How to facilitate a healthy hybrid workplace

Natalie Toniotti
AUTHOR
Natalie Toniotti
    6 minute read

COVID-19 sparked a workplace revolution that has taken the world by storm. Work-from-home and remote work models were initiatives executives were forced to embrace in order to ensure organisations stayed afloat during the pandemic. However, the productivity, efficiency and work-life balance results that these new workplace models introduced have many employees no longer interested in returning to a traditional office environment.

Deloitte surveyed around 50 clients in various industries with varying company sizes and found that over 50% of their employees didn’t want to return to the office and would prefer remote work. Another study found that only 9% of the global workforce ever really expected to return full-time to the office, with 53% of large businesses now anticipating a reduction in their in-office footprint.

The term, ‘a hybrid workplace’ is no longer a theoretical term. Instead, it is almost a mandatory option for businesses that are ready to meet employee expectations. The proof is in the data. A survey of 1,000 employees found that almost 50% of them will look elsewhere for work if their current employers do not adopt flexible work practices. 

Hybrid workplaces are a great way to offer this flexibility, but that’s also not enough. When considering a hybrid work option, understanding what works and what doesn’t for each employee will ensure a hybrid workplace feels balanced, healthy and sustainable for both the employer and employee.

In this blog, we explore the different hybrid work models, the benefits and how to facilitate a healthy hybrid workplace environment.

What are the different hybrid work models?

The pandemic saw remote work models take centre stage as the way of the future, however, hybrid workplaces are starting to creep up as preferred work options. Why? Well, there is the option in some to work remotely and come into the office as the employee/employer relationship sees fit. This makes workplace practices more personalised and can improve employee satisfaction and foster higher productivity levels. 

Examples of popular hybrid work models include:

  • At-will model: employees can come into the office as they see fit or out of their own will as the name suggests.
  • Split-week model: an employee's working week is split into days they come into the office and remote working days; this can be different week to week or stuck on a schedule. 
  • Shift-work model: businesses create rosters where one employee may work morning shifts and another afternoon or evening. This can be rotated and moved around to fit employee needs through open communication with their employers. 
  • Week-by-week model: employees can go into the office one week and the next work from home. This can be particularly beneficial for employees who work quite far from the office and can save on transport or commuting costs.

What are the benefits of a hybrid workplace model?

What the pandemic showed us was that employees are able to remain productive regardless of where they work. This led businesses to investigate other work practices that could keep this going long after the pandemic has passed: enter a hybrid workplace model and the benefits they bring to the table.

Increased productivity

Remote working allowed employees to work when they felt the most productive. Instead of the usual 9-5 work hours, employees could get their work done at times that worked for them. Some felt more productive in the mornings and chose to work and finish earlier. Others, who found themselves to be night owls, chose to start working around lunch or later in the afternoon. A hybrid workplace model can open discussions between employees and their employers on what works best on both sides to find a healthy middle ground that fosters productivity.

A better work-life balance

The pandemic led to many realisations and epiphanies on how employees wanted to live their lives and how much of it should be consumed by work. A commute to and from work can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour or two for some people. Remote work allowed employees to grab those minutes back in their day and enjoy more personal time as a result. Hybrid work practices can have employees using at-home days to schedule breaks to complete any personal requirements like school drop-offs and appointments thanks to the added time in their day.

Foster collaboration and creativity

Coming into the office on whatever schedule an employee and employer agree on can make it almost an exciting part of their week or day. A refreshing change of scenery; the same can be said for work-from-home days. Working in the office can be seen as collaborative days where employees get to catch up with colleagues and inject creativity into their teams. Meetings can be planned around these days to further capitalise on this buzz and brainstorming or training sessions are other ways to do the same. This can help reimagine how the office is set up like the addition of group workspaces or a more creative use of space that no longer has a person or team in 24/7.

Less sickness

One sick person in an enclosed space is bound to lead to increased sickness rates; take the spread of the pandemic as an example. Instead of employees having to come into the office to work and soldier on when ill, remote work options allow the same people to get the rest they need from the comfort of their own homes. This also helps reduce transmission amongst their colleagues.

Lower overheads

Hybrid workplaces mean fewer people in an office environment at any given time. You won’t necessarily have the office working at 100% capacity anymore and that means no need to maintain the additional space and infrastructure that no longer is being used. McKinsey & Company has reported that rethinking a workplace strategy can lower real estate costs by 30%, with the opportunity to develop fit-for-purpose space designs leading to smaller physical footprints.

The ability to hire and retain global talent

Factors such as The Great Resignation have made it even tougher to recruit and retain top tier talent. Now more than ever, businesses need to offer potential and existing staff more attractive reasons to stay. Having one office in one location that everyone must report to significantly narrows the talent pool, with more and more people demanding positions that provide them with the flexibility that comes with hybrid workplace models. Remote work options also mean the search for talent can be expanded to interstate and even global markets, like the Philippines.

How to facilitate a healthy hybrid workplace?

Anyone can write out a bunch of guidelines and processes and distribute them to the workforce. It takes effort to ensure these processes are fostering a healthy workplace environment. Here is what you can do to identify issues and ensure your team is prioritising their mental health in the new hybrid world.

Be empathetic

Communication and understanding is a must in any large scale business transition. Do your employees have everything they need to be productive and happy in a hybrid work model? Do they need any increased levels of support and if so, what kind? Juggling remote work and office visits can be a challenge, especially if employees are based in different locations feel segregated or less valued than other colleagues.

Establish trust

The new modern currency in business is trust, especially when you are introducing new policies and procedures that are different to what employees have gotten used to organising their life around. Micromanagement is not the answer. Give your employees the flexibility they need to adapt to a change in environment and you’ll likely see productivity levels unaffected or even increase as a result.

Encourage purposeful meetings

Meeting fatigue is one of the greatest risks of the hybrid workplace model. The overuse of cloud communication tools such as Zoom can often find employees frustrated as their day gets filled up with meetings that may be better addressed in a quick email. Leaders need to ask themselves if a meeting is really necessary before anything else. If it is, only invite those who need to attend, create and share an agenda in advance and take detailed minutes to be shared with those not invited or unable to make it.

Ensure quality tools are available

Few things can make an off-site employee feel more disengaged than not having the tools they need to do their job. Hybrid workplaces can operate seamlessly but only if companies invest in the technologies that enable it, such as communication tools and on-site video conference equipment. Inter-office communication should also not be left to chance. Work with staff to develop company-wide practices that set clear expectations on how on-site and external employees will communicate across locations and time zones.

The hybrid workplace is undoubtedly here to stay and the various models are only going to get more refined off the back of such learnings. Every revolution presents challenges and unique hurdles but in the modern workplace, identifying what they are and how to clear them is the key to ensuring a happy, engaged and productive workforce.

Your guide to transitioning to a hybrid work model

Businesses of all sizes - from SMEs to large organisations - moved to a work-from-home model at the height of the pandemic. But now, staff are gradually returning to the office, whether that be in a full-time or hybrid capacity. If health and safety were the key drivers for sending staff home, they need to also be the key considerations in this transition back into the office. So, how can you ensure that you manage this process both safely and efficiently? We have put together this simple checklist to help.

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