What Is a Hybrid Office? What You Need to Know to Successfully Go Hybrid

Bri Morgaine
December 28, 2021
hybrid office, remote work, flexible workplace, hybrid workplace

As we enter the new year, it’s clear that hybrid offices are not only here to stay, but have become the preferred approach. But what exactly does it mean to be “hybrid”? And, how do you do it successfully?

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. It’s “hybrid” in the sense that it combines remote work with traditional in-office work. 

The exact ratio of days in the office versus days remote will vary, but a workplace that allows for a 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 may use “hot desks,” where employees do not have assigned seats and choose where to work on any given day. Hybrid offices may also allocate space for different types of work (solo, quiet work, versus more boisterous collaboration spaces, for example). 

Hybrid offices are all about flexibility and allowing your team to do what works for them. Employees are empowered to select the space that works for their work style, or the type of project they’re currently working on. And, a hybrid office allows for the fact that projects and personal needs change, and what works best for your team may vary day by day. 

Before you set up a hybrid office, ask yourself these questions: 

The hybrid office is different from a traditional office where all employees work from a dedicated desk five days per week. When thinking about implementing a hybrid workplace for your company, make sure you start by answering the following questions.

1. What is our 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 come into the office and book a desk as they please. The expectations of when to be in the office might even vary between teams within the same company.

The important thing 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, and getting input from everyone before establishing hybrid processes. Your employees will be happier with a hybrid office setup if you create an attendance policy based around their actual preferences. The more you can communicate expectations with your employees, as well as involve them in the process, the better. 

2. Does our current layout work for a hybrid office? 

The hybrid workplace might also shift how the office is designed and used. So, it’s important to configure 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. 

Before you set up your hybrid office, decide if you plan to use hot desks, if you plan to use a dedicated desk booking tool, if certain departments will be grouped near each other, and so on. (And, keep in mind that hot desking and desk booking aren’t the same thing—you can read more about the differences here.)

Finally, 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. Since the time your team spends working in-office will likely focus heavily on collaboration, brainstorming, team meetings, and so on, make sure your office has plenty of spaces where your team can work together. At a minimum, think about creating spaces specifically for team collaboration and social interactions, as well as quiet and deep-thinking spaces.  

3. How will we collaborate effectively in a hybrid office?

A hybrid office does add a level of complexity to the workplace. Teams will benefit from proactively thinking through all aspects of 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 help keep everyone on the same page, regardless of location.

Some teams set 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, or even in the same time zone. 

Finally, having the right tool set that fits a hybrid environment is key. Since employees can’t drop by each other’s desks on any given day, having a suite of remote-accessible tools and thorough, easily-accessible documentation is vital so that everyone on your team can succeed. Check out our article on the 6 essential types of tools your team needs to set up a great hybrid office to make sure you have the right tech stack in place.

A hybrid office empowers your team

In a hybrid workplace, the employee experience is created across many locations, from the office to the home and the coffee shop. A hybrid office empowers your team to do their best work, wherever they work best. 

The most important aspect of creating a great hybrid office 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 the logistics of running a successful workplace are changing  in the new hybrid landscape, the core of what matters most remains the same. People want to be efficient and productive, and people want to spend time together in real life. With solid planning and communication, a hybrid workplace can help promote employee satisfaction, and empower your team to do their best work. 

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