Hybrid working is redefining office culture and the work-life balance. Fast-tracked by the pandemic, a hybrid working model combines remote, semi-remote and traditional office working.
What if we could have everything we miss about the office (social connections, effective collaboration, reliable internet connection, too many birthday cakes) and combine it with the benefits of remote working (minimal distractions, comfort-based work attire)? A hybrid model allows companies to pick and choose the best of both worlds.
So, what does hybrid working mean? This working model takes the best bits of remote working and home working, which, when planned and managed well, can hugely impact the output of a workforce. Hybrid working requires a safe office designed with its workers and their output in mind, with measures in place to help workers stay happy and healthy (and, as a result, work better).
To avoid any confusion between buzz words, flexible working is an approach that supports employees and their needs. Remote working is a form of flexible work where you can be based entirely outside an office. A hybrid working model is a blend of office and remote work.
In this guide, we’ll examine what hybrid working means, the trends in hybrid working in the UK, and look at how to establish a successful hybrid team, bridging the gap between remote and office-based work.
What is hybrid working? The features of a hybrid working strategy
If one thing’s for sure, it’s that flexible working is here to stay. The pandemic has impacted how we think about work, especially where we work.
Rather than being a place teams have to go to every day, the office is now seen more as a place to collaborate, socialise, be creative, and offer a dedicated workspace away from home for people who don’t have a good set-up.
The solution may be ‘hybrid working’, a term describing splitting time between the office and remote work. It isn’t a completely new model, but it’s been accelerated by the pandemic and the acknowledgement that some types of work can be done just as successfully from home.
A hybrid working model allows employees to work flexibly without sacrificing the opportunity for teams to collaborate and socialise. For many, hybrid working offers the best of both worlds. In fact, we’ve seen many of our members adopt it, using their offices 3 days a week on average. To tap into hybrid working, many businesses are turning to more flexible workspace solutions, such as coworking or managed offices, instead of inflexible long-term leases.
In what’s still a changing world of work, the best thing about hybrid working is its flexibility. There are many different approaches: for some businesses, it might be mandatory for employees to come in 3 set days each week, while others will make it entirely employee-led. It’s all about deciding what’s best for you, your business, and your team.
What are hybrid working hours?
Hybrid working doesn’t mean your employees are working fewer hours. It just means fewer hours are spent in the office. The rest of the working week is spent working from home or remotely.
This can be adapted to suit your company, but if it’s not something you’ve explored before, it’s worth reading up on other approaches. Here are some examples of what a hybrid model could look like.
Hybrid working model examples
- Small business with 10 employees, who are all based within commuting distance
- The team can feasibly work from home, but benefit from spending time together in the office too
- Management ask the team to come into their office on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday each week, Tuesday and Friday are optional but the office is open
- Their office can accommodate 10 people, so there is no need to rotate teams
- On days spent in the office, they go for team lunch weekly, and organise meetings so they are in person, not virtual
- They choose to work in a coworking space for the perks and social events, enabling them to network with other companies
- Small business of 20 employees, based in two locations
- The team can feasibly work from home, and because they are spread quite far apart, are used to communicating virtually
- They choose a coworking space with several locations so that their team have access to workspaces nearby
- Their strategy is employee-led; the team can use the space or work remotely whenever suits them
- The only exception is that they have fortnightly meetings with the whole team at one of the locations
- Medium-sized business of 65 employees, most are based within commuting distance
- The team can work from home feasibly but benefit from spending time together in the office
- Not everyone can easily get to the office and so some prefer working remotely
- They occupy an office in a coworking space for 30 people
- Leadership decide to leave it up to individual team leaders to decide how often their team should come in, and complete a weekly sheet to ensure there are not too many people in the office at one time
- On average, employees visit the office twice per week
- On days spent in the office, they organise all team catch-ups and meetings
- Large business of 500 people based all around the world
- A smaller team of 45 are based in the UK and generally prefer to work in person
- Company chooses an office for 20 people, and also supplies hot desking passes so that no-one is without a workspace if they would like to use one
- The UK team organise regular socials and monthly all-hands in-person events to bring the team together
Hybrid working in the UK
According to YouGov surveys and CIPD research, in the post-pandemic world, the majority of UK workers want to continue working from home at least some of the time. This means a shift for employers as to where and how to create a base for their teams.
There are a number of benefits of hybrid working for UK employers. From downsizing of office space to reduced general overheads, this opens up opportunities for investment of cash elsewhere, this could be in new talent and business innovation. Less money spent on rent, utilities, furniture and cleaning can mean more capital for growth.
For employers, flexible teams are happy teams, and happy teams mean increased staff retention, higher levels of productivity and a more engaged workforce.
Employees that have a good work-life balance are happier, healthier, and will inevitably have a more positive impact in their role. Challenges often result in job hunting, such as a change in location or an inability to balance work and home, are removed. Your employees can change and grow with your workspaces adapting around them.
Plus with a hybrid model, centralised technology means your workers could, in theory, be anywhere in the world in any time zone. Suddenly, you have the potential of a global workforce in different markets to grow your business, with a centralised base that stands as the visual headquarters and collaborative hub for your operation. Employers also have access to a talent pool with specialised skills, saving time and resources usually spent on training.
According to a 2021 Microsoft report, 73% of employees surveyed expressed a desire for flexible remote work options post-pandemic, and 66% of businesses said they were considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. So it’s clear – hybrid working models are definitely worth considering.
Creating a hybrid working strategy
Now you know what hybrid working is, you may be on board for a hybrid working strategy… now what? With so many different approaches, it’s important to think through your strategy before launching into it. As a starting point:
- Survey your employees– Before you even begin creating a hybrid working strategy, find out what your team wants. It’s important to take feedback into account and not make any assumptions. While studies show that employees favour hybrid working, it could be more or less so for your team.
- Evaluate your workspace– You may already have an office in place from pre-pandemic. If not, it’s worth thinking about the type of space that best suits your needs. Consider:-
- How many employees are you likely to have in the office at any given time, and what would be the maximum capacity?
- Do you need to have a dedicated desk for every employee, or can they move around? (This could help you save space)
- Would every employee be there for the whole day, or could you have one desk serve two members of staff, one in the morning and one in the afternoon?
- Do your team have all the equipment and support they need to work in the office and/or remotely?
- Confirm your policy – Do you know that you want the team in the office on certain days, or is this up to each department? Or is it up to each employee? Whichever route you decide, you need to make your policy clear. If you’re setting a whole-company rule to come in 3 days per week, which days? If it’s up to each department, is everyone clear on how to manage this so you don’t overfill your office? If it’s employee-driven, are there any days they do need to be in that must be communicated?
- Be transparent – We’re still living in uncertain times, so communication is absolutely key. Ensure your employees know when they have to be in the office and who will be there. Keep them updated with any changes.
- Create feedback loops– Hybrid working is brand new to most businesses, so keep getting feedback from staff, department leaders and senior management on whether they think your policy is working. Take their feedback into account and keep iterating your policy until you have a strategy that works for you.
How to make hybrid working successful
Expectations, workspace considerations, and clear boundaries are crucial to achieving successful hybrid working. Sharing detailed policies on remote and flexible working and ensuring staff teams are on board with these is the first step towards a hybrid utopia.
Flexible working can apply to both remote and hybrid initiatives, with time spent considering how to make new policies accessible and feasible. This includes flexibility regarding where and when work happens and how. It relies on a culture of trust, transparency, regular communication and aligned expectations to work to its full advantage.
One of the most important aspects of successful hybrid working is the workspace itself.
What is a hybrid working office space?
A hybrid workforce looks like a pool of talent working remotely, with an in-person office as the hub of the business. It focuses on team member experience, with networks and communication at its heart, but with flexible delivery. So, a physical space needs to be designed around changing employee needs, with options for a hot desk, set office space and flexibility of use.
A great office space for hybrid working will include technology to make sure your team feel seen and listened to, making use of your physical space for in-person meetings and collaboration, rather than non-stop Zoom meetings. Another hybrid working trend is putting safety first, so make sure your spaces are well-designed and easy to use and can create an oasis away from hectic home life.
In a time of hybrid working, physical offices need to act as a hub to bridge the gap between digital and in-person work. There’s an opportunity for offices to have a new role in people’s lives, offering fulfilment as a workspace but also as a place for professional and personal relationships to thrive, to top up the interaction we’ve missed out on in the past two years.
Hybrid working will impact work schedules, but also shape the look, feel and functionality of office spaces. They are likely to become more collaborative and more flexible. Businesses ideally need an HQ office where their team can meet, socialise and work together, so spaces that promote conversation and encourage agile working will be most valuable.
How to create a hybrid workplace
Lead from the front
From making use of flexible working policies to establishing boundaries between home and work, those in leadership roles must set a strong example for staff teams.
Invest in your surroundings
The physical office needs to be a place where people want to work, which means light, space, style and options for quiet, collaborative and social working spaces.
Networking is still fundamental
With hybrid working meaning less time spent in the office, it’s easy to forget the important role of networking. Creating opportunities to connect with others in the company and industry is key to keeping employees engaged.
Use the office as a social hub
The shared knowledge, behaviours and skills of a team result in productive, collaborative working. The decline in social interaction since the pandemic should be counteracted with quality social time and support to rebuild connections.
Create flexible policies
As your employees’ personal and work lives change, how, where and when they work should be able to keep up. Checking in with teams and listening to what they need, with agile policies to support this, is key.
Want to speak to an expert about your hybrid working strategy?
As remote working has become the norm over the last year, businesses have adjusted policies that will again need to be reassessed for hybrid work. This new model opens up a huge opportunity to reduce overheads and create a happy, healthy workplace.