How to Build a Hybrid Workplace in 2020
The pandemic has changed vast facets of our personal and professional lives. While some are looking forward to the time when they can return to physical offices, many others like the flexibility of working from home. According to one study, 62% of those employed have worked from home during the crisis, while around 25% did so just a couple years ago.
Work from Home Cannot be Stuffed Back into the Bottle
Before the pandemic, a portion of businesses and entrepreneurs had embraced a new philosophy of work and workspace. Digital innovation over the past decade creates opportunities for remote work that is highly productive and flexible. Work takes place in various settings, and the 9-to-5 workday has been deconstructed. Additionally, as a result of a workforce that suddenly had no choice but to work remote, those who still believed that productive work can only be done from a physical office and that workers simply cannot be trusted to fulfill their responsibilities have discovered that their premises were based fallacious assumptions.
A number of different studies have been produced during the pandemic on work from home, and they almost all resoundingly indicate that the majority of workers are more productive and work more hours when working from home. McKinsey, for example, found that 80% of professionals like working from home and that 41% of them are more productive—with another 28% saying they are just as productive. Workers are achieving better work-life balance and have been liberated from long commutes that create traffic congestion and pollution.
Businesses are realizing benefits as well. It is easier to attract hard-to-find talent and tap remote talent pools. They also are finding that work from home offers new ways to create an even stronger culture. And having discovered that remote employees are productive and collaborative and moreover many employees will be reluctant to return to permanent offices and workspaces after the pandemic is over, businesses are reevaluating their real-estate investments and leasing to reduce costs.
Hybrid Workplace of the Future
But this does not mean that office space will go away altogether. There is something to be said about physical interaction, and every organization and culture is different—not to mention every individual worker. While many are thriving by working from home, others are struggling. Some are getting mentorship and participating in important business conversations. But others are missing out on these.
Many industry experts anticipate how work is done and the role of the office and workspace will look different—both compared to how it looked like during the pandemic and what it resembled before. Regardless, the genie is out of the bottle, and those wishing to return to how it was before will discover that it is almost impossible to stuff the genie back in. Instead, a hybrid workplace model will become the norm.
How to Build a Hybrid Workplace
For those entrepreneurs and businesses not already thinking about what that hybrid workplace model looks like, you need to begin. Getting there will not happen overnight and, as McKinsey advises, it will require exceptional change-management skills and constant pivots based on how well the effort is working over time.”
Those businesses that are typically on the leading edge of change are well into this transformation. Consider just a handful of examples:
• Twitter is giving most employees a choice to work from home or an office
• Facebook extended remote work for its workforce through July 2021 and is permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote positions
• Okta and Box both announced plans to move to a more agile, hybrid workplace
It isn’t simply these digital innovators. In a recent study conducted at the beginning of the pandemic, Gartner found that three-quarters of companies plan to shift at least 5% of their workforce to permanent remote roles. Over 20% of plan to shift over 20% of their pre-pandemic workforce to permanent roles.
So, what are some of the things that businesses need to do in order to build a hybrid workplace?
1. Rethink Company Culture
Many organizations—big and small—have significant investments in building a culture that resonates with their workforce. Building and sustaining a company culture in a hybrid workplace requires different activities and even measurements. Make sure company values are incorporated into candidate interviews and new-hire onboarding. This will help inculcate your company culture form day one. Establish digital peer-to-peer recognition and call these individuals out in regular communications. Speaking of communications, use them—whether email, messaging, or the intranet—to instill ongoing messages around your company culture.
2. Hire and Train Good Managers
Not every manager may excel in a hybrid workplace. Determine what attributes are important and evaluate existing managers based on those and vet new ones during the interview process based on those. Learning to manage in a hybrid workplace does not happen automatically for most, and businesses need to think about training and mentoring programs to equip their managers with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.
3. Document Policies and Best Practices
Nearly all organizations have documented policies around on-site workplace requirements. Many organizations probably do not have the same for those working from home and/or utilizing coworking spaces and day offices. HR organizations need to work with managers to codify a set that makes sense for their unique circumstances—geographically, per department, and per individual workers. At the same time, as the hybrid workplace may be new to many organizations and workers, taking time to celebrate milestones and successes is important.
4. Acquire the Right Digital Technologies
Having the right digital technologies in place is critical for a hybrid workplace. Video conferencing should be the norm for everything from one-on-one interactions to large team meetings. As the McKinsey researchers indicate, “In-office videoconferencing can no longer involve a group of peoples staring at one another around a table while others watch form a screen on the side.” Slack, Microsoft Teams, or other messaging solutions should be made available to all employees and regularly used to facilitate collaboration and interactions. Project management tools like Workforce, Jira, and others are even more important to use in a hybrid workplace.
5. Classify Workers for Workplace Categories
Organizations need to evaluate different roles across departments and geographies and to categorize them into different workplace segments. Some roles can function 100% of the time remotely without any impact on performance. Other roles require some on-site, physical interaction in order to be successful. Still others may need to be on site. Workplace segments might resemble the following:
• Fully remote role (net value-creating outcome)
• Hybrid remote (net neutral outcome)
• Hybrid remote by exception (net negative outcome but can be done remotely)
• On site (not eligible for remote work)
In addition to evaluating each role, organizations need to evaluate each worker—both those interviewing for a position and those in current roles—to determine into what workplace segment they fall.
6. Redesign the Current Workplace
The workplace prior to the pandemic may not work for a hybrid workplace. With a segment of workers working on site only some of the time, collaboration becomes a crucial requirement. Thus, organizations may find that they have too many workspaces and not enough collaboration rooms. Businesses need to ask themselves what percentage of their workplace should be comprised of meeting rooms, coworking space, and dedicated offices.
7. Leverage On-demand Coworking and Meeting Space
Before the pandemic, growing numbers of organizations were embracing on-demand workplace options. For some small businesses, the need to invest in permanent office space simply wasn’t there. Coworking spaces, rented meeting rooms, and day offices were a more affordable and flexible option. Others saw this on-demand workspace as a means to easily and quickly expand into new locations and to recruit and retain talent in an area of town that necessitated a long commute to their permanent office location.
The importance of these on-demand workplaces such as Davinci Meeting Rooms will likely grow significant as more organizations embrace hybrid workplaces.
Crisis Precipitates Transformation to Hybrid Workplace
Sometimes it takes a crisis to precipitate needed change. In the case of the modern workplace, the pandemic has done precisely that. As businesses begin to bring their employees back to their permanent offices and workspaces, they need to ensure they are both safe and productive. Indeed, a well-thought and executed hybrid workplace strategy can produce a long list of positive outcomes. But this requires transformation thinking grounded in what is best for the organization and its employees.