The hybrid working model explained: what is it and how does it work?

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Hybrid working models seem to be the new way to balance work and life. Approaching work life in a more flexible way marks a significant shift in the business world, in which work arrangements are adaptable and sometimes even customizable. This recent approach has taken the business world by storm in the aftermath of the pandemic, marking a significant shift towards more adaptable and flexible work arrangements. According to a survey from Galup, 8 out of 10 people work in a hybrid or remote work setting. And 30% of companies in Europe have adopted some form of a hybrid working model according to Eurostat research. The main reason? 98% of workers have expressed a desire to work at least part of their job remotely.

But what exactly is a hybrid working model, and how to implement it for the workforce of your business? With a variety of models emerging, understanding the nuances is key to successfully choosing such a hybrid working model. This article will dive deeper into the questions and answers surrounding hybrid working models and explain what to do next for implementation.

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What is a hybrid working model?

A hybrid working model is a flexible work arrangement that combines elements of both remote work and traditional office-based work. In a hybrid model, employees have the flexibility to split their time between working remotely (from home or from another location) and onsite at their employer’s office. The essence of the hybrid model lies in its adaptability, offering a better balance that caters to the specific needs of teams and individuals.

Understanding the hybrid working model’s meaning extends beyond its definition; it’s about understanding the shift towards a more dynamic, employee-centric way of organizing work. By adopting a hybrid working schedule, companies empower their workforce. They provide them with greater autonomy and more flexibility, leading to enhanced productivity, job satisfaction, and work-life balance.

In essence, the hybrid working model is an effect of the ever-evolving nature of work, where flexibility and efficiency converge to create a more balanced and fulfilling professional life. Through strategic implementation and optimum usage of technology, businesses can overcome the challenges of hybrid working and, instead, foster a connected and inclusive culture that works in a hybrid setting.

Benefits of the hybrid model

The hybrid working model, a blend of remote and on-site work, offers significant advantages for both employees and employers in the modern work environment.

The above graph from Euronews shows how hybrid working has evolved since Covid.

The hybrid model embraces flexibility and autonomy for employees, allowing them to design a hybrid working schedule that harmonizes with their personal life and professional responsibilities. The freedom to work from various locations, including the comfort of one’s home, not only enhances work-life balance, but also leads to substantial cost and time savings previously spent on commuting.

Employers, on the other hand, benefit from a more satisfied and motivated workforce. Adopting hybrid working model examples translates into cost savings on physical office space and resources, while also broadening their talent pool beyond geographical limitations. The flexibility of the hybrid model reduces absenteeism and boosts productivity, as employees benefit from the social collaborations in office and their focus time at home. Additionally, a hybrid working schedule diminishes office politics and increases loyalty, as employees usually appreciate the trust and autonomy granted to them.

In essence, the hybrid working model is not just a trend but a strategic approach that aligns with the evolving expectations of the workforce and the operational goals of employers. It exemplifies how technology and flexible work arrangements can be used to shape a more satisfied and productive workforce, contributing to more business success and better bottom-line results.

What type of hybrid work models exist?

Understanding the various types of hybrid working models is crucial for organizations aiming to adopt a hybrid working model effectively. These models have important characteristics and differences that define how flexibility is structured, directly impacting both employee work routines and organizational collaboration.

1. The fixed hybrid work model

The fixed hybrid working structure has a predetermined schedule of remote and office days for employees that outlines when they are expected to be in the office and when they can work remotely. This model is designed to offer a consistent and predictable routine, which can significantly enhance team coordination and planning. By knowing in advance who will be in the office on any given day, teams can schedule meetings and collaborative sessions more efficiently, ensuring that all necessary personnel are available when needed. 

Example companies: Google, Microsoft and Salesforce. All have a predetermined number of days to work from the office and the remainder for remote. Note that company policies can change.

Advantages and disadvantages of the fixed hybrid work model

  • Predictability: having set days for in-office and remote work provides a consistent schedule, helping employees plan their work and personal life more effectively.
  • Structured collaboration: knowing when team members will be in the office allows for better planning of collaborative work, meetings, and in-person interactions, potentially enhancing teamwork and project coordination.
  • Work-life balance: employees can enjoy the benefits of both worlds: the social interaction and structured environment of the office, and the flexibility and comfort of working from home.
  • Reduced commute: employees save time, costs and energy on commuting on their remote workdays, contributing to improved well-being and reduced environmental impact.
  • Facility utilization: organizations can optimize office space and resources better by knowing the specific days employees will be on-site.
  • Reduced flexibility: the fixed schedule might not accommodate unexpected personal needs or work demands that could be better addressed with a more flexible approach, for instance mandatory days to be in the office that don’t collide with the school schedule of the employee’s kids.
  • Potential exclusion: there’s a risk that remote workdays might coincide with critical spontaneous meetings or decision-making sessions, possibly leading to feelings of exclusion or missed opportunities for remote workers.
  • Strain on office facilities: if many teams are in-office on the same day, it could lead to peak commuter congestion on popular in-office days.
  • One size fits all: this model may not suit all types of work or employee preferences equally, potentially leading to decreased job satisfaction for those who prefer more flexibility.
  • Office dynamics: the division between in-office and remote days might create a divide in team dynamics, with potential challenges in maintaining a unified company culture.

The flexible hybrid work model

2. The flexible hybrid work model

The flexible hybrid working model empowers employees with the flexibility to decide how they split their time between the office and remote work, based on their personal preferences, work habits, and life commitments. It celebrates autonomy and trusts employees to manage their schedules in a way that maximizes productivity and aligns with team collaboration and objectives. The flexible hybrid model is particularly suited to organizations that value individual choice and recognize the diversity of work styles and personal circumstances among their staff. 

Example companies: Airbnb, Spotify and Slack.

Advantages and disadvantages of the flexible hybrid working model

  • Increased autonomy: employees have the freedom to choose their work environment based on their personal preferences, tasks, and productivity patterns, leading to increased job satisfaction and motivation.
  • Maximize work-life balance: this model allows employees to fully adapt and balance their professional and personal responsibilities, reducing stress and enhancing overall well-being.
  • Enhanced productivity: by working in environments where they feel most productive, whether at home or in the office, employees can potentially deliver higher quality work and be more efficient.
  • Attracting and retaining talent: offering flexibility can make an organization more attractive to potential employees and help retain current staff who value the ability to work flexibly.
  • Reduced office space needs: with employees choosing when to come to the office, companies can optimize office space and potentially reduce real estate and maintenance costs. 
  • Coordination challenges: with employees having varied schedules, organizing meetings and collaborative work sessions can become more complex, potentially leading to delays or miscommunications.
  • Potential for isolation: employees who work remotely more frequently might feel disconnected from their colleagues and the company culture, leading to feelings of isolation. It might even hurt their career development if other employees have more face-to-face contact.
  • Inconsistency in communication: the variability in employee location can lead to inconsistent communication practices, making it harder to ensure that everyone receives the same information in a timely manner.
  • Management difficulty: supervisors may find it challenging to manage and support a team that’s spread out and working on different schedules, potentially impacting team cohesion and accountability.
  • Technology and security concerns: ensuring all employees have secure and efficient access to necessary systems and information can be more challenging when work locations are constantly changing.

3. Office-First Hybrid Model

In the office-first hybrid working model, the office remains the central hub for business operations, with a clear preference for employees to work on-site. While remote work is accommodated, it is generally encouraged for employees to be physically present in the office, especially for key activities such as team specific days, meetings, client interactions, and project collaborations. This model supports businesses that rely and prefer face-to-face interactions and believe in the benefits of in-person exchanges for fostering company culture and relationships and innovation. 

Example companies: Twitter, Disney and Amazon.

Advantages and disadvantages of the office-first hybrid working model

  • Collaboration: working on-site may lead to enhanced in-person collaboration and team dynamics.
  • Company culture: face-to-face interactions usually facilitate a strong company culture and community.
  • Oversight: having the entire team on-site, means there’s direct oversight and  enables providing and receiving immediate feedback on tasks.
  • Limited flexibility: the fully on-site working model limits employees’ work-life balance through the necessity to commute on a daily basis and maintain more strict office hours.
  • Time lost commuting: the office being the main location, requires employees to commute more, which can lead to increased stress and time loss.
  • Higher operational costs: more people in the office requires more office and desk space, which leads to higher facility costs.

4. Remote-first hybrid work model

This forward-thinking model flips the traditional office paradigm, positioning remote work as the default mode for most employees. The physical office still exists but serves more as a satellite space for occasional gatherings, special projects, or for those who prefer an office environment periodically. The remote-first hybrid model is ideal for companies that operate globally or have a workforce spread across various regions, enabling them to tap into a wider talent pool while offering employees the freedom to work from locations that suit their lifestyles.
Example companies: Dropbox, Shopify, Atlassian and Coinbase.

Advantages and disadvantages of the flexible hybrid working model

  • Enhanced flexibility: allows employees to choose their optimal work environment, improving work-life balance and overall job satisfaction.
  • Wider talent pool: companies can hire the best talent regardless of geographical location, increasing diversity and expertise.
  • Cost savings: potentially lower operational costs with reduced need for physical office space.
  • Challenges in collaboration: flexible work arrangements may require extra efforts to maintain effective communication and collaboration among team members.
  • Company culture: it has been proven more challenging to build and maintain a strong company culture without regular in-person interactions.
  • Overreliance on technology: this work model relies heavily on optimum implementation and usage of digital tools for communication, which can sometimes lead to technical issues or cybersecurity risks.

It is important to note that companies evaluate and update their hybrid work policies depending on the workforce and business’ needs. Each of these hybrid working model examples showcase the adaptability of the hybrid approach, catering to diverse organizational and individual needs. The essence of the hybrid working model lies in its adaptability, making it a fitting solution for a wide array of job types, particularly those that are computer-based. The meaning behind this approach is clear: it’s designed to cater to the modern worker’s desire for flexibility, while also meeting organizational goals and maintaining a cohesive team environment. Particularly high growth companies have adopted any of such working models to be more agile and attract a strong workforce.

7 steps to implement or switch to a hybrid working model

  1. Assess the needs of the employees: evaluate the specific needs of your organization and employees to determine the most suitable hybrid model. For instance, companies with a relatively young workforce have higher demands for hybrid working. The same can be said for high growth companies. Consider setting out an employee survey to identify the needs of the staff.
  2. Define the hybrid work policies: create clear policies that outline work location flexibility, expected in-office days, and any role-specific requirements. By doing so, you set clear boundaries of what is expected for the staff. This will also ensure better workspace management.
  3. Upgrade technology and infrastructure: ensure robust IT infrastructure for seamless remote work, including secure access to networks and collaboration tools.
  4. Update the office environment: adapt office spaces to support flexible work arrangements and collaboration for those in the office. This includes choosing the right IWMS and desk reservation tooling.
  5. Train staff: provide training on new tools, policies, and expectations for both managers and employees. 
  6. Implement gradually: start with a pilot program to gather feedback and make adjustments before a full rollout. This reduces employee friction and allows employees to acclimate to new changes.
  7. Monitor and adjust: continuously collect feedback and data to refine the model and address any challenges. The right tools and workplace technology are therefore essential.

Each step is crucial for a successful transition to a hybrid work environment, balancing flexibility with productivity and collaboration.

Technology needs for hybrid working

For a hybrid working model to work effectively, as an organization, companies need to have the right tooling in place:

  • First, companies require communication platforms that seamlessly integrate video conferencing like Zoom, Teams, G Suite; instant messaging like Slack, and collaborative document editing to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration among remote and in-office teams.
  • Second, project management software with task and project allocation, progress tracking, and reporting functionalities is essential to ensure that projects stay on track regardless of employees’ physical locations.
  • Third, cybersecurity tooling and measures should be in place, for instance VPNs, multi-factor authentication, and endpoint security solutions. These tools are important to keep sensitive data safe and mitigate the risks associated with remote work.
  • Lastly, analytics tools that provide insights into employee productivity, engagement, and well-being are indispensable for evaluating the effectiveness of hybrid working models and making informed decisions to optimize workflow and employee satisfaction.

Spacewell’s workplace and hybrid working solutions empower businesses to embrace the hybrid working model, ensuring an environment that values flexibility, efficiency, and employee well-being. By addressing the challenges with our hybrid and workplace management software solutions, we help companies create a more dynamic, inclusive, and productive workplace. Is your organization ready for the continuously evolving and adapting workforce needs?

The hybrid working model has proven its worth through numerous real-world examples, showcasing its adaptability and success across various industries. One top-tier example is Accenture, which leveraged our solutions to effectively manage the hybrid working schedule, ensuring seamless coordination between remote and in-office work. This strategic approach not only optimized occupancy rates but also to identify air quality and improve employee comfort, embodying the hybrid working model meaning in action.

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