The debate between onsite and remote work continues, even as the digital landscape rapidly evolves. Enter the hybrid work schedule—a flexible fusion of office and remote work, touted as the ultimate answer to overcoming the hurdles posed by both approaches.
Gone are the days when knowledge workers were tethered to their desks five days a week. Does location matter if employees can achieve their goals without being physically present?
Conversely, remote work offers employees flexibility, seemingly without sacrificing productivity. However, a fully remote workforce can face its own set of collaboration challenges.
What exactly is a hybrid schedule? How can it benefit your organization, and what obstacles might you encounter? Most importantly, how can you ensure your hybrid model thrives?
Let's take a deeper dive into these questions and more, unveiling the secrets to mastering the hybrid work schedule!
What is a hybrid work schedule?
A hybrid work schedule refers to a flexible working arrangement that strikes a balance between onsite and remote work, creating a tailored approach to individual and organizational needs.
Until recently, most knowledge workers in Western countries adhered to the traditional 40-hour work week, making their way to an office five days a week, typically from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We’ll use the term onsite to describe an arrangement in which workers are expected to be in person 100% of the time.
On the other end, fully remote organizations do not expect employees to work onsite. Sometimes, the company may not even have a physical office location. Remote workers usually enjoy greater flexibility over their schedules, although most remote organizations still expect employees to work during specific core hours.
A hybrid work arrangement bridges the gap between these two models. In a hybrid environment, employees are expected to report to an office part of the time while also working remotely for a portion of their workweek.
Hybrid ≠ alternative
In an alternative work schedule, employees have the ability to modify the number of hours, days of the week, or times of day that they typically work. The 9/80 work schedule is an example of an alternative work schedule that may be performed onsite, remotely, or in a hybrid environment.Learn more
Are there different types of hybrid schedules?
Hybrid work schedules offer a middle ground between onsite and remote models, allowing organizations to tailor their implementation to best suit their needs.
Here are a few examples of how organizations may choose to deploy hybrid work schedules:
- Fixed onsite days: Requiring staff to spend a certain number of days onsite per week or month (e.g., the team should work from an office location once a week).
- Designated onsite days: Specifying which days staff should work onsite. This can be an organization-wide requirement or vary by department (e.g., the team works onsite on Tuesdays and Thursdays).
- Role-based hybrid schedules: Requiring staff with specific job functions or in certain office locations to report onsite, while those who can accomplish their work remotely are exempted (e.g., facilities staff must report in person, but the finance department can work from home).
- Flexible hybrid schedules: Encouraging or simply giving staff the option to work from an office location rather than mandating that they do so.
Organizations can strike the right balance between in-person collaboration and remote work flexibility by adopting one of these hybrid schedule variations or creating their own unique approach.
How did the hybrid trend start?
The hybrid work trend can be traced back to instances where employees had the occasional flexibility to work from home, even when their primary work arrangement was onsite. Although not formally recognized as a hybrid schedule, this arrangement laid the groundwork for the future.
The dominant onsite work paradigm meant occasional remote work didn't require extensive organizational planning. However, employees working from home during these times often felt like they were missing out on office happenings.
The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic triggered a broader shift towards remote work. Knowledge workers found themselves adapting to a fully remote work environment, often without much time to prepare. The unique circumstances of the pandemic, combined with the need to care for family members, further complicated this transition.
As the pandemic escalated and employees began returning to the office in stages, it became clear that a complete return to pre-pandemic work arrangements was unlikely. Both employers and employees recognized the value and potential of hybrid and remote work models, leading to their widespread adoption and solidifying their place in the future of work.
Five benefits of hybrid work schedules
Hybrid work schedules provide several advantages compared to both 100% onsite and remote arrangements:
- Time and cost savings: Employees save on commuting time and costs, while companies can reduce utility and building maintenance expenses.
- Enhanced flexibility: Employees value flexibility in their work arrangements, making hybrid schedules more attractive to potential hires. This flexibility can also help employers attract a diverse pool of applicants, leading to a variety of perspectives that drive better business outcomes.
- Expanded talent pool: Companies can access a more extensive and diverse talent pool by allowing employees to work remotely part of the time, removing geographical barriers, and enabling hiring from a broader range of locations.
- In-person collaboration: Hybrid work schedules create opportunities for face-to-face collaboration and team building, allowing employees to forge connections outside their day-to-day tasks.
- Increased employee retention: Studies indicate that employees with at least one friend at work are less likely to leave an organization, and hybrid schedules allow these relationships to develop through in-person interactions.
Challenges associated with hybrid work schedules
While hybrid work schedules offer numerous benefits, they also present some challenges compared to onsite and remote models:
- Compared to a 100% remote environment, hybrid work schedules may reduce employee flexibility and time/cost savings, as employees are still required to commute to the office part of the time.
- Hybrid schedules might limit the talent pool as candidates who prefer fully remote work may choose not to apply. Individuals such as people of color, caregivers, or those with disabilities might be more comfortable working from home or may seek employers offering greater flexibility.
- Organizations may need to invest more time and resources into designing systems that effectively support a hybrid workforce, including technology infrastructure, communication protocols, and facilities management.
- Employers risk favoring onsite employees due to proximity bias, potentially creating an uneven work environment and affecting remote employees' opportunities for growth and recognition.
How to make hybrid schedules work
Once you've decided to adopt a hybrid work model, it's essential to implement it effectively and fairly. Here are some best practices to follow:
☑️ Establish a well-defined hybrid work management system
Leaving decisions about when and how often to come into the office to employees or managers can create confusion and uncertainty, which may affect productivity. Instead, create a clear and consistent set of rules for hybrid work that considers the specific needs of your organization and employees. Consider how to make the best use of in-person time, such as focusing on collaborative tasks, brainstorming sessions, and team-building activities. Although consistency is important, it's also necessary to maintain flexibility to accommodate unique situations and adapt based on lessons learned from your hybrid work implementation.
☑️ Tackle collaboration challenges
Communication can be more challenging in a hybrid work environment as employees cannot easily interact in person. To address this issue, promote a culture of thorough documentation and transparency. This approach helps with communication and encourages employees to think more deliberately when explaining ideas to others.
Asynchronous communication can be especially beneficial in this context, allowing for more thoughtful and organized information exchanges. Float uses Notion to document processes (and we even have a public version of our employee handbook to highlight our company culture).
☑️ Ensure easy access to crucial information and contact details
One common issue in hybrid work settings is that employees might need help finding important information or the appropriate contacts for various tasks. To overcome this obstacle, establish consistent tools and processes that make it easy for employees to access the necessary information. This might involve using a combination of communication channels such as email, Slack, and regular status reports.
Implementing resource planning software like Float can also help keep track of team schedules, capacity, and ongoing projects, regardless of employees' locations. ➡️ Learn more about scheduling work and planning projects in Float.
☑️ Clarify expectations for using communication tools
To avoid misunderstandings and facilitate smooth communication in a hybrid work environment, it's essential to set clear expectations for how employees should use various communication tools. For example, provide guidelines on expected response times for Slack messages, when to use email instead of a chat platform, and how to handle urgent requests. In Float, you can ask team members to add a mark showing which days they're working in the office or remotely.
Often, these norms are not explicitly stated, making it difficult for employees to navigate them in a hybrid or remote setting. Enlisting the help of program managers can be valuable in this context, as they can assist with analyzing, building, and scaling communication processes within the organization.
By following these best practices and continuously learning from your hybrid work implementation, you can create a more effective and inclusive work environment that caters to the diverse needs of your employees. It's important to remain receptive to feedback and be ready to fine-tune your strategy as required to guarantee a thriving hybrid work model!