The way we work has changed entirely. After three years of back and forth employee habits have changed, and so have their expectations of the office. We've survived makeshift home offices and Zoom fatigue, and have landed at a pivotal moment for the future of workspace.
Many businesses have taken the opportunity to transition to a fully remote workforce, while others have tried to find ways to bring their teams back into the office to reconnect colleagues, align on a shared mission and ultimately drive their business forward.
And while we can't all be certain about what direction the future of work might take the office in next, what we do know is that hybrid working is here to stay. With that in mind, it's important that business owners understand how to make hybrid work.
Done badly, hybrid working can create inequalities between teams, ineffective collaboration and essentially, the worst of both worlds. An effective hybrid model gives people the ability to do their work in the place that produces the best outcome for everyone: the organisation, the customer and the employee.
But which hybrid working model should you implement? And what does implementation actually look like?
In this blog:
- What is hybrid working?
- What are the different hybrid work models?
- What are the benefits of a hybrid setup?
- What are the disadvantages of a hybrid setup?
- Office design for hybrid models
- Making a hybrid strategy work
What is hybrid working?
Firstly, let’s address what - for the majority of people - is a relatively new concept. Due to the impact of the pandemic, the demand for flexible working options has risen and many businesses around the world are now adapting to hybrid models that provide their employees with a greater work-life balance.
While everyone may have a slightly different take on exactly what ‘hybrid’ looks like, the simplest definition is that it's a blend of working environments – most commonly split between the office and home.
What are the different models of hybrid work?
For businesses that do value having a physical space for their teams, there are a number of different things to consider before getting started with a hybrid working model.
Understanding who will use the workspace, how often and for what reason will be a key factor in landing on a hybrid approach optimised for every team.
There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hybrid work, but that being said there are a few hybrid models that have grown in popularity since the pandemic changed the way that we work.
Here are some approaches to take inspiration from:
- Hybrid with patterns at the whole company level
- Hybrid with patterns at the project team level
- Fully remote for certain types of roles, hybrid for others
Hybrid with patterns at the whole company level
Optimised for: Inter-team communication
Perfect for: High-growth, early-stage businesses (e.g. tech startups)
Businesses that are at an early stage of their journey and have plans to grow quickly will usually find the over-the-desk conversations and in-person interactions to be extremely valuable.
That’s not to say that your business strategy or leadership isn’t clear enough, but simply because every day will bring new challenges and things will change quickly. Each workshop, piece of customer feedback or product launch will bring new opportunities for learning and growth.
Success in the early stage relies on an independent team empowered to move in a certain direction, unblocking issues at pace, and finding creative ways to do things that have never been done before. Remote working relies on information that is clear, concise and fully formed at all times and these foundations are simply not there for early-stage businesses.
A hybrid strategy of a 3:2 split (between in-office and remote) decided at company level is something we've seen businesses at this stage operate successfully. It allows teams to come together on certain days to collaborate, innovate and foster a sense of belonging that can be hard to replicate remotely.
To help plan those in-office days with intent, think about the company moments that will bring people together (a team lunch or show-and-tell). Having those fixed days working together at a company level will facilitate both the strategic execution and culture underpinning the business. Learn more about implementing this type of hybrid working model with our guide for scaling teams.
- 3 days a week in the office
- 2 days anchored by company moments (e.g. team lunch or all-hands meeting)
- 1 day decided by each team based on their own schedule
- Offer flexible working outside of core business hours
Hybrid with patterns at the project team level
Optimised for: Collaborative & creative teams
Perfect for: Stable businesses with project teams producing a creative output, and a high proportion of creative collaborators (e.g. publishing, media, advertising)
Businesses that rely on their creative output to grow have found limitations in the success of their remote working strategies. On the one hand, it’s been fantastic for the “executing” side of the business, but on the other, the magic that happens with people gathering together to throw ideas around to kick off a new client brief, or marketing idea, just cannot be replicated on Zoom.
A collaborative environment can be a source of inspiration, so for businesses in need of that creative output from their teams, a hybrid working model that provides flexibility for project teams can be a successful strategy.
It may still be useful to have a day that all teams are in the office to allow for cross-team collaboration or company moments, but this model should empower individual teams to do their best work – however that may look.
Two or three days in the office will provide the team with the right amount of flexibility, pinning down those collaborative days in the office while also making time for execution work when in a different location. Learn more about implementing this type of hybrid working model with our guide for creative teams.
- 2:3 split (whichever way is preferred)
- 1+ team day per week for brainstorming and collaboration
- Organise collaborative meetings for in-office days
Fully remote for certain types of roles, hybrid for others
Optimised for: Recruitment diversification
Perfect for: More established businesses with a high proportion of Pattern Specialist workers (e.g. tech, finance with defined roles)
Plenty of businesses have a high proportion of their team whose work follows a specific pattern, process or structure that they are not responsible for changing. These businesses tend to be bigger with an established product and established execution practices.
Having certain teams located away from HQ is nothing new - from call centres to tech teams, off-shoring has been happening for years. COVID has massively increased the adoption of this approach and widened the net in terms of roles that qualify within this category.
Salesforce are one of the companies leading the way with this structure in mind, offering ‘flex’, fully remote and office-based roles with flexibility at the heart of the future of work plans.
If this is a hybrid working model that suits your business, you may find that scaling down your office footprint is an option, opting for smaller project team or HQ spaces in specific locations instead.
Design is important here, with each space requiring intentionality. If your project team is full of creative types responsible for your next product or campaign, you’ll need to think about how the space can be used in a collaborative and adaptive way. Learn more about implementing this type of hybrid working model with our guide for professional teams.
- Define expectations for each role and team clearly
- Bespoke project team spaces for office-based employees
What are the benefits of a hybrid setup?
While many teams are still weighing up the pros and cons of implementing a hybrid working model, those still sitting on the fence risk falling behind. Here are a few benefits of hybrid working models:
Although there were doubts over worker productivity during the initial transition to hybrid work, research has shown the opposite to be true. A recent PWC Survey found that almost 60% of organisations had performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months, while only 4% said that their company had performed significantly worse in that time.
Flexibility provides employees with the chance to do their best work at specific times and in specific environments. They can get their head down at home without distractions, but then use the office when it’s time to collaborate. Crucially, they can manage their time better, and it’s often that choice that allows employees to do their best work.
Given the reassessment that many employees have made in relation to their work-life balance in recent years, hybrid work and flexible models have become the expectation for many.
Being able to spend more time with family, being in control of their own schedules and even skipping the commute has positively contributed to improved employee wellbeing as well as job satisfaction, with most employees (88%) agreeing that the flexibility to work from home or the office has increased the latter.
Having in-office days in the schedule as part of a hybrid strategy also helps negate some of the isolation and disconnect that many suffered during the initial transition to remote work.
The shift towards hybrid work has changed the way we think about office space. Notably, we’ve seen businesses of all kinds stepping away from the sea of desks towards intentionally designed spaces within the office.
It could be that, within your business, in-office days are planned around collaboration, team building or shared company moments, and if that is the case you can start to think about how to prioritise your budget to have the biggest impact.
Once you’re comfortable with your hybrid strategy and you’ve communicated it clearly with your team, you’ll also be able to start adapting your space depending on how it’s being used. In the short-term, this might be cutting down on office equipment that isn’t being used, and in the long-term it could potentially be reducing your office footprint – and therefore rent.
Understanding what it is people now want from the office in this new world of work is a challenge that businesses will need to tackle. You can download our report into what future leaders expect from the workplace for insights from over 1,500 UK workers.
What are the disadvantages of a hybrid setup?
Reliance on technology
With a distributed workforce becoming the norm for many businesses, there’s now an increased reliance on the technology supporting the interactions between remote and office-based employees.
That can bring its challenges. If businesses are committing to a hybrid working model, getting the infrastructure in place to support employees wherever they are is fundamental to getting it right.
While hybrid working is all about flexibility, structure is still important. Working from anywhere doesn’t necessarily mean that the lines between home and work should completely blur.
As employees working remotely are often out of site, there can be a tendency to overcompensate by working longer hours or taking shorter breaks. The problem here can often lie in a company’s culture, which should be continually developed and reflected on given the changes businesses and their teams are currently facing.
Office design for hybrid work models
What makes coming into the office worthwhile and the type of work teams want to do when they're together are some of the key questions businesses need to address when designing their office space.
Regardless of whether you're moving office, or redesigning your current space on a budget, there are plenty of things to think about. Here are some of the key design features to consider when thinking about your workspace:
Since the pandemic changed the way we work, one of the key trends has been the rise in collaborative spaces. With time now afforded to do ‘heads down’ work at home, assigned desks are no longer a requirement for businesses bringing teams together in the office.
Collaboration zones, if designed intentionally, can be the beating heart of the future of work office. Think big, shared tables and whiteboards for creative planning or relaxed soft seating areas for team discussions or project kick-offs.
Touchdown points can be the perfect in-between of meetings and collaborative sessions. They are, as the name suggests, ideal for touchdown moments with teams or in one-to-one settings, to help achieve quick outcomes and deliverables.
High tables can be effective for this type of area, allowing employees to sit or stand depending on the meeting taking place.
All-hands areas and social spaces
While understanding how people want to work in the space and how design can facilitate those preferences is crucial to hybrid working models, it’s also important to remember that connections with colleagues and company culture were some of the things we all missed while working from home.
Coming into the office now needs to be worthwhile (not just to sit on Zoom all day), and this new employee worth-it equation means that providing social spaces and all-hands areas for company moments is now one of the key focuses for the reimagined workspace.
Making a hybrid strategy work
So, you’ve decided on your new working patterns. How do you make sure the strategy is working? We've put together some tips for a successful implementation of a hybrid strategy:
Space for the office lovers
Remember - not everyone is equipped personally for remote work. Those earlier in their career have a lot to gain from in-person interactions both professionally, and socially, and restricting office hours and enforcing WFH could hinder their growth and opportunity within your business.
Remote-first approach to high participation meetings
If you are leaving an element of individual flexibility to your hybrid plans, you will have some meetings attended by both remote and in-office employees. For meetings where you need a high level of participation and engagement, it will be much more effective to make these fully remote for all attendees.
A mixed economy creates favouritism for those who are in-person, and can cause remote employees to go unnoticed and make them disengage with the content. Remote-first evens out the playing field and gives everyone a voice.
Disciplined communication matters
Being in the office is great for the over-the-desk conversations, hearing that nugget of information that impacts your work and ends up saving you hours of wasted time. The last year has taught us to be much more disciplined with official communication and follow-ups.
At Kitt, we use Asana to track all comms, but running an organisation effectively in a hybrid fashion takes discipline from every team member to keep records up to date for all teammates - those who are remote and those who are in the office.
In-person-first for new joiners
Starting a new job is a huge challenge emotionally. Unless the role is clearly marked as a fully remote position, it is always best to start a new employee off in-person. It helps embed them into your team, allows you to communicate your vision and ways of working in a meaningful way, and provides security to the individual that is very difficult to replicate from their living room or home office.
The drive for people to feel connected to their employer in a meaningful way has not gone anywhere, and that is extremely difficult to replicate over Zoom.
At Kitt, we help businesses to design and operate their own, private workspaces. Workspaces that encourage innovation, collaboration and culture-building when you are all together, whilst also supporting those who prefer getting their head down at home on a piece of focused work.
We are helping companies of all shapes and sizes understand the hybrid approach that works for them by making sure their space is flexible, collaborative and optimised for their needs. To make your space thrive in a post-COVID world, you need to make sure you have an office worth leaving home for.