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Revolutionizing the Workforce: Embracing the Future of Hybrid Working Models

By Michelle Gouldsberry
March 22, 2023
10 minute read

What’s the top internal priority for CEOs in 2023? Attracting and retaining talent. HR leaders who want to help CEOs achieve that goal should focus on developing hybrid working models that produce the best outcomes for their people and the business.

That’s according to recent research from The Conference Board, which found that CEOs in the U.S. and Europe recognize hybrid work’s value — even if they acknowledge that it’s challenging to execute. Meanwhile, 60% of employees surveyed by Gallup in 2022 want long-term hybrid work models. The takeaway is clear:  If you want to find and keep talent, you need to figure out how to make hybrid work inside your organization. Enabling flexibility through hybrid work has become table stakes when competing for top talent.

Not all hybrid work is the same. Learn about the different hybrid working models and how to identify the one that works best for your organization. 

What are hybrid working models, and why are they important?

Hybrid working models are arrangements that allow workers to split their time between home and on-site. These models are increasingly popular as companies seek to benefit from the increased productivity associated with remote work and the team-building advantages of regular face time.

Hybrid work represents a compromise that can help employees enjoy the best of both worlds — the flexibility of working from home and the social and professional benefits of office-based work. According to a recent Gallup poll, 86% of hybrid workers use remote work for independent tasks, especially on projects that require deeper focus. In the office, 60% of hybrid workers prioritize collaborative work with their colleagues. 

Hybrid employees report saving time and money, achieving greater work-life integration, and enjoying more flexibility, according to Ipsos Karian and Box research. They feel more able to try new things, hear more from leaders, and communicate and collaborate more effectively — all of which improve the employee experience and support better business outcomes.

3 types of hybrid work models

There’s no one-size-fits-all hybrid work model. The variations are what make this the most flexible approach to work. 

Remote-first hybrid work model

The remote-first hybrid work model is an organizational structure that encourages employees to work from home most of the time while asking them to commute to job sites periodically. 

Some team members might not have access to convenient transportation or have childcare responsibilities, for example, and appreciate the flexibility of being able to work remotely most of the time while still enjoying occasional office days.

The remote-first model gives companies and employees the benefits of a remote workforce while still allowing for periodic face-to-face collaboration. 

To implement this model in your organization, design and develop all of your policies and processes for a fully remote experience. Keep important documentation and communications in digital spaces, for example, so that everyone has access from any location. That enables inclusion for everyone, no matter where they work most of the time.

Flexible hybrid work model

The flexible hybrid work model is an approach that allows for a variety of working arrangements, including remote, in-office, and hybrid work. 

The flexible hybrid model is easiest to tailor to individual employee needs while providing equal opportunities for all workers. This approach is most effective for primarily asynchronous work, which gives team members more autonomy in choosing when, where, and how they work best.

Office-first hybrid work model

In this model, employees must be physically present in the office on certain days or for certain events, but at other times they are allowed to work remotely. This model is most effective for organizations in which in-person interactions are considered an important element of the culture. 

The office-first hybrid work model provides employees with some flexibility to choose when and where they work while making sure that core team activities remain on-site. Employers should be intentional about designing in-office experiences while being flexible about tasks your workforce can perform from anywhere.

4 advantages of hybrid working models

Better flexibility and work-life integration

Hybrid work provides employees with more flexibility in terms of when and where they work, helping them more easily balance work and personal commitments.

Gallup research found that 71% of hybrid workers reported better work-life balance, and 58% reported lower feelings of burnout. And Cisco concluded that “hybrid work has improved every area of employee performance, work-life balance, well-being, and company culture,” based on a survey of 28,000 workers across 27 markets.

Hybrid working models give employees the flexibility to find the daily rhythms that help them fulfill personal and professional responsibilities.

Improved employee well-being and productivity

With advances in technology, fewer office workers need to sit at a desk in a central office all day, five days a week. This way of working is seen as outdated and detrimental to employee productivity and well-being by many. 

Workers recognized these benefits early in the pandemic. An April 2021 Salesforce survey found that 72% wanted to maintain hybrid’s positive effects on work-life integration, routines, working hours, and worksite flexibility. These respondents also believed that hybrid work arrangements supported increased productivity and wellness. This approach also recognizes that everybody has their own rhythm for optimal productivity. Some people may be most productive in the early morning and late evening, whereas others could benefit more from a flexible schedule that allows them to start a little later in the morning to accommodate school drop-off routines.

Increased business agility and resilience

The ability to work from anywhere at any time helps businesses become more agile, as they can operate even with disruptions to normal working patterns. The COVID-19 pandemic was the ultimate example, as businesses had to quickly close job sites and shift to remote work.

Businesses that adopt hybrid working models are generally more resilient because they’ve already made structural changes to accommodate different working styles.

There are interpersonal and psychological benefits to hybrid working models, too: Research has found that trust and psychological safety are harder to foster in an entirely in-person workplace. Many employees find remote and hybrid work promotes inclusivity, which further supports business resilience.

Higher cost savings and improved sustainability

A hybrid working model can minimize the resources spent on maintaining job sites. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of Fortune 500 CEOs plan to reduce their office footprint, while 80% of chief financial officers surveyed said that they were emphasizing hybrid work.

Many hybrid organizations are turning offices into coworking-style spaces, for example. Such collaborative spaces aren’t meant to accommodate everyone, so you can spend less by not needing a desk for every single person in your organization.

When you offer remote work options, you reduce your carbon footprint from real estate and commuting, which supports environment, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives.

4 common challenges of implementing hybrid working models

By understanding the challenges of hybrid working models and how to address them, organizations can implement structures that meet the needs of the business and workforce. Consider these four challenges many organizations encounter when embracing hybrid work.

Managing change and communication

Helping employees manage the transition to hybrid work is one of the key employer challenges. Communication must start from the top, as leaders clearly explain the goals and benefits of the hybrid model — and how it’ll work. 

HR leaders and managers should follow up by communicating hybrid work policies clearly and offering support and guidance throughout the transition. Create a unified approach to communication, such as regular team meetings and dedicated channels for feedback and suggestions.

Addressing technical and infrastructure considerations

One of the key technical challenges to hybrid working models is making sure that all employees have access to the tools and files they need. Data security and cybersecurity are also paramount, particularly if sensitive data is being accessed and stored on personal devices. Implementing hybrid cloud backup solutions, alongside cybersecurity tools like firewall as a service (FWaaS) and antivirus software is essential to protect yourself from identity theft and other cyberattacks.

Organizations need to consider their network infrastructure and capacity when implementing a hybrid working model. If employees access company resources remotely, then your network needs to be able to handle this increased traffic. Companies might have to invest in additional hardware, such as laptops and printers, if more employees are working from home regularly.

Finally, flexible IT support becomes even more important. Employees will need help troubleshooting any technical issues they encounter, whether they are in the office or working remotely. 

Managing employee performance and collaboration

The shift from fully remote or fully on-site work can be difficult for employees, as their routines are disrupted. One challenge when implementing hybrid working models is maintaining performance and helping workers continue to collaborate despite the changes. 

Managers might not be sure how to manage distributed teams, especially if their experience is solely with on-site employees. Workers might struggle to find time for collaboration if they have schedules that don’t overlap much — and they might not be sure who they need in those collaborative meetings.

Ensuring compliance and data security

Another challenge of hybrid working models is data security, particularly if sensitive data is being accessed and stored on personal devices. With employees working remotely, organizations need to be especially careful that confidential data isn’t accessed or shared without permission, even inadvertently. 

Organizations might have to revisit their policies, training, and technology to meet the needs of hybrid work while maintaining security.

4 best practices for implementing hybrid working models

Shifting to a hybrid work model works best when managed intentionally.

Develop a clear hybrid working policy

Clarity is crucial for effective hybrid working models. Your organization’s hybrid working policy should be clear and concise, outlining exactly what the expectations are across locations.

HR  leaders should ask themselves these questions when establishing hybrid working policies:

  • Which hybrid work model is best for ‌supporting performance and maintaining company culture?
  • What are the benefits for employees and the organization? How’s hybrid work an improvement?
  • What hours are employers expected to work? Are there any limits on where they can work from?
  • How often should employees check in with their manager, and vice versa? 
  • What process should employees follow when requesting remote work? What are the restrictions?
  • How will the organization support remote work, including access to software or other equipment, training, etc.?
  • What is the purpose of in-person work: brainstorming, collaboration, socialization?

Clear and comprehensive hybrid working policies help everyone avoid confusion

Provide appropriate tools

As you draft your hybrid work policy, consider the technology people will need to bring your vision to life. If employees are expected to work remotely most of the time, for example, will the company provide them with basic equipment, such as laptops or tablets? If technical difficulties arise, how should employees seek assistance? Does that process differ on-site versus off-site?

Consider additional tools that support hybrid work, such as videoconferencing, communication, performance management software, and employee experience software. How do these tools fit into the policy outlined above? Use your hybrid work policy as guidance to determine which tools to prioritize and who needs them most.

Encourage managerial support and employee buy-in

Any change management process requires managerial support and employee buy-in to succeed, and hybrid working models are no different. Clearly communicate the benefits of the new model to managers and employees..

Consider testing the hybrid work model within a single team or department. Collect feedback from managers and employees about that experience to learn what your organization needs most from hybrid work. Only then would you roll out the model to the wider organization. 

As the rollout occurs, train managers on how to effectively manage employees in a hybrid work environment. They might need new skills or tactics to effectively communicate with distributed teams. These could include learning how to use productivity-tracking tools or changing how they give feedback over a video call.

Regular check-ins are an important way for managers and their reports to build closer relationships, establish goals, and track progress. These meetings become even more important with hybrid teams so everyone is clear on what needs to be done. Whether at the team, department, or organizational level, establish ground rules for hybrid work, such as the split between on-site and remote work and how performance will be measured. 

Offer employee training and development opportunities

Employees might need new skills to thrive in hybrid environments, and this is where employer-sponsored online courses, webinars, and tutorials can help. Training in communication and collaboration is essential so hybrid teams stay connected and work well together.

Tech-focused training could include guidance on cloud-based applications, videoconferencing tools, and project management software so your workforce stays productive regardless of location.

How modern performance management software supports hybrid working models

Adapting to a hybrid work model can be difficult for employees, and performance management software can help. Consider the following benefits of using performance management software for hybrid teams. 

Enhancing employee engagement and performance

One of the biggest concerns of managers in a hybrid work environment is keeping track of their team’s performance. Performance management software provides clear visibility into goal progress, regardless of where someone is working from. Employees can see how their goals and progress tie into their team’s goals as well as the goals of others across the organization.

By providing a centralized platform for gauging performance, performance management software helps managers more efficiently and easily collaborate even when their team members scattered across locations and time zones. This software helps managers and peers provide real-time feedback that employees can immediately apply. It can also document 1:1 conversations between managers and employees that the employee can use to guide their work.  With agile and matrixed working models on the rise, enabling frequent discussions of progress against targets helps employees stay aligned with strategic goals.

Performance management software can improve engagement by helping employees set performance and development goals and monitor their progress. Getting employees actively involved in goal-setting can be motivating and provide a greater sense of ownership and accountability. Performance management software can also be a platform for recognizing and rewarding employee achievements.

Improving manager efficiency and decision-making

Performance management software generates data that helps managers quickly identify accomplishments and potential issues. Equipped with that data, managers can make better decisions for managing their team’s performance and workload.

Additionally, this software enables productive 1:1 conversations, enabling managers to more effectively coach and develop their hybrid workers through real-time feedback and guidance. 

The right performance management software helps managers create more efficient and effective decision-making processes for managing employees wherever they happen to be working.

Supporting business impact and continuous improvement

Performance management software also helps businesses at the highest levels understand workforce performance, progress against goals, and where improvement is needed. This software also tracks changes over time, helping you see whether your hybrid strategy is paying off.

When businesses have greater visibility into employee performance, they can make better near-term and long-term strategic decisions that fuel continuous improvement.

Hybrid working models empower future success 

The future of work increasingly includes hybrid work because of its flexibility, efficiency, and potential for improving employee engagement, productivity, and retention.

Consider how your workforce can benefit from hybrid working models and how HR can best support this transformation while keeping up with the changing needs of clients, customers, workers, and the economy.

Want to know how to manage employees remotely? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Remote Workforce Management!