What is a Hybrid Office? What you Need to Know
What is a hybrid office?
A hybrid workplace typically means that employees have some degree of flexibility of working from the office or working remotely. The exact ratio of days in the office versus days remote will vary, but a workplace that allows for some hybrid mixture of where people work is a hybrid office. Hybrid offices also typically have different types of spaces for different types of work. Unlike a "traditional" office where each employee has a dedicated desk, hybrid offices allocate space for different types of work (solo, quiet work versus more boisterous collaboration spaces). Employees are empowered to select the space that works for their work.
What to Consider When Implementing a Hybrid Office
The hybrid office is different than a traditional office where all employees come to the same desk five times per week. When thinking about implementing a hybrid workplace for your company, there are considerations to keep in mind.
Think Through Your Attendance Policy
Every hybrid office might look different, but it is important to define what a hybrid office means for your team. For some companies, it could mean that employees work four days per week from the office and one day from home. Other companies might split the company into A and B groups, and alternate by day. Some companies don’t have any specific rules and people can just reserve a desk as they please. The expectations of when to be in the office might even vary between teams within the same company. Furthermore, some companies might have dedicated desks, and other companies might adopt a shared desk environment. What is important is that your workplace and executive teams have defined your company and team-specific policies. Even more important is communicating any new expectations and policies with the full team. Employees are eager to know what the future of their office will look like. In this dynamic environment, the more you can communicate expectations with your employees, the better.
Think Through the New Office Layout
The hybrid workplace might also shift how the office is designed and used. Construct a layout that fits the goals of how you want your employees to use the space. Depending on how often each employee will work from the office, you might not need a dedicated desk or cubicle for each person. Some companies are also considering a hub and spoke model where they have a smaller office footprint for their HQ and adding additional smaller “spoke” offices as a result of the increasingly hybrid world.
If you do implement a free addressing system, do you want desks to be first come first serve (hot desking) or do you want a system where employees can reserve a specific spot, next to other members of their team (hoteling)?
Consider a layout that enables different types of work to be done in different parts of the office. Not all types of work are the same, and allocating specific space for specific types of work will help employees be more productive during their time in the office. At a minimum, think about creating spaces specifically for team collaboration and social interactions, as well as quiet and deep-thinking spaces.
How Will Collaboration Work in the Hybrid Environment?
A hybrid office does add complexity to the workplace. Teams will benefit from proactively thinking through all aspects of the new collaboration in a world where employees will be both in-office and remote. Meetings will be different. A hybrid office likely needs to be remote-first for at least large meetings, as a meeting with partially in-person and partially online participants can create challenging audio issues. This can be overcome with a well-designed IT setup for in-person meetings, but this will likely require coordination and investment for IT teams. Creating clear meeting agendas and assigning a note-taker will also benefit collaboration in a hybrid world.
Some teams are setting a block of core working hours where all employees are expected to be available. This can help create more synchronous collaboration, even if employees are not physically all together in the office.
The New Employee Experience
In a hybrid workplace, the employee experience is created across many locations, from the office to the home and the coffee shop. The most important aspect of the employee experience is listening to what your employees need! Make sure employees have an outlet to share their feedback and make requests, no matter where they are working from. And be sure to prioritize communication across channels that everyone can access. Employees should be aware of company updates, team goals, and expectations. The new hybrid world is increasingly asynchronous, and as a result, over-communication is key.
While a lot of the tactical logistics of working might change in the new hybrid world, the core of what matters most remain the same. People want to be efficient and productive, and people want to spend time together in real life. Your hybrid workplace goals can unlock more employee flexibility and happiness if you plan ahead.