April 04, 2023 by Andrea Rajic
Table of contents
The future is hybrid, according to Gallup.
Most companies will ultimately embrace a hybrid work environment—at least 53% of them based on predictions. Employers who fail to offer their (distributed) teams the possibility to work from an office space risk losing their top talent and reduced productivity and employee engagement across the organization.
But successful adoption of hybrid work requires a strategic, systematic approach.
If your choice is to turn your current workplace (whether it’s remote or on-site) into a hybrid one and fully leverage the role that the workplace experience has both for your employees and your business objectives, this guide is for you.
Learn how to build a successful workplace strategy led by data-driven insights and enable your team to maximize their performance no matter where they are.
A workplace strategy refers to the planning, design, and implementation of a framework that allows employees to work together effectively in a hybrid work environment. This type of workplace strategy takes into consideration the needs of both remote and on-site workers and aims to create a consistent and equitable employee experience for everyone, regardless of their location and workspace, including access to space, tools, and equipment that your team members need to work efficiently.
Building a workplace strategy for a hybrid team is more complex than for companies that adopt 100% remote work or return to their offices full-time. When you run a hybrid team, you face a set of unique challenges:
You can only achieve success with a clear structure and the possibility to measure it. If your goal is to make sure the physical space works in favor of your team, enabling their productivity, you need to approach it strategically. Here are a few of the benefits you may experience after you implement a workplace strategy:
An effective workplace strategy should aim to optimize space, technology, and human resources to enhance productivity, collaboration, and employee engagement. Before you outline your strategy, here are the key elements you should consider.
Space planning is the process of organizing physical space to optimize efficiency, flexibility, and functionality. Effective space planning ensures that the workspace is beneficial to the organization's culture and business goals and includes allocating space for individual work and team meetings and collaboration sessions.
Space planning looks different for companies that have their own physical office vs. companies that offer options like hot desking in co-working spaces for team members who want to collaborate in person. However, in both cases, people teams should track workplace management metrics (both in relation to workspace utilization and employee productivity and satisfaction) to ensure maximum efficiency.
An effective workplace strategy must consider the technology infrastructure required to support work processes. TravelPerk’s study showed that 13% of employees lack suitable equipment to work from home, so it’s critical to offer technology that can be easily accessed from the workers’ homes.
The implementation of new technologies including hardware, software, and network infrastructure necessary to support communication, collaboration, and productivity is a key step in executing your workplace strategy with success. The technology infrastructure must also be scalable and adaptable to accommodate changing business needs.
An effective workplace strategy must consider the needs and preferences of employees, especially in the post-pandemic era where employees are dictating the rules and companies face huge talent shortages despite mass layoffs over the past few months.
HR management includes:
A strong workplace culture can help to create a sense of connection and belonging among team members, foster open communication, and support effective collaboration, which is essential to building a successful workplace strategy.
Cushman & Wakefield’s research of real estate executives conducted with CoreNet Global found that “70% of respondents identified the office as the center of creativity and innovation and the best place to build company culture”. This only goes to show that the time teams spend working together in a meeting room or an open office space should be approached from the company culture perspective, too.
The workplace culture should be aligned with the business strategy, values, mission, and goals. It should focus on the following key aspects:
An effective workplace strategy must consider the environmental impact of the workplace. This includes optimal workplace design and management strategies that can lead to lower costs of corporate real estate, reduced energy consumption, minimized waste, and better adoption of sustainable practices.
Again, to achieve sustainability, it’s critical for workplace strategists to track the key workplace metrics, such as capacity, density, occupancy, cost per seat, and more.
Before you start measuring employee success in the hybrid work environment, it’s critical to build a workplace strategy that will enable team productivity, innovation, cost savings, and other benefits. Many companies still haven’t started adapting their workspaces: 63% of companies made no changes to their office space, while less than 10% are looking for a new space or relying on co-working spaces.
We’re sharing a simple five-step framework for building an effective workplace strategy for your hybrid team.
As an HR leader, you should first gather information on your organization’s needs. Answer questions like:
Your assessment can include analyzing productivity, collaboration, and communication data, and you could conduct surveys to gather feedback from employees. You also need to work with the company leadership and other stakeholders to identify the key business goals and the KPIs you’ll be using to track progress, so you can align the employees’ and leadership’s needs.
The next step is to assess the state of your current workplace. Pay attention to several key areas, like company culture, technology infrastructure, and workspace design. Is what you currently have suitable for what your business and employees need? To find that out, take these steps:
Depending on your employees’ locations, needs, work styles, and other factors, you’ll need to define what kind of workspace you’re going to use. Some companies buy or rent their own office space in every location they have teams in, while others leverage the flexibility of co-working spaces and similar flex workspaces. Here are a few steps to take to make this decision:
Analyze the budget: Consider the financial resources available for the workspace. Determine the cost of renting an office versus a flexible coworking space.
Consider the location: Determine the ideal location based on the nature of the business, proximity to clients, availability of talent, accessibility by public transportation, local infrastructure, and similar factors.
Align the choice with company culture: Consider how your workspace will align with the company culture and values. Some companies prefer the flexibility of a co-working space, while others may want a dedicated office to reinforce a sense of stability.
Explore workspace options: Research and evaluate workspace options available in the area, including traditional office space, flexible co-working spaces, and hybrid models that combine the two.
Evaluate workspace features: Evaluate the workspace features, including the size and layout, furniture and equipment, meeting rooms, technology infrastructure, and available amenities.
Consider the level of flexibility required: Consider the level of flexibility required for your business operations. Co-working spaces offer greater flexibility and short-term contracts, while traditional office spaces typically require longer leases.
Assess security and privacy concerns: Consider security and privacy concerns when selecting a workspace. Determine if the workspace has security measures in place and if confidential information will be protected.
Clear, up-to-date, and accessible documentation is particularly important for hybrid and remote teams, where you can’t always just drop by a co-worker’s desk and ask a question. When implementing a workplace strategy, one of your key steps should be documenting all processes and policies in one source of truth that the entire workforce can easily access when needed.
Documenting processes ensures that everyone on the HR team follows the same guidelines and procedures, minimizes errors, and improves the overall quality of work. It also makes it easier to scale the workplace strategy as the company grows. As the organization expands, there will be more employees to onboard, and having a documented process will make it easier to manage the process. Also, by having documented processes, your team can quickly provide evidence of compliance when needed.
To document your entire workplace strategy, you should:
The implementation of a new workplace strategy, whether you’re just moving to hybrid or redesigning the workplace experience, requires strong leadership to help employees with the transition. That’s why forming at least a temporary team to lead this change is a part of the strategy that can ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.
A designated team can focus solely on workplace strategy, ensuring that it receives the necessary attention and resources. They will bring expertise in areas such as workplace design and employee engagement, which are essential for a successful workplace strategy.
Having a dedicated team also ensures that team members are accountable for the success of the workplace strategy, helping to execute the strategy effectively. The workplace strategy team can ensure that the workplace strategy is aligned with the overall goals and objectives, as well as respond quickly to changes in the workplace environment.
Once your workplace strategy is documented and ready to be shared company-wide, it’s time to communicate it to the employees. Clearly define the goals of the workplace strategy and make sure everyone understands why the strategy is important and how it aligns with the organization's overall objectives.
If you’ve involved employees in the development of the workplace strategy from the start (like surveying them to understand their needs or asking for their feedback during the development phase), you will have the team’s buy-in and may experience increased engagement. Don’t forget to keep asking for feedback and suggestions from employees as you go, and use this feedback to refine the strategy.
Provide training to employees on the new workplace strategy, if necessary. Create an interactive lesson to demonstrate how the strategy will help them boost their productivity and provide their best performance. This training may include education about any new technology you’re introducing, new workplace policies and procedures, and workplace culture.
Clearly define what is expected of employees in the new workplace strategy. This may include expectations around communication, collaboration, and productivity, as well as workspace utilization. Explain what kind of schedule you’ll be implementing: fixed or flexible, and walk the team through procedures related to this schedule (for example, how they go about requesting a desk in a co-working space on a day when they weren’t assigned one, but they need it).
Monitor progress regularly and provide feedback to employees. This will help to ensure that the workplace strategy is being implemented effectively and that any issues are addressed quickly.
Building a workplace strategy presents unique challenges for hybrid teams. Fully remote companies have a single workspace to manage—the virtual one. The same goes for in-office teams, only they manage physical space. Hybrid teams, however, need to ensure a consistent experience in two types of workspaces, at an optimal cost, while maintaining the company culture and controlling the environment.
The three most notable challenges involve:
Hybrid teams have to consider the costs of maintaining a physical workspace in multiple locations, including renting, furnishing, and maintaining the workspace, or paying for passes and booking seats, offices, and conference rooms in co-working and flex spaces.
The cost of a workspace can vary significantly depending on the location and type, such as traditional offices, co-working spaces, shared offices, and satellite offices.
See how Gable helped Rhino optimize workspace costs:
"Our decision process revolved around how we can get people together and increase morale. Gable offered that, combined with significant cost savings and an incredibly helpful support team. Our decision was easy." — Claire Babbage, Director of People Operations at Rhino
When building a workplace strategy, hybrid teams also need to consider how they’ll maintain company culture across different locations.
You may struggle to maintain a consistent culture in physical space and for remote workers, enabling communication, and collaboration between remote and in-office employees. This can lead to a lack of trust, miscommunication, and employees feeling disconnected from their teams, which can affect employee productivity and morale.
Hybrid teams have to manage the usage of different workspaces to ensure they meet the needs of their employees while keeping workspace costs under control. This requires careful planning and coordination to ensure that employees have access to the right workspace and resources they need to be productive, regardless of their location.
To achieve success in workspace monitoring, companies need to invest in workplace management tools. These tools should offer the right metrics to help HR teams maximize the use of available workspaces and optimize real estate costs.
Learn how WorkStep gained data visibility with Gable:
“As I was evaluating other solutions, I found them to be incomplete. We would have no visibility into how our team uses these spaces, and not every company was responsive to our requests. We found Gable through a recommendation, and it had everything we were looking for: Visibility, a centralized platform for bookings, and an incredibly responsive team.” — Jessa Graves, Senior Manager for Employee Experience at WorkStep
Many businesses around the world have already implemented a successful hybrid workplace strategy. We’re sharing a few notable examples for you to get valuable insights and inspiration.
The team at Imperva provides a prime example of a distributed workforce. With employees situated worldwide, in locations like Tel Aviv, Belfast, Singapore, Dubai, Munich, Vancouver, and multiple cities in the US, Imperva's headquarters is in San Mateo, California.
Imperva’s workplace is built on three core values: flexibility, trust, and empowerment. The company supports employees who prefer remote work, making flexibility a crucial component of their operations. Maintaining long-term office leases in each one would be impossible and expensive in this case, with a negative impact on their global hiring efforts, which prioritize attracting the best talent, regardless of location.
Imperva's approach focuses on providing flexibility to employees while ensuring everyone has access to spaces for meetings, business trips, offsites, or simply a day of teamwork. Offices are present in some locations, while local flex space providers are utilized in others to cater to their team's needs.
Airbnb's workplace strategy was developed with an eye toward future trends, concluding that flexibility is paramount to success. Airbnb's Live & Work Anywhere program's primary objectives are as follows:
Flexibility: One of the essential goals for Airbnb is to ensure that the program accommodates a variety of employee requirements. Since there is no universally successful approach to flexible work, the company aimed to design a plan that meets varying employee needs.
Top talent attraction and retention: Choosing top talent based on their geographic location can significantly impact a company’s talent acquisition efforts. Airbnb positioned itself as a desirable place to work thanks to no geographic restrictions when it comes to hiring.
Diversity efforts: Airbnb's focus on community-based hiring from around the world positions the company to tap into a more diverse talent pool, increasing diversity in the workplace by default.
“Shape hybrid strategies around productivity, not just policy compliance,” say experts at Gallup. Leaders should allow flexibility, but give people a reason to show up, whether to an office that belongs to the company, or a flex space where their team is working together.
Over 60% of employees surveyed in TravelPerk’s research said their employers allowed them to work from anywhere. If your team is distributed and works from multiple locations, or your goal is to adopt the “work from anywhere” mindset, it’s critical to build a reliable network of co-working spaces around the world. This way, your employees will be able to access co-working spaces, stable Wi-Fi, and the necessary equipment when they travel.
Gable will help you with building this network. Learn how our platform allows you to source, book, and manage flexible workspaces in one place, empowering your team to make the most out of the possibility of collaborating in person.
Book a demo to learn more about Gable.
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