How to make a hybrid office work long term
October 4, 2021
Hybrid work can redefine the workplace
As a result of the pandemic, companies around the world realized the work doesn’t just happen in one specific building. It’s more than that. It’s a community of hardworking individuals in work environments that best suit them—whether that be at home, in coffee shops, or in the office.
Employees who became remote workers during the pandemic proved work previously done only in the office could happen anywhere. Now, some workers and companies want to keep the flexibility and perks of remote work while maintaining the office culture and cohesive business center a real office provides. The result? A hybrid workplace.
We’ve all heard the saying one too many times in the past year, “the future of work.” The true future might not be clear for several years. In the meantime, how can business owners, remote employees, and operators ensure they are up to speed with this so-called future of work?
Remote work is great, but…
Lack of water cooler talk when there’s no day in the office. Sure you can video chat a friend, but we all hate surprise video calls.
Sometimes technology isn’t on our side. Have you ever tried to present or actively participate in a company meeting with unstable WiFi?
New professionals starting their careers are missing invaluable relationship building and development through the screen
Employees don’t miss the daily commute, or time spent preparing for the work day (who else hates making lunches every day?), but they do miss rapport with colleagues. Luckily, the benefits of people working remotely help both sides.
However, studies show employees want the option to work from home. Employers may be ready to get back to the office—but the employees aren’t. So, how about the best of both worlds?
Can hybrid work be the solution we’ve been looking for?
Hybrid work offers employees flexibility on where they work; splitting time between the home and the office. This type of work has been increasingly popular since early 2020 and experts predict its popularity will grow, with many employees going into offices several days a week and working from home the remainder of days.
To reap the benefits of offering a hybrid work model to your employees, you will need a solid strategy in place to make it successful long-term.
How to develop a plan for a hybrid work model
First things first, you need to figure out what this hybrid workplace will look like. You need a cohesive system so that those who are in the office have access to the same tools those at home do - including important paperwork. You can do this by making sure to store all important documents in cloud storage systems so that workers can access it anywhere.
When it comes to your office space, determine if you will have rotating teams schedules. Think about it this way: in high school and college, some students had particular classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and another round of classes on Tuesday and Thursdays. This practice can be repeated in the workplace, but by team. Once this blueprint is created, meet with your team leads to get headcounts so you know how much desk space is needed.
Real estate is usually one of the largest expenses for business. When your hybrid workplace strategy is developed, consider how this will impact your existing physical office. Could you downsize to reduce overhead costs? Research shows executives plan to reduce office space by 30% post-pandemic as a result of remote/hybrid work. It’s likely some businesses could get away with only needing a conference room for their team members to occasionally use for client meetings.
When employees do come into the office, they will need well-equipped desks so they don’t waste time setting up and taking down their working space each day. Make sure equipment such as monitors, HDMI cords, keyboards and mice are all readily available.
Equip remote teams with the right tools and technology
If your business hasn’t already, you will need to invest in tools to make your hybrid model successful. There are tools you’ll need for a variety of reasons: team communication and collaboration, project management, customer communication, and employee engagement.
To easily communicate with remote and in-office employees, messaging tools such as Slack or Microsoft Teams are essential for managing a hybrid team. Slack allows you to send quick direct messages and create “huddles” with your team.
Collaboration tools will make cross-channel work seamless and more productive, like Miro and Google Drive. And, of course, having a project management software will make sure distributed teams are all on the same page, trusty apps such as Asana or Trello will keep things organized and flowing.
An important aspect that sometimes gets overlooked is people management. At Earth Class Mail, we use Lattice, a software that allows managers to check-in and see how the team is feeling, not just how they are doing, with their happiness scores.
Merging the physical and digital office world
Beyond the tools you need for a remote team, you also need tools to merge the remote world with the physical world. Workers need tools that bring office tools, such as essential paperwork, office supplies, and team meetings, to their homes.
One important element that can be important for your business is a way to make physical documents, like mail and checks, available even when people aren’t in the office.
One solution is to invest in a virtual mailbox provider. Virtual mailbox providers digitize all your mail, even if you do have a physical location. All your mail is sorted, scanned, and sent to the cloud.
You can also use a virtual business address--and you’ll never have to change your address again (like when you decide to downsize office space). With a virtual mailbox, your business mail becomes digital mail that you can access 24/7 from anywhere on any device.
Fostering company culture within hybrid work environments
After countless months working from home, employees have realized that just as companies are not buildings, culture is also not an in-office ping pong table, cold brew on tap or free snacks.
Making connections virtually became an issue for employees during the pandemic. Thirty-nine percent of employees struggled to maintain or develop a connection with colleagues. Finding creative ways to keep people engaged, connected, empowered and feeling appreciated is vital.
Develop a committee of staff who host socials, breakfast sessions—yes, let them expense their egg and potato taco—town halls, or team virtual happy hours for informal conversation. Some other ideas to keep distributed teams engaged include encouraging health and wellness, trivia games (we love Kahoot), book clubs, and Show & Tells. You can also rotate which teams meet in person so that everyone has a chance to interact at different points.
At Earth Class Mail, we have a #pets Slack channel where employees share their adorable furry friends. Fun fact: our Lead Software Developer has the cutest bunny (Hey, Brian and Bun!). And a #kudos channel for employees to give their colleagues a shoutout! Even a simple message can boost someone’s mood and company morale.
A well-thought out strategy will make or break your hybrid team. Luckily, nothing is set in concrete so if you find something isn’t working specifically for your company, adjust until you find what works best for your employees.
Hybrid work offers a chance to give workers the best of both worlds: a place to meet with coworkers and the flexibility to work from their homes when they need to.
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