How to manage a hybrid work model

Hybrid work used to be a niche trend specific to certain industries and roles, but post-pandemic, it’s now a widespread and common model of work. A lot of employees who started working from home during the pandemic still do, and have no plans to stop.

This hybrid work trend offers benefits to both employers and employees, and many executives are calling it the future of work. Understanding how to use the hybrid workforce to your company's advantage helps you improve performance, enhance your reputation, and get ahead of the competition.

What is a hybrid work model?

Hybrid work models combine remote and in-person work through a people-focused approach

In the traditional office model, almost everyone worked onsite. The COVID-19 pandemic ended the dominant reign of in-office work and gave people a taste of working outside the office. At the same time, companies now recognize the ability to reap the productivity and cost-saving benefits of remote work without losing the human aspect of the traditional office. This is the origin story of hybrid work.

A hybrid work model combines in-person and remote work. It's a people-focused approach to workforce management that’s more flexible, adaptable, and strategic.

Hybrid work is becoming increasingly popular among companies worldwide, mostly due to the rise of internet-based technology like the cloud. The cloud enables people to connect and collaborate across geographical boundaries, so you can keep business moving even when most of your employees work from home.

Types of hybrid work models

Most hybrid working arrangements use one of these models:

  • Fixed: The company decides where employees work each day, often on a set schedule
  • At will: Employees choose where they work on any given day
  • Remote-first: Employees work remotely most of the time and come into the office for certain meetings and events
  • Office-first: Employees typically work from the office, with the option to work remotely on occasion
  • Flexible: Employees must work from the office for a minimum number of days per week, but they have the freedom to choose which days

The best model for your organization depends on the nature of your work, your industry, and your company size. If you often conduct collaborative meetings, a fixed model that requires everyone to be onsite on certain days might work best in terms of scheduling. This arrangement facilitates in-person collaboration while still allowing people to work remotely.

Benefits of a hybrid work model

Hybrid work has many advantages.

  • Better work-life balance: The flexibility of hybrid work can give people more control over their schedules
  • Improved job satisfaction: A better work-life balance reduces feelings of burnout and stress, which can improve mental health and help employees feel more engaged with their work
  • Environmental benefits: Hybrid work boosts your organization's sustainability by requiring fewer employees to commute each day and reducing carbon emissions
  • Reduced operational costs: Having fewer employees in the office allows you to downsize your space, which lowers overhead costs like real estate and utilities
  • Higher productivity: Employees have the freedom to work from wherever they're most productive
  • Expanded talent pool: Opening your organization to remote and hybrid work means you can hire top talent from outside your immediate location
  • New opportunities: Hybrid work can create new opportunities for career growth, such as upskilling or reskilling
  • Enhanced reputation: Most employees today want hybrid work arrangements, and providing schedule flexibility attracts more candidates

With these benefits, it's clear why 90% of executives believe hybrid work is here to stay.

Challenges of managing a hybrid work model

Although hybrid work is a promising move for most companies, it can come with difficulties. These are the most common challenges companies face when designing a hybrid work model.

Building a strong company culture

To build a strong company culture, emphasize your organization's purpose to motivate and unite your employees

It's difficult to create a unified work culture when everyone is working from different locations. People don't have as many opportunities to casually chat with coworkers and build positive relationships with their teams, which is essential for high job satisfaction and mental well-being. But there are ways to create a company culture without having everyone in the office at all times.

Reorienting your organization's focus to its higher purpose is a great way to unite and motivate people regardless of their physical location. When people see how their work makes a difference, they engage more with their everyday tasks. It also makes them feel comfortable reaching out when they need help, even if they're working remotely for the day.

Coordinating effective collaboration

When people work in different locations, it's tough to coordinate collaborative work. Depending on the work model and schedule you choose, you may not be able to predict when certain people will be in the office.

In hybrid companies, barriers often arise between teams due to the location differences. This can lead to communication gaps between remote and in-person employees, which makes getting work done challenging.

Hybrid work also reduces the spontaneous element of in-person collaboration, which can hinder innovation. In face-to-face interactions, we easily bounce ideas off each other and produce creative solutions to problems we may not have thought of by ourselves. While creative workers can certainly produce great results while working remotely, social interaction is often necessary for continued innovation.

Cloud collaboration tools often solve this issue by enabling people to work together in real time no matter where they are, which boosts engagement and improves overall organization.

Planning and adapting

Without proper planning, it's difficult to manage a functional hybrid work environment. You need to make sure your employees are focusing on work without micromanaging, which can be difficult without the proper tools.

In our dynamic world, things change suddenly. Some employees may need to switch their schedules to handle unexpected personal issues, while others find working remotely isn't as beneficial for their productivity as they expected. An adaptable model allows you to quickly respond to disruptions, which is key for maintaining high performance and overall team satisfaction.

Hybrid work management tips

Here are our top tips for managing a highly productive hybrid workforce.

1. Choose the right hybrid work schedule

Hybrid models work best when you have the right people working in the right places at the right times. To choose the right schedule for your organization, consider your typical workflows and implement a schedule like:

  • Shift work: Employees alternate work locations according to shifts — for example, an employee might work onsite in the morning and from home in the afternoon
  • Split week: Employees work from home on certain days of the week and from the office on the others
  • Week by week: Employee groups rotate where they work each week

Mix and match schedules for each group to meet your organization's specific needs. For example, you might schedule teams that require close collaboration to work onsite more often than people who work independently most of the time.

Clearly communicate your company's remote work policies, including standard working hours and communication expectations.

2. Embrace new communication methods

Try communication methods like asynchronous communication for low-priority messages

When you don't see your coworkers every day, conventional communication methods don't work as well as they once did. You can't call spontaneous meetings like you would in a traditional office if half your team is working from home, and calling people when they're in deep work mode can disrupt their workflow and limit productivity. Companies considering hybrid work need to reconsider how remote team members best communicate to keep work moving along.

Asynchronous communication is excellent for managing distributed teams: it allows people to communicate without requiring an immediate response. For instance, you might send an email asking for an update on a project in the morning and receive a response in the afternoon.

The best way to keep hybrid teams on the same page is to use a mix of traditional and asynchronous communication. Provide multiple communication channels to make it easier for remote employees to stay in touch without interrupting their workflows. You could limit phone calls to urgent concerns and emails to low-priority messages. You could also open casual instant messaging channels for coworkers to connect throughout the day.

3. Use time-tracking software

You need a way to hold people accountable, whether they're working on or off site. Cloud-based productivity tools like Hubstaff and Buddy Punch enable remote workers to clock in from their home computers. Integrated payroll software often comes with these tools, so you can automate time-consuming, tedious payroll processes.

Many of these tools also track keyboard strokes and mouse movements to monitor employee productivity, which holds everyone accountable for their own work.

Another helpful feature to look for is a location tracker. This tool provides visibility into where everyone is working, which can help coworkers plan meetings and project tasks effectively.

4. Build dynamic workspaces

We've had time to adjust to working from anywhere, and it's clear the traditional office isn't working anymore. Create a place where people want to work, and you build and maintain a positive hybrid culture. The goal is to make the office feel more like a work destination than an obligation.

Consider the desk amenities you provide to help employees be more productive, like:

  • Adjustable standing desks
  • Ergonomic chairs
  • Wireless keyboards
  • Dual monitor setups
  • Whiteboards

Space management techniques help you get the most of your office space, especially if you work in a small building. Hot-desk booking software lets people reserve a specific desk on days they know they'll be in the office. Employees can work in parts of the office where they're most productive, and you can reuse the same desk for multiple people throughout the week.

5. Adopt project management tools

Visibility is one of the biggest concerns companies have when switching to a hybrid or fully remote work model. How can you make sure your remote employees get tasks done on time?

Cloud-based project management tools provide visibility into progress, which keeps everyone on track and maintains stakeholder support. Look for tools with progress-tracking features like virtual Kanban boards and Gantt charts, which help you keep everything moving according to plan.

You'll want the project management system to integrate with the other tools in your tech stack. That will make access to each application in your system smooth.

6. Collaborate with IT and HR

When planning your hybrid work strategy, get input from the people who support your organization. That means getting feedback from more than just leaders and managers.

Working with your HR department helps you create a hybrid schedule that makes sense for your organization. If anyone needs special accommodations, your HR people can evaluate each case as needed.

Your IT department can identify the best software tools for your hybrid environment. From cloud collaboration applications to cybersecurity protections, you can rely on your team to provide ideas for an integrated system that optimizes productivity without running over budget.

7. Implement a document management system

Organization is near impossible without a unified system for managing all your files. Legacy infrastructure makes it difficult for remote employees to access the resources they need, and sending different versions of the same document back and forth via email is inefficient and confusing.

You need a way to manage the content lifecycle from creation to archival. A cloud-based electronic document management system creates one single source of truth for all your important content, from training slideshows to tax documents, so you can access what you need from anywhere. Version control capabilities ensure everyone is looking at the most current version of each document — no need to email different revisions back and forth.

8. Leverage analytics and reporting

Use analytics to understand the effectiveness of your hybrid work model

If you're considering switching to a hybrid work model, make sure you can understand how it affects your organization's performance. Your data can provide valuable insights into the way your team works, so you can adjust as needed.

Tracking productivity through metrics like key performance indicators ensures your organization is where it should be. It can also motivate your people to be 1% better every day by providing clear improvement goals.

Many cloud collaboration and productivity tools have built-in analytics and reporting features, so you can keep tabs on team progress, whether your people are in the office or working from home.

9. Keep team members connected

Isolation and loneliness are some of the biggest challenges of working remotely. Finding ways to connect everyone in your hybrid environment helps you improve your team's well-being and job satisfaction.

Virtual team-building events are a popular strategy for many hybrid organizations. For instance, you could randomly pair employees up at a virtual water cooler to get to know each other. Or host virtual happy hours and game nights after hours to help build camaraderie among team members who don't see each other in person often.

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The Content Cloud is a game changer for the entire organization, streamlining workflows and boosting productivity across every team. Contact us today, and explore what you can do with Box.

Discover how to power hybrid work with the Content Cloud

**While we maintain our steadfast commitment to offering products and services with best-in-class privacy, security, and compliance, the information provided in this blogpost is not intended to constitute legal advice. We strongly encourage prospective and current customers to perform their own due diligence when assessing compliance with applicable laws.

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