Hybrid. Hybrid work. Hybrid teams. Hybrid everything! It’s the new business buzzword. But what does it even mean?
The pandemic normalized remote work for the average knowledge worker. We’ve proven that being in the office is no longer required; people are able to be productive from just about anywhere. But now that we’re getting to the “other side” of this health crisis and offices are opening up again, people are wondering whether they actually need to come in.
Research shows that most people would like a combination of the freedom to work remotely and the structure of being in the office. This flexible working arrangement is known as the hybrid model.
So let’s get into the details and talk about how you can make a hybrid model work for your organization.
The Hybrid Work Model
At the most basic level, the hybrid model is a balance of remote work and office work. It’s a fluid system that offers a compromise between the needs of the business and the preferences of employees.
Of course, hybrid systems can look different for different organizations — there’s definitely a spectrum. In fully flexible organizations, every employee has the ability to decide which days they come into the office and which days they want to work from home during the week. In other organizations, some employees are fully on-site, while others are fully remote. Other organizations employ a combination of the two policies.
Simply put, hybrid models give employees the autonomy to choose how, when and where they work.
Going hybrid isn’t simply a temporary trend. It’s not about going back to “normal,” back to the way things once were. We’re not simply accommodating health guidelines anymore, but actively shifting the way we work.
Supporting Hybrid Teams
The hybrid model becomes complicated when we talk about hybrid teams. It’s accepted that physical presence in the office is no longer essential for most knowledge workers, but how do you support a physically dispersed team? Rather than all being nestled into the same section of the office, groups are split up between a central hub and satellite locations, making communication and collaboration more difficult.
There are a number of elements business leaders need to consider in order to properly support this new team model. Many organizations are trading traditional corner offices and cubicles for open spaces and bookable desks. Conference rooms are being equipped with video and audio conferencing equipment so that remote teammates aren’t left out of important meetings.
Leaders also need to have team-by-team conversations about expectations and guidelines for how to make this model work. I personally prefer my entire department being in the office on the same days, to maximize the opportunity for face-to-face collaboration and group brainstorming. What are your expectations?
Of course, supporting hybrid teams also requires an appropriate investment in technology and digital infrastructure. The adoption of cloud collaboration technologies like Webex and Microsoft Teams has been an essential piece of the puzzle for most organizations. These kinds of tools kept people connected when we were all remote, but they’ll remain essential as we venture into this new hybrid era.
Why Go Hybrid
There are many reasons businesses are going hybrid these days. Modern employees are looking for a balance between the community of the office and the flexibility of remote work. As we enter what some are calling the Great Resignation, business leaders are hoping to retain their employees and reignite the culture that was often subdued by the pandemic. One of the most obvious ways to do so is to offer flexible work arrangements.
Of course there’s also the financial considerations. Organizations can now spend less money on office space, supplies and bandwidth if they’re not at full capacity every day. This leads to a lot of operational cost savings.
There’s no question that the future of business hinges on your ability to adapt to new styles of work. In the post-pandemic, post-lockdown, post-remote era, hybrid is the way forward.