As society reopens its doors, many companies are pondering the future of their work environments. And more and more, that future is a hybrid one.
This is hardly surprising considering that 85% of employees currently working in hybrid workforces want it to continue, according to McKinsey. Interestingly, it’s especially popular among traditionally underrepresented groups, which also have strong DE&I benefits.
With hybrid work environments fast becoming a long-term reality over a short-term fix, you’re likely wondering what you can do to ensure this transition is seamless and successful.
The good news? You’re in the right place.
In this blog, we provide you with a deep dive into the hybrid work model — examining what it is, the markers for success, and a framework to provide you with guidance.
What is a hybrid work model?
Hybrid work models combine in-office and remote work, allowing employees to choose where they want to work. Some companies provide complete flexibility, while others ask employees to come into the office a certain number of days per week.
Of course, hybrid work isn’t a completely new and novel concept. Even before the pandemic, many companies allowed employees to work from home one or two days a week — so parts of this model have existed for a while now.
However, it wasn’t until the pandemic hit that organizations were forced to embrace remote working. The result?
The 6 different types of hybrid work models
There’s no one-size-fits-all definition of hybrid working — or approach to it.
Organizations have complete flexibility to create a model that suits both their and their employees’ needs. As Harvard Business Review puts it, “In any case, depending on the balance needed, a hybrid model is still possible in either an office-centric (work in office > remote work) or virtual-centric (remote work > work in office) manner.”
That said, there are six primary types of hybrid work models:
- Office-centric hybrid: Employees have to come into the office most of the time but can work remotely for a day or two per week.
- Flexible work: Employees can choose to work the majority of the time remotely but still need to go into the office weekly (if only for one day per week).
- Fully flexible hybrid: This approach offers complete flexibility. Employees can work from wherever they want, whenever they want.
- Remote OK: Remote working is possible for some employees, though only with permission.
- Hybrid remote office: Employees can choose between fully remote working or coming into the office occasionally.
- Remote-first: There’s no dedicated office space, and companies expect employees to work remotely.
However, some international organizations have taken things to another level, designing custom global models to fit their exact needs.
The office-centric Large Hubs approach requires employees to come into the office most of the time (though working remotely is occasionally allowed). The Hubs and Satellites model is also office-centric, with a few offices in key global hubs, though with regional specialists in satellites to respond to local needs.
Distributed models leverage distributed workforces based mainly on the cost and availability of talent. This makes it perfect for employees handling high volume, routine tasks that they can complete digitally without face-to-face guidance.
Lastly, the global virtual approach is well-suited for companies with employees spread globally. Remote working is the expectation, though organizations often choose to meet up once a year to forge and strengthen bonds between their staff.
The characteristics of a successful hybrid work model
Every organization has its own goals and success metrics. However, there are some common characteristics that all successful hybrid work models share.
They’re flexible and supportive, with leaders who understand that every employee is different. Some might feel anxious about returning to the office, while others may crave social contact. Certain employees might even want to choose when they work, given they’re juggling busy family schedules on top of their day job.
Good hybrid workplaces support employees in choosing how to manage their own time — provided they get the work done on time.
Unsurprisingly, successful hybrid workplaces are also cloud-first. Cloud-based tools underpin hybrid work models, allowing employees to collaborate, stay connected, and continue their work remotely.
Consider that Microsoft has recently announced it’s updating the Windows operating system to make it more cloud-focused. Being cloud-based is both a prerequisite to hybrid working and a characteristic of a successful hybrid model.
Successful hybrid workplaces also place a strong emphasis on data security. They regularly test, update, and optimize their systems, and teach employees the latest data security best practices.
At Graphite, we work with third-party providers to ensure that our employee and company data is secured and provide IT support as needed.
5 steps for building a successful hybrid work model
Ask employees for their opinion
Consult your team (both full-time and contractors alike) before you impose a working model on them. Ask about their individual preferences and goals before trying to create an approach that works for most everyone.
Don't expect to get it entirely right the first time around. Iterate on an ongoing basis until you settle upon an approach that works. Even then, keep on asking for employee feedback and making the necessary adjustments over time.
Design for equity
Companies must ensure their ways of working are fair and equitable for everyone. Take meetings, for example.
It’s often easier for people to contribute when they’re present in the room — and they might appear more persuasive in person than someone who’s dialing in via Zoom.
That’s why BCG suggests companies either choose to have meetings entirely on-site or remote to “prevent the inadvertent creation of in-groups and out-groups in the hybrid meeting context.”
Think Through Implementation
You’ll need to reinvent and rethink your organization and how your organization will support the hybrid implementation. How can employees learn and develop as effectively when working remotely part of the time?
Consider increasing your skills development and training budget, encouraging employees to spend a portion of the week upskilling.
Likewise, you might need to adjust your tech stack or redesign your office space. For instance, by installing meeting booths where people can hop on calls over Zoom without disturbing their colleagues.
Your policy guidelines should reflect the new hybrid work model while you also need to pay close attention to how everyone’s performing and feeling. Tools like Officevibe, for example, allow leaders to regularly assess their employees’ satisfaction — and take action when required.
Rethink how work gets done in an increasingly project-based economy
An HBR article published in 2021 announced the arrival of the project economy, a new working reality where there will be more project management-oriented roles over static ones. And savvy companies have quickly taken to this new approach as it affords them with the much-needed adapalty and agility organization needed to thrive in today’s uncertain economy.
If that’s not enough to pique your interest, consider this stat.
The value of the project-based economy is expected to hit $20 trillion by 2027. Rethinking how work gets done in a hybrid work environment can pay dividends in the long term — increasing retention as employees attain the meaning they’re looking for in their work.
Reimagine your workforce
The independent workforce is growing, and companies are realizing the strategic value they play in helping them drive growth. Recent research from Deloitte and MITSloan confirms this growing trend, as 74% of business leaders agree that effective management of external contributors is critical to their success.
We’ve seen this uptick in infusing teams with the independent workforce on Graphite, with spend increasing by 170% YoY in 2021. And it's easy to see why. Outside of being a great resource in accelerating the delivery of projects in a project-based economy, the knowledge they bring to your teams is twofold.
For one, they level up the knowledge base of full-time employees assigned to those projects. Second, the outside and seasoned perspective can help drive innovation, enabling you to reach new breakthroughs. And in a hybrid work environment, gaining access to this global brian is easy due to remote work.
Embrace Change To Reap the Rewards
If organizations have learned anything over the past two years, it’s to expect change. But that’s not enough — they must go one step further and embrace it.
The transition to following a hybrid work model won’t necessarily be easy. Companies may encounter stumbling blocks along the way. They might even have to rip up the rulebook entirely, creating customized policies according to their business’s individual needs.
But if they embrace the challenge and get their approach right, the benefits of building a hybrid work model will be enormous.