How To Structure Hybrid Work To Maximize Productivity and Joy

Published
August 30, 2023
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Hybrid Work
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How To Structure Hybrid Work To Maximize Productivity and Joy

TL;DR Article Summary

How organizations structure their hybrid work model varies. Here are best practices for structuring hybrid work that optimizes the employee experience while aligning with business goals.

  • Flexible, team-driven hybrid models with 2-3 in-office days lead to happier, more productive employees.
  • Emphasize in-person collaboration: prioritize team interaction and meetings on office days.
  • Prioritize "deep work" on remote days: empower employees to focus without distractions.
  • Use tech like desk booking software to facilitate collaboration and workspace coordination.

Many companies adopted the hybrid work model in response to employees' preferences. Of the 1,500 global office-based workers surveyed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 85% reported that their organization adopted a hybrid model.

Even though they implemented the model, the way organizations structure hybrid work can be vastly different. Some structure work around the number of days in the office, while others mandate specific days or key events employees need to be on-site. 

However organizations decide to structure their hybrid work schedule, the result should be one that elevates the employee experience and also meets business objectives. Below, we discuss the various hybrid work models and propose one ideal for maximizing productivity and joy.

What Are Ways To Structure Hybrid Work?

Hybrid work models or schedules refer to a combination of remote work and in-office work. These models aim to provide flexibility and balance between the benefits of remote work and in-person collaboration. 

When it comes to hybrid working, there’s no one-size-fits-all structure or approach. Here are the four most common:

  • Flexible hybrid work: This model offers flexibility in terms of both work hours and location. Employees can choose their working hours and decide whether to work from the office or remotely on any given day as long as they meet their responsibilities.
  • Fixed hybrid work: The organization sets the days and times employees can work remotely or visit the office. There is usually a minimum number of days or specific days (or both) employees must be in the office weekly. Organizations can also set a minimum percentage of time employees must work from the office.
  • Office-first hybrid work: Employees are expected to be on-site with occasional opportunities to work remotely. 
  • Remote-first hybrid work: Employees primarily work remotely with occasional visits to coworking spaces or the office for team building, collaboration, and training. 

The answer to who determines the hybrid work policy can also vary. Both Gallup and BCG found that company-wide guidelines are the most common when implementing a hybrid work policy. Having managers or individual employees decide is the next popular method, followed by having departmental teams decide together.

What Makes a Successful Hybrid Work Model?

According to Nick Bloom, Stanford economics professor and WFH Research cofounder, most employees come to the office to socialize and collaborate. Sequoia’s Return to Office survey report supports that, with 46% of employees saying the most enjoyable aspect of being in-office is “spending time with their co-workers.” Therefore, it makes sense for employees to come in at the same time for those interactions. 

A hybrid model that improves recruitment, retention, and morale, and does not negatively impact productivity is what Bloom calls “organized hybrid.” In this model, organizations let teams coordinate in-office days instead of implementing a top-down approach. 

Knowing that, we’ve compiled three key factors that make for a hybrid work model that optimizes business performance and employee engagement:

Two to three days in the office

Research from Gallup shows that spending two to three days in the office during a typical week leads to the highest levels of employee engagement, retention, and reduces burnout. The Flex Index found that 90% of fixed hybrid companies require two or three days per week in the office, with Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as the preferred days.

Flexibility based on types of work

BCG found that employees want to be in the office to interact with colleagues and build relationships. 78% of employees and 91% of managers report in-person as being the most effective for affiliation and development. 

Additionally, organizations can consider employees' unique job responsibilities when determining hybrid work schedules. For instance, jobs requiring more real-time interactions benefit from in-person collaboration versus ones with more independent work.

Teams decide on the hybrid work policy

Bloom found that the highest engagement happens when teams set their hybrid policy together.

Gallup also found that 46% of employees say they’re more engaged when their work team decides the policy together. BCG found that only 6% of employees are unhappy with their hybrid work policy when the team decides collectively. In comparison, 24% are unhappy when hybrid work is part of a company-wide policy.

“People do want structure, and people like boundaries. But they don’t like to be told what to do, so I think the secret is to not make them feel like their autonomy is being denied or that their ideas aren’t important, while still giving some structure.”
- Stewart Butterfield, former Slack CEO

Use tech to coordinate in-office days

The main reason employees want to go into the office is to socialize and collaborate with their colleagues. Leveraging technology like desk booking software can help employees better coordinate time in the office and maximize in-person interactions. Employees can even see where their teams are sitting and book desks next to each other for easier collaboration.

How To Support “Organized Hybrid” Work Models

Now that we know ways to structure hybrid work that leads to positive business results and workplace experiences, what are some best practices to support it? Here are some steps you can follow for a seamless "organized hybrid" plan:

Ensure your team comes in on the same days

Communicate clear guidelines for on-site days, including how often, when, and why it’s important for teams to be in the office. Set explicit team norms emphasizing that in-office and remote days are centered around team needs and responsibilities.

Front-load in-office days with in-person meetings and events

Make office time valuable by designing on-site days to capitalize on relationship-building, collaboration, and other elements that are hard to replicate virtually. A recent study published in the Nature Human Behaviour journal found that collaborative idea generation and creativity are better when random pairs work together in person. 

There are also studies that suggest meetings may not be as effective when done virtually. Gallup found that 32% of hybrid employees said virtual meetings are less effective than in-person meetings, compared with 17% who say virtual meetings are more effective.

Allocate remote days for “deep work”

No one likes commuting to an office just to sit in Zoom meetings all day or try to focus on work in a noisy office. Bloom recommends promoting Zoom meetings between offices and “deep thinking” work on remote days. 

To assist workers in getting the time they need free from disruption to do “deep work,” organizations can train leaders in new ways of measuring productivity. That means setting actionable benchmarks for employees and measuring success based on outcomes, not how often employees appear online.

“Employees need to be empowered to determine the ways they work best and to shape how they deliver against their goals.”
- Adobe 2023 State of Work Report

Provide more in-person training for relatively new hires

Bloom notes that relatively new hires should come into the office an extra day each week for mentoring. They may need more support with their daily tasks, knowing who to contact for help, and building relationships with colleagues for better collaboration and communication. Additionally, in-person interactions are crucial for building those networks that help with career growth.

Hybrid Work for Better Engagement and Morale

Organizations can structure hybrid work in a way that supports productivity, employee engagement, and employee retention rates. The specific hybrid model that works best for your organization depends on your culture, industry, employee preferences, and the nature of the work. 

However, many hybrid work studies uncover common factors that work. Flexibility, clear communication, teamwork, and supportive technology are critical to successfully implementing any hybrid work arrangement.

To learn more about how organizations are structuring hybrid work, check out these Chief People Officers shaping hybrid work at their organizations. If you want to optimize hybrid work and streamline hot desking, create your free Skedda account today.

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