understood.
Also, if there was no official tech stack introduced, the new can be different from the one used by the separate teams. The unified and universal environment can be overwhelming at first glance.
Last but not least — no matter how advanced or used the tools the employee may be, there will be a group of employees willing to receive the training regarding the usage of the tools. Assuming that “everybody knows” is dangerous and can backfire in the least expected moment.
Learn and improve
The last element of implementing the remote working policy and hybrid work philosophy in the company is to never consider it finished. The world is changing dynamically and the fitting policy of today can be obsolete and antiquated tomorrow. To avoid the rapid aging of the solutions, the company needs to implement maintenance.
- Collect feedback from the staff using the tech tools — there is a myriad of dedicated tools to manage the remote teams and provide them with the ability to deliver anonymous feedback. Using them is a great way to find early signs of stress and bitterness building up in the team;
- Provide space to exchange ideas and visions — a hyde park of feedback ideas can be a fertile ground for delivering further innovations as well as improving the existing ones;
- Invest in showing commitment to equality and transparency — if policies are favoring the combination of working on-site and remotely, the management team should be a paragon of hybrid work virtues. Also, investing in hybrid work may require some non-standard actions, with obligatory remote working days being a great example.
Hybrid work is a revolution comparable to the introduction of PCs in office spaces. Remote work and telecommuting itself were present before, yet the pandemic was the spark that ignited the wildfire of change, resulting in the rapid development of the tech tools, legal frameworks, and internal company policies.
The hybrid workplace is the revolution that is changing the world now, every day and every hour. If you wish to talk more about it, don’t hesitate to contact us now!