Remote work had a big moment during the pandemic, with a third of the U.S. workforce increasing the number of days they worked from home. Now, the million-dollar question is this: Will remote workers go back to the office?
Some companies have promised to let their employees work from home for as long as they want to, while others expect remote employees to return to the office ASAP.
But there’s also a third option: a hybrid work model, in which employees spend some of their time in the office and some days at home.
If you’re wondering which way of working is better, we can walk you through the pros and cons of a hybrid work model. Then, you can decide if it’s the right fit for your company.
What is a hybrid work model?
Remote work means different things depending on who you ask. For some people, it means getting to work from home instead of in an office space. For others, it means working from a different city or time zone from others in the company.
When an entire company works remotely, it might be described as having a distributed workforce or being a fully remote team. In some industries, this is pretty common. Team members might see each other in person at annual retreats or a local coworking space, but they don’t maintain a central office (they’re just very good at virtual meetings).
For a lot of companies, though, the shift to remote work has only been partial, resulting in more of a hybrid work model. In some instances, employees asked to work from home, but others preferred (or were required) to come into the office. In others, full-time employees were asked to come in on alternate workdays during the pandemic to reduce the number of people in the office at a time.
Over time, some companies have begun to codify their work policy into hybrid work schedules instead of leaving it up to individual employees or departments.
Now, some job descriptions describe exactly how many days an employee is expected to come into the office to avoid any confusion during the hiring process.
Is a hybrid work model right for your company?
The hybrid work model has a lot going for it: It can cut down on the cost of office space, provide a more flexible work environment, and boost productivity for the company as a whole. But is it really the future of work?
Many tech companies swear by it, but it can present some challenges when companies aren’t used to having a distributed workforce. In order for a hybrid work model to be effective, it’s important for hybrid companies to take the lead in actively driving the transition to a hybrid workplace.
Here are a few pros and cons of the hybrid work model:
Pros of the hybrid work model
Employee retention. One reason that companies are considering a hybrid work model is that employees prefer it. Even employees who don’t want to work from home full-time may want the option to stay home one or two days per week.
Flexible work options give employees a chance to improve their work-life balance and well-being. If companies don’t offer them the opportunity, they may look for work somewhere else instead.
Larger talent pool. Skilled in-person workers are simply getting harder to find in some parts of the country, especially considering expensive cities like New York and San Francisco saw a decline in population during the pandemic.
By expanding the talent search to include remote workers, hybrid companies can consider candidates from areas that would otherwise be out of the question.
These employees can complement an on-site workforce by providing coverage in other time zones and even other countries.
Improved productivity. Study after study has shown that remote work doesn’t reduce productivity, and in many cases may increase a team’s performance. With hybrid and remote work, employees can work when and where they feel most productive, and they’re less likely to experience burnout by avoiding grueling commutes.
Cons of the hybrid work model
Not all employees will benefit. Because remote work looks different for everyone, some employees may gain more from a hybrid work model than others.
Returning to the office two days per week may not be a big deal for some employees who still live nearby. But those who moved further away, have come to enjoy work-from-home life, or are immunocompromised may not be able to make this shift.
Likewise, some managers may implement a stricter hybrid work model than others. Any disparities between departments could lead to resentment among employees if they feel that they’re all being held to different standards or that employees who spend more time onsite have more opportunities for perks or advancement.
Hard to maintain company culture. Without face-to-face time in the office, it can be hard to build a consistent work culture, especially when hiring new team members.
While virtual meetings can be effective, new hires may not be able to pick up new skills by observing their co-workers in action, or quickly turn to a manager to ask a question.
And not every employee thrives at home – some employees will miss the camaraderie of the office and find it hard to replicate it on Zoom meetings or phone calls.
Lack of trust. A hybrid work arrangement requires a high degree of trust between both the employer and employee. Employers may worry that it’s easier for remote workers to slack off when they aren’t in the office, or to be careless with sensitive data.
At the same time, employees may want to maintain boundaries around their personal lives and may resent having their workday micro-managed. Time-trackers and device monitoring software may feel more invasive at home than at the office.
How to run an effective hybrid work model
As you can see, being a hybrid company requires striking a delicate balance between the needs of businesses and their employees. But when it’s done right, a hybrid work model can be a win-win scenario for everyone involved.
Here are three more things to keep in mind as you make the transition:
Be transparent about salary and benefits.
Remote work raises a lot of questions: Should employees who live somewhere with a lower cost of living be paid less than employees who live somewhere expensive? Should remote workers get a stipend if they can’t make use of onsite perks like a free lunch or gym membership?
We’re not going to tell you how to answer those questions, but whichever option you choose, be transparent about it. The more you codify your hybrid work model into a company-wide policy, the less likely it will catch people by surprise.
Focus on team-building.
Teamwork looks a little different in a hybrid workforce. If a typical in-person work week revolves around on-site meetings and after-work drinks, remote workers are going to miss out on key parts of the employee experience.
On the other hand, in-person employees may resent having happy hour over Zoom every week because one team member wants to keep working from home.
A successful hybrid company knows how to balance virtual meetings with in-person activities and other team-building events. This might involve having a dedicated budget and event coordinator for both virtual and in-person activities, so that Zoom calls don’t feel like a lesser alternative for those who can’t attend in-person meetings
Promote people fairly.
As you transition to a hybrid workforce, pay close attention to which employees are getting promoted. Are onsite employees advancing more quickly because they have more face-to-face contact with managers? Are new hires struggling to keep up due to outdated training protocols?
Consider standardizing interviews and performance reviews so that decision-makers have a clear process to follow. By updating HR practices for a hybrid workplace, your company can ensure that everyone has the tools they need to succeed at their job – whether they work from home or in the office.
Good notes are key to hybrid work
Transitioning to a hybrid work model can take some effort, but it will get easier over time – we promise! By taking steps to maintain your company culture, a flexible work model can lead to improved productivity and increased employee retention.
Hybrid work models involve plenty of virtual team meetings – so why not get someone on your team who takes great notes? Anchor AI is an automated tool that can take meeting notes for you. Simply invite Anchor to your meetings or upload a recording to get time-stamped notes in real-time.