May 13, 2021 by Andrea Rajic
The Covid-19 pandemic and the global lockdown of 2020 made companies worldwide change their workplaces overnight and at warp speed. Employees switched from office workdays to working from home and from live meetings to Zoom. Remote work in different shapes took over how we work, and things are just now (very slowly) going back to (the new) normal.
And while productivity stats have famously gone up quickly, the more the pandemic lasted, the more workers felt isolated, struggled to juggle family care, and saw their mental health bear the load. Now, with things moving to a post-Covid phase, there's a growing number of companies opting to implement flexible work, sometimes also known as hybrid work.
We know it may sometimes seem hard to differentiate between hybrid and remote work, so here's an overview of all you need to know about hybrid companies and teams.
Hybrid companies are those businesses that adopt the flexible, hybrid work model for their employees. Basically, this means their employees can choose whether they will work from home, an office, or a third space - and how often they will do it. The hybrid work model has proven to be the key for companies that want to provide flexibility to their employees, and not enforce a strict model of mandatory office days. Hybrid work seems to be the preferred option for companies with distributed workforces, whether they are located in the US or across the globe.
A hybrid team is a workforce that works partially or mostly remote, with flexible team members. This flexibility means the employees can choose whether they work remotely, in-office, or both, switching between distributed work and physical workspaces. When a company lets their employees work from home or remotely at least a few days a week, they have a hybrid workforce.
The main drivers of this work model are tech companies, who've been struggling for years to provide the best benefits and perks to their very competitive talent search. Employees increasingly value flexibility, leading to a reduced commute time, higher quality of life, and more time for family.
The Covid-19 pandemic opened the doors of flexible working to employees outside of the tech circle. Now, companies like law firms and advertising agencies have remote workers and flexible team members. Flexible and remote work enables companies to hire global talent, increase employee retention, and embrace the future of work.
Hybrid workers get to experience flexible hours, more focused and deep work, and the flexibility to organize their own days. On the other hand, they still enjoy the magic of face-to-face encounters, a collaborative work environment, and connection to their peers.
Hybrid teams choose and organize their workflows depending on whether they need to brainstorm and collaborate in the same space or focus on deep work in peace. Many hybrid companies have flexible and fully remote staff, which increases diversity and brings different opinions to the table. Background and cultural diversity sparks creativity and makes problem-solving more efficient.
Companies with hybrid teams experience a higher productivity rate of their employees. When people can organize their work around their life and not the other way around, they tend to be happier and less likely to switch jobs. Companies can reduce their expensive HQ and office locations and save money on real estate - a win for everybody.
Whether you decide to hire talent globally or just across your country, you will still benefit from not having to focus on a 30-mile radius from the office. It will be easier to fill specific roles, hire skilled candidates, and increase your team's diversity.
With flexible teams, as with remote employees, you need to be intentional about communication. There's no over-communicating in virtual and flexible work environments and it can help to focus on asynchronous work. Async communication means that information is shared in writing, and people don't need to respond to messages and prompts in real-time. In the most successful hybrid teams, tasks and deadlines are communicated clearly, and managers set expectations transparently.
For many managers and business leaders, it can seem that it's hard to keep good company culture in hybrid work environments. That, of course, is not true, but team culture needs to be deliberate in flexible teams. Organizing company offsites, team retreats, and team-building exercises helps hybrid teams bond and have a better team dynamic.
On a day-to-day basis, virtual happy hour sessions can be a good idea, as well as team meetings dedicated to off-work topics, such as books and shows your team enjoyed, quality time with family, etc. Virtual meetings can sometimes take a toll on workers, so managers should implement regular check-ins with colleagues.
In hybrid teams, there is a danger of creating multiple "classes" of employees. Those who come to the office may get an unfair advantage when it comes to promotions because they can bond 1-on-1 with managers. Their remote colleagues may get left out, while hybrid employees get reduced chances for career development.
To prevent this from happening, implement mechanisms and protocols to ensure the whole team has the same access to information and communication. Create remote-first communication flows that make everyone feel part of the team. Include remote team members in all events, company decisions, and feedback loops. If Slack and video calls make your workers feel excluded, rethink your communication structure.
If your employees are new to hybrid work, make sure to lend a helping hand and support them in adapting to this new work model. Make sure all your team members know which workspace options are available to them and what is the preferred way to communicate their work schedule.
Flexible and hybrid work is all about trust and freedom for the employee to decide when and where they are most productive. To make this arrangement successful, managers need to communicate expectations clearly to employees.
If there are certain work hours when a team member needs to be available, it has to be clear and communicated in writing. Workloads, tasks, KPIs, PTO protocols, and all other processes should also be laid out clearly to avoid misunderstandings and work delays.
In hybrid teams, face time with managers can easily become an unfair advantage for those employees working from the office. Pay special attention to ensure everyone has the same access to information, career growth opportunities, and communication - regardless of where they work from.
Remote workers are exposed to isolation and burnout more often than their office-based colleagues. Make sure to check in with all employees regularly and aim to establish a proactive, open line of communication.
One of the most critical factors in talent attraction and employee retention efforts today is the well-being of employees. Establish a wellbeing program for all employees, especially hybrid teams, and track the ROI. Employee wellbeing brings better productivity, employee loyalty, higher engagement rates, and better overall business performance.
With all the benefits of offsite working, people still need the office environment for some aspects of their work. Employees need to collaborate on creative projects together, and whiteboarding in the same room always sparks tons of ideas.
If you don't want to shift to full remote working, consider providing flexible workspaces for your hybrid teams. Flexible workspaces provide your virtual team with a place to meet when they need to and work together. Flex offices have varieties of different work areas, all the office amenities, and are usually well designed. Companies benefit from flexible workspaces by saving money on long-term real estate leases. With flex spaces, you can provide your team with a great work experience without commitment or high costs.
Knowledge workers in any industry have learned that they are valuable assets to companies everywhere competing to retain them. The newfound option of flexibility is among the most requested benefits of workers everywhere, and companies are starting to grant those wishes.
Younger generations of workers, like Millennials and Gen-Z, are ramping up to be the majority of the workforce. These generations value flexibility, a feeling of belonging and purpose in their work, and having time to spend doing what they love off work.
Finally, companies get to experience massive savings on real estate, a happier, more loyal, and more productive workforce, and in the end, a better bottom line. All these factors make hybrid teams a desirable addition to any company that is serious about the future of work.