The 5 Attributes of a Successful Hybrid Office
We spend a lot of time discussing hybrid work—what it is, why companies care about it, and how to do it right.
Hybrid workplaces have become the go-to strategy for businesses hoping to return to the office in some capacity. The pandemic taught us (and is still teaching us) that we can be productive while working from home, but our research also shows that 85% of employees want to work in an office at least some of the time.
That said, the way you execute your hybrid office will determine its success (or lack thereof). Here are 5 attributes of a functional, enjoyable workplace that you need to have in place if you want to go hybrid successfully.
1. Crystal-clear policies and expectations
Hybrid is new for most employees.
Pre-COVID, finding a remote job was a bit of a unicorn—and often reserved for employees living a digital nomad lifestyle. Working from home sometimes and from an office others wasn’t overly common.
If you want your hybrid office to be successful, you need to establish clear parameters for how hybrid will work for your company.
These expectations and policies should include:
- How often employees are required to work in the office (and if there even is a requirement)
- Which days employees should/shouldn’t work from the office
- If employees need to pre-register before coming into work (and how to do so)
- Any health and safety requirements (do employees need to upload recent negative COVID test information or vaccination status before coming into work?)
- Social distancing requirements and capacity limits
- Protocol for visitors (such as clients, external stakeholders, vendors, family and friends, and so on)
The list goes on—and will vary depending on your office space and team size, your industry, and a variety of other factors.
Ultimately, the most important thing you can do when establishing a hybrid workplace is put clear guidelines in place, and make sure you are surveying your team and assessing their comfort level prior to returning to the office. We’ll discuss some of these elements in more detail in the rest of this article, so keep reading.
2. An inclusive, people-centered environment
When some people are remote and some people are in-office, it’s possible for a two-tier system to emerge where in-office employees have better access to information, executives, and resources than their remote colleagues.
The more intentional you are about designing all parts of the work experience for employees in both environments, the more successful your employees and company will be.
This could look like:
- Making sure your tech works for both in-office and remote employees—this looks like a solid communication tool like Slack, some cloud-based system for sharing documents, using Zoom for all meetings (and having infrastructure to support meetings where some participants will be in-office and some remote), and so on. We’ve written more about the tech stack you need for a successful remote office in this article.
- Surveying your team regularly. Use surveys to get a pulse on how they’re feeling about the current hybrid workplace setup, COVID safety, and more. Since many of your team members won’t be in the office daily (and able to drop by your HR or People Ops department to give feedback), regularly surveying your team is a great way to make sure everyone has a chance to express any needs, and say what’s working and what isn’t.
- Encouraging leadership to schedule regular 1:1s and touch-base type meetings, so that employees who are predominately remote don't miss out on dedicated 1:1 time with their managers just because they see them less often
- Making some of your company-wide events virtual—whether that be your monthly all-hands meeting, or a trivia night.
Map out the employee experience, starting from the very beginning of onboarding, and be proactive about ways to foster inclusivity and equality for all employees. If your office is “hybrid” but really favors employees who spend more time in-office, you risk losing valuable members of your team.
3. Flexible seating arrangements
In addition to thinking through your office policies, it’s also a good idea to rethink your physical office space.
Given that most of your employees will not spend five days per week in the office, it may not make sense to have a dedicated office or desk for each employee.
Your new office layout will likely include some combination of static desks (maybe for your HR team or for certain company executives), reservable “hot desks,” and flexible spaces used for group collaboration, meetings, and so on.
Using a desk booking tool will make it easier for employees to reserve a desk on the go, near teammates they need to collaborate with, or just get a spot near their work friends.
We’ve written about the difference between hot desking, desk hoteling, and desk booking, as well as a deep dive into how hot desking works in the hybrid workplace, so check those articles out for more on how to best configure your physical office space when going hybrid.
4. Defined health and safety precautions
Your team should know that their health comes first, and that you prioritize keeping everyone safe.
No policies should force anyone to come into the office if they are feeling under the weather, or if there has been potential COVID exposure. Make sure that your team is equipped to do their jobs remotely so that they can stay home if necessary—even on a day they had planned to work in-office.
Using a tool to track team safety can help keep everyone safe, as well as lighten the administrative load for your entire team. Eden Workplace’s COVID team safety tool lets you send out health questionnaires, track test results and vaccination status, and conduct contact tracing if anyone on your team does become infected with COVID.
Employees also expect their companies to provide certain pandemic-related protections in the office. In a February 2021 survey of 1,000 office workers, 71% of those surveyed said they expect their employer to provide hand sanitizer, and 61% also expect masks to be provided.We’ve written more about how to prioritize employee safety in your office here.
The bottom line? A successful hybrid workplace requires clear health and safety precautions, and prioritizes employee health over in-office presence. Make it abundantly clear to your team that you would rather they stay home if they are feeling ill or have been potentially exposed.
5. A focus on collaboration and team-building
Think critically about what type of work employees will be doing in the office versus the work people will do at home, and re-design your office to support that structure.
Offices will likely need more areas for meeting and socializing. Given that the new hybrid office is about collaboration, some people might choose to do their individual, head-down work at home, and focus on brainstorming and collaborative work when they come into the office.
Make sure your office is set up to accommodate collaborative work and community-building. This might look like less individual desk areas, and more open spaces where your team can work on a project together (while still being able to spread out and maintain some social distancing).
And, if you do implement hot desking and reorganize your office to favor collaborative spaces, you might also consider providing lockers so employees have a permanent area where they can store personal belongings.
The hybrid workplace brings a new set of challenges for workplace teams to tackle, but it also provides a new opportunity to reset what the office means. Being intentional when creating your hybrid workplace ensures that you build a better place for your team to work, where everyone feels supported, and expectations are clearly defined.