Nearly every organization in the world was forced to run shop completely online for the bulk of 2020, a rare moment that changed the corporate DNA of countless companies.
Working from home is a new and, sometimes, polarizing experience for millions of people.
Some enjoy the new lifestyle, increased personal schedule control, and lack of commute that comes with work from home life.
Others, however, don’t enjoy the physical isolation, Zoom meeting fatigue, and lack of location diversity.
For companies and employees, whether to stay remote or return to the office is a point of conjecture. Especially when you have a divided workforce with some for, and others against.
That’s where hybrid work arrangements come in.
Hybrid Work: The Promising “Middle Ground” of the Future of Work
In a working world caught between working from home and the office, a hybrid work model offers a happy medium. It leverages both remote and in-office setups to significant advantage.
If implemented correctly, a hybrid work model can meaningfully impact company performance through core operating fundamentals.
Companies can gain several unique advantages through remote work, such as recruiting better talent, retaining employees by offering flexibility, and supporting more cost-effective staffing. Realities that, in sum, make teams more efficient and effective.
Despite the clear upsides, hybrid work models can be tricky to implement. Especially without prior experience or full understanding of remote workforce management and the work from home software needed to make it work.
Here’s how any organization can successfully use a hybrid work model to experience the best of in-office and remote worlds.
What is “Hybrid” Work?
Hybrid work is a technology-enabled evolution of traditional workforce models that uses on-premise locations as centralized hubs for activity.
As the name suggests, in a hybrid work structure, elements of an organization work from home, while others work from a centralized office.
Deciding who works in the office, and who works from home can be calculated based on many factors, including job function, proximity, or simply managerial or staff preference.
A great example of the hybrid model is popular freelancing platform UpWork.
While the company runs many of its core functions out of offices in the United States and Europe, it leverages a fully distributed customer support team to manage requests during all times of day.
Technology Makes Hybrid Work Possible
The mainstream popularization of taking all or part of an in-house team remotely was facilitated by technological advances in the past two decades, particularly heating up in the last ten years.
In short, monitoring work from home employees is largely only possible thanks to computer monitoring software.
Communication is key to anytime. Even more so for hybrid teams. That's what makes communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams vital to managing remote workers and hybrid teams.
Similarly, employee monitoring software like Insightful has made it easier to gain productivity insights that even in-office setups miss.
Hybrid vs Fully Remote
While remote work may be abuzz today, hybrid models may well be the way of the future.
Roughly 40% of the American workforce are currently working remotely. As offices reopen throughout 2021, 25% of people will continue to work from home, and it’s anticipated about 22% of people will work from home through 2025.
Employers are seeing increased productivity from remote workers who, data shows, are roughly 35% to 40% more productive than their in-office colleagues.
However, despite the productivity bump, there are some upsides of office-bound work that can be missed.
A centralized office offers numerous benefits, such as the enhanced ability to collaborate with coworkers within a close proximity.
This serendipitous collaboration is a valuable phenomena that results from the casual conversations in office settings. And this “water cooler” collaboration has yet to be solved for in remote settings.
In-office work models also lend themselves well to company culture, which can become hard to maintain in remote work setups.
A hybrid work model can deliver the best of both worlds, granting employees the freedom and autonomy of remote work, while also fostering the friendly gravitational pull and flow of ideas of in-office work models.
How to Make Hybrid Work for Your Team
Much of remote work’s many moving pieces are confined to the digital world, and the only way to stay on top of things is through software.
In other words, embracing technology is vital.
Insightful, for example, is work from home software designed to help any remote, hybrid, or in-office organization track employee productivity and generate valuable operational insights.
The digitization of everything in the workforce means that managers will have much more data to draw from.
Data is now critical to any modern workforce. Perhaps even more so for hybrid teams.
When managing a hybrid team, it’s important to be able to analyze your data in two contexts: in-office work and work completed at home.
By splitting the two versions of your organization, you can better understand what degree of “hybrid” works best for your organization. And whether your employees do their best work at home or in the office.
Insightful employee monitoring software, for example, lets you split data between “from home” and “in office” employee groups. Using an employee time tracker is also an effective tool.
Gaining a dual understanding of your workforce is fundamental to making a hybrid work best for you. It helps you find balance, maximize team performance and continue to evolve your hybrid structures.
If you’re unsure whether in-house, remote, or hybrid models work best for you, why not experiment with both and let the data speak for itself?
Hybrid Takes Flexibility
Distributed, or hybrid, workforces are not without their challenges. Supporting a remote or hybrid workforce in 2021 and beyond requires light-footed adaptability.
Many hybrid work model companies list threats like difficulty maintaining company culture and collaboration difficulty.
Zoom fatigue, or the feeling that results from being battered with dozens of Zoom calls every week, is a legitimate concern.
Hybrid allows you to counter Zoom fatigue by adding a location diversity to meetings. For example, have your all-hands meetings in-person, and your one-on-ones or breakout sessions over Zoom.
If you fear losing your company’s culture when managing remote workers, use a hybrid work model to host in-person team building activities, and your remote meetings strictly for operational purposes.
The Positive Economics of Going Hybrid
Businesses that hire remote workers save an average of $11,000 per half-time teleworker per year.
Hybrid, too, can help you reap a portion of these savings.
In theory, the money saved with remote or hybrid work models can be reinvested into the business. Whether that’s through additional staffing and resources, or to specifically combat some of the challenges presented by your new hybrid workforce.
Keep in mind that working from home is also a new experience for your employees. Many digital leaders offer employees unique perks tailored to remote work environments.
Buffer, a social media management company, offers its employees a $500 stipend for their home offices, and it also reimburses coworking memberships.
Final Thoughts: Balance the Best of Both Worlds
Few managers thought they’d be experimenting with their work models with as high a velocity as demanded by 2020 and 2021. Many were quickly forced to learn the art of remote workforce management.
The pandemic and stay-at-home orders made in-person collaboration nearly impossible, but the silver lining was that every organization was introduced to the benefits of remote work at the same time.
The remote work genie is out of the bottle. But, as hybrid work models show, it’s not a zero-sum game with in-office work models. In-office organizations still offer substantial benefits that shouldn’t be overshadowed by the shiny novelty of remote work.
Embracing remote work today will pay off dividends tomorrow; but neglecting the value of in-office setups may also have negative ramifications in a long-enough time horizon.
A hybrid work model allows an organization to balance itself between the best of both worlds. With the right technology, tools, and systems, the perfect balance of hybrid work is within reach of any forward-thinking company.