What is Hybrid Work?
With the worst of the COVID pandemic now in the rearview mirror, more and more workers are being called back to the office. And while many people are excited to be reunited with their coworkers and catching up around the water cooler, plenty of others are less enthusiastic about returning.
In hopes of finding a ‘happy medium’ and offering a solution to keep both sides satisfied, many organisations are implementing ‘hybrid work’ models.
‘Hybrid work’ combines elements of both remote work and in-person work within a given company. In a hybrid work environment, employees generally have more flexibility to divide their work time between working in the office and outside it. Days in the office tend to be predetermined.
To make it all work, employers maintain physical office spaces for in-person collaboration despite employees not being required to be in the office every day. Hybrid work also relies heavily on technology for communication, collaboration, and accessing work-related resources from various locations outside the in-person office space. Getting the balance right can be a challenge, but it’s imperative to hybrid work’s success.
What are the current trends surrounding hybrid work?
In July of 2023, we surveyed over 2,000 people working in the UK and asked them if they were given a choice, whether they preferred to work exclusively in the office, fully remote, or have a hybrid option blending in-office and at-home or remote work options.
While about 19% of our respondents said choosing a place to work didn’t apply to their roles, an astounding 78% of our final survey participants said they preferred hybrid or fully remote work options. Of that group, 27% expressed they preferred the option to work exclusively from home.
In a similar survey conducted by Owl Labs, a company that produces remote video conferencing tech, interest in office-only work has dropped by 24% since 2021. The 2022 Everywhere Workplace Report also backs this up, revealing that 7 out of every 10 workers would pass up a promotion just for the promise of more autonomy and flexibility in where and how they work.
Based on these findings, it’s safe to say that remote work – or some hybrid form blending in-office and remote work – is here to stay. In fact, a quick Google search suggests as much: While preparing for our own survey, we scoured job boards and employment trends to see how workers are going about their own job searches. In 2022, there was more than a 110% increase in remote job search trends since 2019.
Lots of big companies are adjusting their expectations and working with their employees to find creative solutions that keep both managers and workers happy. These accommodations include everything from workplace flexibility to work schedule options. The main takeaway is that there is no one or perfect way to build a hybrid work environment.
What challenges come from hybrid work?
Hybrid work presents a unique set of challenges due to its half-and-half nature. For example, maintaining effective communication and collaboration among team members can be difficult. In a fully in-office setting, it’s easy to hop up and walk across the workspace to a colleague’s desk to ask a question or collaborate on a task. In a fully remote one, instant communication is a call or instant message. But in a hybrid working environment, there may be confusion about which communication methods are the default and what kinds of check-ins can or should be spontaneous and what is async. Getting it right requires very clear guidelines, which will often need to be reiterated.
Ensuring everyone is getting equal access to the same kinds of opportunities, information, career advancement and mentorship is another thing that requires much time and attention. Employees may feel less certain about expectations when they’re working a mix as opposed to fully in the office which can create friction and further lapses in communication.
How can teams with remote workers address challenges associated with hybrid work?
Ensuring that all employees have equal access to opportunities, information, and career advancement is crucial – whether they’re working remotely for the day or in the office. In a hybrid team, there will always be a mix of both, meaning the challenge is how to blend the two and ensure workers can make the most of office time while simultaneously making sure everyone is still connected on the days they are working remotely.
Messaging applications like Slack and video conferencing have changed the way we work both in and out of the office. And while they can’t fully replace the cohesion and brainstorming that comes from face-to-face, in-person interactions, they go a long way in helping teams connect from anywhere.
Laying out expectations for employees’ daily interactions and performance is paramount to implementing a successful hybrid work scheme. Businesses need to clearly lay out expectations for asynchronous communication versus synchronous communication – or what kinds of interactions can be made with no specific time constraints or reply expectations versus those requiring real-time answers.
Finally, employees need the right tools, technology, and workspaces to be productive whether they’re working remotely or in the office. Likewise, they need equal access to information, mentoring, and so on. In order for a hybrid model to really work, people need to feel like there is good reason to come into the office. For example, if they come in and stay on calls all day, they may begin to wonder about the point of coming in at all.
Finding solutions to these imbalances is imperative so everyone feels equally supported. This is where intentionality comes into play. Determining exactly how time is spent in person versus the expectations for remote work days is vital. In-office days might be reserved for meetings, mentoring, brainstorming, and so on. Furthermore, managing and evaluating employee performance based on results rather than time spent or having a physical presence in the office is the only way to truly make the hybrid work model work.
Boundless partners with hybrid work businesses around the globe
Hybrid work can be a major win-win for organisations and individuals who value both the benefits of remote work and the advantages of in-person collaboration. Boundless can help you legally and compliantly employ your hybrid workforce around the globe.
Speak to one of our experts to learn more.