4 Tips for a Healthy Hybrid Work Model

How to Balance Working from Home and the Office

Smart working is by now far more than just a trend or an added benefit for office workers. By now, it’s nothing less than an expected part of office life.

We’ve already talked at length about how much the 2020 Covid pandemic changed the work landscape. With lockdowns closing businesses, working remotely became necessary for millions practically overnight. And although those closures have ended, expectations on how to work most certainly have not. If anything, demand for smart working has only increased; workers know now it’s entirely possible to do their jobs from home, and as a result, they expect offices to continue letting them do so.

But that’s not to say smart working is now the one and only viable way of working. Having in-person meetings within a physical office is still invaluable — in most cases, it’s only reasonable to expect some face-to-face interactions among staff.

So suddenly the question arises: how do you allow for both working from home and in the office?

Fortunately, office working doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation. With the approach called “hybrid working,” employees can get both the convenience of smart working and the benefits of seeing their colleagues in person.

But, what do you set up your approach to hybrid working the right way? Let’s go into it with these essential tips.

What is Hybrid Working?

First, it’s worth giving a more detailed explanation of hybrid working as an office model.

Just as the name suggests, “hybrid working” simply means to make use of both work-from-home and traditional in-office work models. Essentially, it allows for some degree of smart working, but it still asks for a certain amount of physical attendance in the office. As far as “future of work” concepts go, this one presents a daring new idea.

In terms of actual workplace impact, the hybrid model serves as a fairly effective compromise between all-remote and entirely in-office working. Under it, those who are more productive at home can enjoy days out of the office, while staff needing a structured environment can come into work.

Small wonder, then, that hybrid working also has an enormous amount of support behind it. While employees by and large want to keep working from home, they don’t want to do so at the cost of in-person meetings. A mix of traditional office working and smart work is far and away the most popular choice for employees’ preferred setup, making it all the more critical to get things right in planning it.

So that being said, here’s how to keep staff happy and engaged with the hybrid model.

1. Set Clear Expectations

If your office is a hybrid office, hybrid employees presumably already know they’re able to work from home. But, how often can they do so? On what days? What’s the procedure for taking an out-of-office day?

First and foremost, employees need to know the “how” and “how often” of your office’s smart working option. Expectations about how many days should be spent at home or in the office cannot be taken for granted; for the sake of easier schedules, it’s critical to lay out requirements and procedures from the very start.

When doing so, remember there should be minimal ambiguity. State clearly which days are open for smart working and which (if any) are not — don’t simply assume staff is on the same wavelength when it comes to an acceptable number of days spent in the office. The last thing managers or employees want is to be unclear on when they should prepare for a commute and when they can leave the sweatpants on.

2. Allow for Flexibility

Core to the appeal of hybrid working is that it doesn’t require employees to operate in a fixed way. That being the case, it only makes sense not to make your hybrid office schedule too rigid.

Yes, as we just said, it’s fine to set limits on how often staff can work from home. It’s also fine to expect the office to actually see use while offering smart working. But those standards can become burdensome if they don’t leave room for exceptions. Illnesses, surprise appointments, household accidents and any other number of issues can pop up for employees, and they’ll likely keep staff confined to the house. In those scenarios, it’s far better to just allow for smart working than demand they come to the office.

So to create an effective hybrid work policy, give staff chances to work remotely as needed on top of the established work-from-home schedule. One option is to provide a replenishing pool of additional work-from-home days; another is to simply play it by ear and allow extra remote days as requested, but clearly state any circumstances where those requests can be denied.

Remember, creating a rigid attendance schedule will override the flexibility that staff love about hybrid working in the first place.

3. Put Comfort First

On that note, remember that the purpose of a hybrid workplace is to increase employee satisfaction. And implementing a hybrid model with too many complications, exceptions or obstacles means employees won’t be satisfied. More likely, they’ll feel as if they’re supposed to be back at the office every day of the work week.

To make sure that’s not how they see things, design your work-from-home model around employee comfort. As we just discussed, that means letting remote working days be customized as needed. Just as much, however, it means conveying that remote working is available and encouraged, through technology as well as through procedure.

Managers should make any procedures behind requesting work-from-home days simple to complete. Furthermore, any technology for remote work — like chat tools, VoIP phones or videoconferencing platforms — should be easy to sign into, preferably without the annoyance of signing into a VPN.

Basically, it’s not enough to just offer remote working to set up a true hybrid work model. That model has to be easy to access, too, both from a logistics and technology standpoint.

4. Stay Connected

But let’s not glance over another big point of a hybrid office: letting remote and in-office employees work and communicate with one another seamlessly.

In building your hybrid work model, it’s critical that you help employees feel connected to one another. Yes, this is in part to facilitate work-related collaboration. But just as significantly, without a means for constant contact, remote employees will feel disconnected and even isolated.

Combating this takes both smart policy and effective technology, especially from your communications system. That platform should be able to put staff in contact with one another quickly and easily, no matter if someone is reaching out for work help or just to share a joke.

Bottom line, do your best to keep the remote side of your hybrid office in the loop, whether that’s keeping them involved in meetings or having a chat group available for virtual water cooler chats.

Powering a Hybrid Setup

We mentioned technology a fair amount here alongside actual policy. That’s because a humane, employee-centered hybrid work plan is only part of the actual model. Without technology to drive home those plans, staff won’t feel that they’re getting much flexibility at all.

So to craft your hybrid work setup effectively, make sure you choose a platform to support it: one that’s easy to deploy and expand, but also packed with capabilities that make it a snap to connect with office colleagues at a moment’s notice.

One platform fitting that bill is Wildix. Working entirely in the browser, the Wildix platform sports a full suite of communication capabilities, from chat to video calling, that connect securely without the need for additional SBCs or VPNs. Find out more on how Wildix supports work-from-home and hybrid work setups.

Though however you set up your hybrid office, have it embrace that core idea of connecting staff while freeing everyone’s movement. Now that remote work is the norm, not just a perk, keeping both morale and loyalty high all but requires a model where the office is available, but not required. Set that model up well, though, and you’ll set the stage for a workplace that accommodates (and even impresses) employees with any range of work preferences.

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