Is There an Ideal Hybrid Work Schedule?
In 2020, the professional world went through a massive reset.
As a result, we’ve all had to build new processes, and figure out what the future of work looks like. But, the question remains: How often should employees have to come into the office?
The answer to this question will likely vary based on who you ask. One study found that 44 percent of executives who worked remotely during the pandemic wanted to return to the office five days a week. Only 17 percent of their non-executive counterparts said the same. Tech workers in particular love the idea of hybrid work—more than 80 percent of them prefer it to both fully-remote and fully-onsite work.
The numbers get even more fascinating when you break them down by age. According to Business Insider, 41 percent of those aged 50-64 want to work remotely full-time—which makes sense given their liberation from decades of long commutes and sacrificed family time. Conversely, less than 25 percent of those aged 20-29 felt that way, with younger workers striving for mentorship and social connections that come naturally in an office. This trend is corroborated in a report we conducted here at Eden, suggesting the baby boomers indeed prefer remote work than any other generation, while newer entrants in the workforce want in-office time.
Mixing the needs of those who prefer remote work and those who prefer in office can be solved by hybrid work—which grants employees the flexibility to work from home but occasionally convene in a shared workspace. Still, many companies are struggling to establish a cadence that works for everyone.
Here are a few ways to approach establishing a hybrid schedule for your team, and some of the pros and cons.
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1. Complete flexibility
This hybrid work approach puts the choice in workers’ hands. Those who want to work from the office five days a week may do so, while those who prefer the remote lifestyle will only come when requested or required.
The benefit of fully flexible work is that it’s a huge sign of trust in your employees. Companies with this policy, like Twitter, cite their support for workers to choose whichever working location is best for their productivity and lifestyle. This approach also widens your candidate pool to include those who would have a manageable (yet perhaps off-putting) commute to your office, as well as those located in other states or countries.
The downside of this option is that it doesn’t benefit employees who come to the office for face time with their peers. Workers who have returned to their in-person office with this hybrid model have cited their frustration with fewer amenities and interactions, as many of their peers continue to work remotely and plan to do so in perpetuity. For these people who are used to building bonds in-office, this free-for-all can pose challenges when trying to build a company culture.
Should you embrace this model, it would be wise to set a meet-up cadence where employees are required to come to the office for one week every quarter, for example, in order to ensure those who prefer to work around their team can experience that without taking away from the day-to-day routine of remote workers.
2. Set office day
For some people, once is enough.
A once-weekly set office day sees everyone coming in at least one day a week at the same time. The benefit of this approach is that 80 percent of an employee’s week is otherwise fully flexible, yet the team still comes together regularly.
This setup lends itself well to departments that enjoy brainstorming, event nights, and recreating the pre-pandemic office environment, without being too overbearing. Additionally, with this model, offices can even embrace “office shut-down days,” where everyone is required to work remotely on a certain day to cut back on energy and facilities costs.
A major con of this hybrid schedule is how restricting the determined office day can be. Employees might want to take a day off on the set office day, thereby missing their in-person interaction for the week. Additionally, there’s no pleasing everyone. Employees may have obligations near home on the set office day (i.e. a kid’s dance lessons right after school during office days), so being required to come in could cause frustration over the whole setup.
Related content: How Flexible Seating Arrangements Can Improve Your Hybrid Office
3. Split approach
One of the more popular hybrid schedules is a 50/50 approach (well, technically 60/40), with two or three days in the office and the option to work remotely during the remaining weekdays. Tech giant Google recently announced it was utilizing this model, with some U.S. employees being required to come in three days a week.
The split schedule was conceived as sort of a “best of both worlds” approach, with some flexibility being given but a clear expectation being set to be back in the office. This option allows individuals to partake in a thriving office culture with their closest teammates, but plan meetings (and time off) on a schedule that works for everyone involved.
However, it’s not right for everyone. Those who moved out of the city during the pandemic might have longer commutes and would prefer coming in just once a week. It also can restrict some of the perks that remote work offers, like being able to take longer trips that would have otherwise included remote work. Like the “one set day” option,, this model can also create contention if specific days are mandated in-office days, as well as if teams don’t coordinate well and aren’t able to benefit from being in the office together.
4. One day remote
The final approach to hybrid work scheduling is for employees to be able to work outside of the office just once a week.
As restrictive as you can be without requiring a full-time office presence, this model appeals to companies whose workers rely on collaboration and frequent open discussion. Organizations with a strong emphasis on teamwork rather than individual contributions will likely benefit most from this approach.
Although it might be a big change for more traditional companies, affording employees at least one remote day per week has been seen as an attractive benefit even before the pandemic. Nowadays, the majority of workers would require a 20 percent raise in order to work in the office full-time.
The upsides to this hybrid model are the expected benefits from working (mostly) in the office—frequent, natural opportunities for teams to bond, mentorship and easy onboarding for new hires, and a team equipped with the resources than an office has to offer.
The downsides, however, are also the expected drawbacks of being in the office full-time—more time spent commuting, threats to work-life balance, and annoyances with coworkers, to name a few. While some companies see offering one remote day per week as a huge step, some employees will see it as overly-restricting.
Related content: Creating a Diverse Workplace by Promoting Flexibility
The verdict: Which is the best hybrid work schedule?
While it might sound like a cop out, it’s the unfortunate reality: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all best hybrid work schedule. Quite simply, the right hybrid schedule depends on you.
Each organization (and likely each department within an organization) has different requirements and expectations when it comes to collaboration, flexibility, and communication. Some work, by its nature, is so collaborative and sensitive that one remote day each week is a blessing. For dedicated individual contributors who get by with the occasional Slack message and Zoom call, the time spent commuting to the office even once a week might be more trouble than it’s worth.
The truth is that there’s still a lot we’re learning about hybrid work, and right now, it’s worth it for each organization to take the approach that’s best for them. In this time of discovery, taking steps such as surveying your employees on their hybrid preferences, trying different hybrid schedules every 3-6 months, and observing what competitors and similar companies are doing could help your team determine the best hybrid schedule option for success.