Before Covid hit, there were already many employees doing remote work from home full-time or splitting their time between home and a physical workplace. They were doing hybrid work before it became the norm, and not much really changed for them. But once businesses started shutting their doors and sending workers home to work, millions of people without that experience started working remotely. It was a total shift in the way our workforce operates.
Now that we are seemingly in the waning phase of the pandemic, many companies have started calling their employees back to the office, at least part of the time. And with that, a lot of people are now working a hybrid schedule and realizing its benefits, and many companies have agreed that a flexible working arrangement not only boosts employee satisfaction but also productivity.
According to a study by Microsoft of 30,000 workers, over 70% still want some remote work available to them, 65% also want some time in-person, and 66% of business leaders are considering redesigning their office space to better accommodate a remote employees. The hybrid workforce, whether we like it or not, is here to stay.
Defining hybrid workforces
While there are various hybrid models of work, at its core it is this: employees are working remotely and/or in-office, depending on circumstances. Before Covid, the general workforce was a hybrid, of sorts; some companies had 100% remote team members and some had 100% in the office. Now, a majority of organizations do have some sort of hybrid model in place, where employees can decide what works best for them. Some may be 100% remote, living in some faraway land on a sailboat, while others may work from home three days a week and pop into the nearby office on the other two days.
Whether it’s a personal preference to work remotely, the need to be home because a child is out of school, or just the desire to connect with your team in person, hybrid work offers flexibility that employees have been longing for.
Advantages of a hybrid workforce
There are plenty of advantages to a successful hybrid workplace, which provides the best of both worlds – an office at home, and a physical office somewhere else with colleagues. Need to take care of a few things during work hours? Maybe today’s a good day to work remotely. Want to attend an in-person client meeting to help beat those sales goals? Might want to head into the office space and talk face to face.
With hybrid workforce either scenario is possible, and hybrid employees can take advantage of it as they need to. But beyond the flexibility offered daily, there are some other advantages to hybrid work, too. Let’s take a look at some of them.
Better work life balance
Flexibility in deciding where and when to work offers employees a much better balance. They can integrate their work lives into their personal lives and meet the needs of their family, go to medical appointments, run errands, go grocery shopping, etc., and not just be at their desks in the office for eight or nine hours. This freedom over how they plan their lives makes most workers more productive when they are working, with a much better employee experience.
Reduced possibility of illness
Though nationwide Covid 19 case counts are low, people are rightfully still worried about getting sick, especially those who are immunocompromised. Some employees see remote working as a way to limit their chances of becoming ill or spreading an illness to others and are choosing where they work carefully.
In addition, with a majority of the employees working from home, flu cases plummeted nationwide. So employees having the flexibility to work where they feel most comfortable could keep those numbers low into the future.
Remote workers can live anywhere
Work for an organization you love in Los Angeles, but want to move back to your hometown in New York to be closer to family? If the company offers its workers the option of a hybrid workforce, you could both keep that job you love as well as see your family more often.
Another bonus to being able to live anywhere you want and keep your job? You could potentially give yourself a raise by moving somewhere more affordable and cost savings on real estate because of lower housing costs.
And if you are one of those digital nomads we hear so much about, a hybrid workforce model would provide an employee the opportunity to continue traveling when and where they want and still have a physical location to work out of when they return or come through a city where one is located.
Increased possibilities for continuous learning
Flextime means remote workers may be able to take advantage of continuous learning opportunities that were previously only available during work hours. Whether it’s studying new skills, attending conferences, or mentoring interns, a this environment gives employees the time they need to continue learning.
Not every employee is going to be most productive at the same hours of the day. Enabling them to start working at their most productive time is key to getting the most out of employees. If someone works better at 6:00 am, why not let them start work then?
Chances are, the hours your hybrid team works are spread throughout the day, so you will always have people around doing what needs to be done.
By allowing employees to adapt their job times to fit around other commitments, you’ll most likely find them to be more focused and productive.
Add in the benefit of no commute, and, well, they’ll “arrive” at work without being stressed out from fighting traffic!
Better access to workforce talent
Gone are the days of scouting for talent only within a certain radius of your headquarters. A hybrid workplace model allows HR managers and companies to accept applications from workers around the globe, allowing them access to the best talent they can find.
Candidates won’t be bound by their location and will be able to search for jobs that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to them, and a bonus is that your team will have interactions with people from all over the world, which contributes to company culture.
Reduced expenses for both employee and employer
The common joke on the internet is that everyone started wearing sweatpants to work once the pandemic hit. And while it is pretty funny, the truth is that people who work a hybrid or remote schedule don’t have to spend as much money on clothes as those who have to wear a certain style of clothing to the office every day. Maybe you only go into the office two days a week now, so you don’t need five different suits to wear. The days at home can be spent in more casual attire (ok, maybe not sweatpants) that fits in better with your flexible schedule and commitments.
In addition, workers will spend less time commuting, so they will be putting fewer miles on their vehicles and reducing costs for gasoline. Throw in eating at home and that could save a ton of dough every month.
For many employers, not having to rent physical space, maintain them, and pay the utilities on them is a huge money saving if they don’t have to “house” more employees. If not everyone is coming into the office every day, maybe a smaller office, or several set in clusters near other workers, is more cost-effective than the expenses involved in a big headquarters.
We’ll add this one because climate change is a major issue that hybrid workforces can have a big impact on. With fewer people commuting to an office, and maybe even business travel slowing down, emissions should decline, at least a little bit. And every small change helps!
Disadvantages of a hybrid workforce
While many remote employees love the ability to work from home at least a few days a week, not everyone does, nor does every company want to offer that flexibility to its workforce. To understand some of the disadvantages to a hybrid workforce, let’s take a look at some of the negatives that might come with not being in the office every day.
- A hybrid workforce may feel more lonely if they are working by themselves the majority of the time. Not everyone does their best work on their own, so this could be a major sticking point in whether an employee feels comfortable working for a company. That’s why it’s so important to have an effective communication platform that everyone can access, so people feel less “out of the loop” while working from home.
- Keeping on the out-of-the-loop issue, hybrid-remote employees may not have as good of access to supplies, technology, and information as in-office workers tend to have. An employer must provide those workers with everything they need to do their job efficiently and productively.
- Being responsible for your time management could lead to employees facing issues they otherwise would not face if at the office. Some people aren’t able to make sure their work gets done if left unattended to, and a company with a hybrid workplace model need to ensure their hires are prepared to be effective while working from a distance. Also, some employees find it difficult to “turn off” work once the end of the day is reached, continuing to answer emails, send Slack messages, and work on documents as mobile notifications come in at all hours. This can lead to staff burnout.
- The possibility of fewer career opportunities. Employees who are out of sight/out of mind may not be considered for promotions and advancement, so HR needs to be aware of the value of every employee, no matter where they are located.
- Companies can struggle to implement solid security strategies, with so many distributed teams and employees. IT and security departments need to ensure employees understand the security risks around data, systems, and devices.
- Team-building and collaboration can be difficult to do from a distance. If workers aren’t seeing each other daily, or even sharing the same space, there isn’t any casual watercooler talk going on. Everything is done virtually, which often doesn’t feel “real” and can hinder in person collaboration.
- The ability of coworkers to collaborate and share ideas may be hindered by everyone working in separate locales. Whether it’s because of the hours people work, different technologies they have (or don’t have), or a lack of access to materials, team collaboration could prove to be a struggle.
- For companies that don’t trust their employees to efficiently work on their own, the idea of a hybrid workforce may seem like a nightmare. The solution? Be sure to hire the right people, for the right positions, and companies won’t have to worry if Bob took too much time for lunch because he had to pick up his children, or if Jane was a few minutes “late” to work because she had to run an errand. While some organizations shift to invasive surveillance technologies to track workers, this is not how they should be adapting to the new normal of hybrid workplaces.
Best practices and strategies for navigating a hybrid workforce model
From the perspective of internal communicators and HR specialists, a hybrid work model changes a lot of things that were done the same way for a long time. Be sure you’re ready for the future of work with these new strategies!
- Touched on earlier, when it comes to hiring, everything changes. Placing ads with location-specific demographics isn’t necessary anymore; HR leaders can search far and wide for top talent. This opens up a world of opportunities for companies to find and hire the best candidates that fit the positions they need to fill, and candidates can apply for the perfect role that matches their skillset. A diversity in hires comes along with this new paradigm, as employers can recruit a more diverse workforce than ever before, which can only help companies grow and succeed.
- Onboarding new employees will look different than in the past. A single, shared handbook isn’t going to cut it anymore. HR needs to have a one-stop-shop platform that will ensure employees can learn about the company, get access to the software and materials they need, sign up for benefits, information on who to contact for certain situations, and it will need to be mobile-ready so employees always have access to it, wherever they are, on whatever device they are using. If a workforce is thought of as “remote-first”, the systems put in place to meet those needs will work for any hybrid workforce, as well.
- Internal communication teams will have to figure out how to best connect and engage with hybrid teams and garner employee feedback. Since only some workers may be in a physical workplaces at any given time, platforms like Firstup help to reach every employee, everywhere, transforming workforce communication by delivering content to any endpoints. This personalized and professional digital experience gets every worker the information they need when they need it, keeping them connected to strategies, news, projects, and client needs while reducing any disadvantages. As we like to say around here, When your comms strategy succeeds, your employees succeed.
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- Managers will need to rethink the old “how many hours were worked and when” model of tracking productivity and instead switch to goal setting, milestones, and deadlines. If the work is getting done on time, does it matter how many hours it took or which days of the week the work was done? Not particularly, no. Organizations will still need ways to measure employee productivity, but with the flexibility of a remote workforce, it’s more important that employees get the work done rather than tracking when they are working.
- Adopting collaboration platforms that work for all employees is key to a successful hybrid workforce. Will everyone on your team use Google Workspace, so they are all on the same software? Will Slack be where everyone logs in to connect directly with other employees? Is every meeting on Zoom? Does your company need a mobile workforce management app? Ensuring easy and fast collaboration tools are in place will help your company’s operations run smoother with less employee frustration.
- Hybrid workplace models are changing how career development happens because the entire team is not in a single office, being seen and interacting with each other, attending staff meetings, and staying up to date on company doings that are always being talked about. And if a company wants to retain its best talent, HR is going to adapt to this new way of working in order to do so. According to BambooHR’s COVID-19 and Careers report, 78% of remote teams stated that their career development had been negatively impacted during year one of the pandemic, even as they work harder than ever to meet the goals of understaffed companies. HR and leaders will need to:
- Set up individual development plans for employees that define career goals and steps they can take to reach them.
- Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with all employees
- Offer stipends for continued learning and development
- Increase up-and re-skilling opportunities for current employees
- Post all job listings and descriptions for all staff members to see
- Improve workforce communication (with a platform like Firstup!)
Between risking the chance that some employees feel unseen, a workplace culture being divided into office vs. remote personalities, and a lack of solid communication, many employees may be left behind when it comes to career development strategies. Learning how to navigate these challenges is central to keeping your employees engaged and working towards their own career goals and desires… no matter where they work.
HR departments and internal communicators are familiar with the “traditional” office, where employee engagement, morale, and productivity can be monitored in–person. But the switch to hybrid and remote work can be challenging, and they need to be ready to meet the demands of the changing definition of work and the modern workplace.
The hybrid workforce is here to stay as we move past the pandemic, and chances are that fully remote work will become more commonplace than ever in the future. The benefits of both far outweigh the disadvantages when it comes to what employees and employers want out of a workplace experience.
Flexibility, adaptability, autonomy, with continued face-to-face interactions via digital technologies and tools, are what the employees of the future are going to expect when they look for work opportunities, and many organizations need to consider their strategies for meeting these demands in the hybrid workplace of tomorrow.
Really, it all comes down to communication. Specifically, communication that fosters creativity, productivity, collaboration, innovation, a better work/life balance, and putting people first in your organization. That’s what is going to contribute the most to the success of your hybrid work environment. And the Firstup platform gives leaders and communicators the ability to intelligently communicate with employees, power the modern intranet, and increase workforce productivity from the front office to the front line, no matter where they are.