In 2020, COVID-19 initiated a widespread work experiment: Can employees work from home and be just as productive?
The answer is a satisfying “yes.” Governments worldwide mandated work-from-home protocols as the pandemic spread across the globe. Companies who didn’t want to release the reins were forced to let go, cringing as they waited for productivity to tank.
Heading into our third year of the pandemic, most employers will admit that their productivity hasn’t dropped. In reality, most companies have seen a rise in productivity.
In more ways than one, employers are lucky productivity didn’t go down: moving forward, most won’t have a choice of whether they go hybrid or not.
According to Owl Labs Global Workplace Analytics, 80 percent of full-time employees expect their offices to offer remote conditions long term. If this 80 percent is not offered remote work conditions, 54 percent of employees will stay on but be less willing to put in any extra effort and 46 percent will look for another job.
For the most part, employers are facing an ultimatum and the only solution. The only way to maintain talent is to go hybrid.
Productivity under a hybrid regime
Let’s have a look at what factors influence productivity:
- Employee engagement
- Workplace and environment
If you Google the top factors for productivity, you’ll see these three points listed on nearly every page. Yet, these three factors only brush the surface of what it takes to be productive.
Consider this: how do you keep employees engaged? Aside from fostering the culture in your workplace to be inviting and enticing, you take care of your employees’ wellbeing. Throughout the pandemic, employees have been sent home to keep them from getting sick — in other words, to keep them well. This lead to a chain of other factors and lifestyle changes that improved these employees’ well being:
- Shorter commute times
- Greater work-life balance
- Financial savings
- Reduced stress
Healthier employees are usually more engaged on the job. As we learned above, engaged employees are more productive. Voila!
Workplace and environment
Every employee is different. Some work best in the dark, some work best in daylight — there are studies that support both work styles. Some people are more productive in rigid offices, others in cozy niches. Some work best in busy environments, others in quiet. There’s a time and place for every project, and flexible work conditions help your employees navigate to where they’re most efficient.
Even before the pandemic, companies have been learning the benefits of flexible work practices. Have a look at Microsoft’s Redmond campus. The design concept was released in 2017 — pre-pandemic. When designing their Redmond campus, Microsoft had social hubs, open spaces, and flexible workstations in mind. The tech company pulled out all the stops, knowing their employees’ mental well-being is tied to the environment they work in.
With hybrid work, employees are free to work where, how, and often when they’ll be most productive.
COVID-19 has sparked the communications technology market into hyperdrive. To keep up with the competition, companies have invested in state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line communication solutions.
At the start of the pandemic, the companies that hardly missed a beat were the ones who already offered some level of hybrid work. These companies had the devices, security, and software ready to support remote operations. They were flexible.
The pandemic sparked a much-needed breakthrough, showing some companies how inflexible and ill-prepared they were. Now, most companies have caught up. These days, we’re all handling remote work quite well, overall.
Moving forward, the in-office tech will need to evolve too. Now that we’re mastering remote distance collaboration, we need to rethink the in-office experience to support hybrid work just as effectively.
Why companies are turning to the hybrid workplace model
The general consensus is twofold: not all companies want their employees 100 percent remote and not all employees want to give up their workplace away from home.
Reasons for employees to be in the office from time to time include
- Collaboration. Especially for new hires, team building is essential for many reasons. Face-to-face encounters build comradery and a sense of loyalty among peers. Teams aren’t strictly interdepartmental but spread to colleagues company-wide — essentially, anyone you’ve had the pleasure of working with. This level of connecting with peers helps with networking and therefore helps employees receive recognition within the company. Recognition helps with company advancements, including raises and promotions — all good things.
- Quiet environments. Some people have children romping around their houses, others have construction booming in their neighborhood, others have strict work-life boundaries… There are many reasons why “home” may not be the calming environment it is to others. If you Google the percentage of people who want to return to the office after the pandemic, you get headers saying, “1 in 5” or “20 percent want to return” and “80 percent of employees don’t want to return.” Statista reports that only two percent want to return to the office and 11 percent aren’t a fan of remote work. A third of respondents cited hybrid work as ideal. No matter what statistic you look at, there’s still a clear demand and need for office spaces.
Types of hybrid workplace models
The entire hybrid concept is a spectrum with some companies on the left-wing, some on the right, and many scattered in between.
For example, here’s a diagram of where five top tech companies range on the hybrid spectrum:
Even the top tech leaders can’t agree on the best work model. Ultimately, every company is different. A law firm can be more easily remote than an engineering firm — one requires more frequent and visual collaboration than the other.
However, to simplify the concept, there are three types of hybrid models:
- Remote first. Remote-first companies are ill-equipped to support in-office activities. Even so, they still maintain an office or collaboration spaces for employees who need to be on site. These companies invest heavily in remote workers and therefore contend with different time zones and locales. GitLab is the most “remote first” model on the spectrum above.
- A mix in between. Some companies aren’t ready to go fully remote. These companies require their employees to be in the office a set number of days per week. Google has a flexible approach and will let their employees choose which days they work in the office. Other companies, like Apple, have set days where all employees must be in the office. These companies present a mixture of in-office and remote conditions.
- Office first. In this model, in-office work is preferred, yet the company is still set up to accommodate the occasional remote day. Some companies are still not comfortable with remote work, Netflix among them. Unfortunately, these companies will be finding themselves short on talent in the coming years. With most companies offering partially or fully-remote conditions, in-office employees will come to resent being second-class citizens.
Finding the sweet spot on the spectrum for your company might yet take trial and error. In the coming months, work conditions will change once again as companies reopen their offices.
The pitfalls of a hybrid model
As with everything in life, there is no miracle cure. A hybrid model can be great for your workforce, but only if it’s implemented well. Knowing the stormy seas in advance can help companies navigate through them.
Some pitfalls of hybrid practices include
- Training new hires. Training new hires remotely is incredibly challenging. Managers need to spend one-on-one time onboarding their new team members through video calls. The new hire also needs to proactively communicate with their new manager regarding when they’re ready for the next steps and when they feel prepared to dive in. Once upon a time, managers could see in person when their employees were struggling. Now it’s a two-way street that’s all the harder with fresh and underdeveloped relationships.
- Employee burnout. There are a few factors that contribute to employee burnout. One: overworking. There’s a reason why some employees like to keep their work and home lives separate. For some people, it’s hard to separate the two. This setup can lead employees to skimp on their much-needed downtime and just keep working. Another way employees experience burnout is through loneliness. Depending on how isolated their home environment is, some employees aren’t cut out for remote conditions.
- Lack of culture. Companies are struggling to maintain their company culture. Most of us have experienced in-office potlucks or company-wide activities and games days. Remote working doesn’t offer the same relationship-building opportunities. Still, there’s hope. Check out our article to find out how the pandemic can actually improve workplace culture.
- Cyber risks. The corporate world is getting hit hard, and repeatedly, with cyber attacks. These days, everything is in the cloud — it just has to be. Files need to be shared across miles in seconds, ideas need to be passed through data one way or another… Cyber criminals see company data as ripe for the taking. For the past two years, companies have been struggling to maintain and bolster their data security.
How to implement a hybrid workplace model successfully
When switching to hybrid work practices, a company’s success will depend greatly on the infrastructure.
When you read “infrastructure,” what do you think of? Technology? Management? In-office operations?
Yes — to all of the above. Yes, you need the right technology in place. Yes, you need the right levels of management and you need them trained. Yes, you need your office sorted out for a new era of work — the hybrid era.
Here are some suggestions to help your office start fresh with a bright future ahead:
Communicate with your employees
Communication is a two-way street. Yes, layout your company policies and procedures, both in-office and your hybrid expectations. However, make sure the employees get a chance to speak too.
Check-in regularly, asking employees and teams how they’re doing, what could be improved, and if they have any ideas. This step is especially important with a pandemic at large: do your employees feel safe? Are their fellows being safe in the workplace?
Combat the loss of culture by finding fresh ways to promote it within the company. Culture is what lures talent to your company, keeps it, and encourages employees to go the extra mile.
Keep in mind: hybrid work has, for the most part, improved job satisfaction, boosting company culture. Employees have been keen to keep their jobs and have felt a stronger sense of responsibility to earn their newfound work-from-home freedom. Now companies need to maintain and nurture the culture that’s naturally developing.
This article is throwing you for a loop: flexible with what? Once again, everything:
- Flexible work habits
- Flexible workspaces
- Flexible work habits
Give your employees some options that fit within what works best for your company as a whole. A little bit of freedom fosters positive feelings toward the company and boosts productivity.
It’s been two years since many companies have been in the office full time. Since then, most companies have gone through some policy changes and reworked their work arrangements. Simply put: your 2020-era office is outdated.
Now that you’ve done a great job revamping your remote solutions and tools, it’s time to look at the office. For example, Google is investing heavily — 1 billion dollars to be exact — in creating office spaces with flexible work spaces in their London office. They’re also focusing on providing amenities to their employees, promoting wellbeing and culture hubs. The tech company is confident that hybrid work is the way of the future.
Now, not every company can afford to build a three-lane swimming pool and spas for their workforce, but there are some simple tools that will help.
How Joan can help
The meeting room is far from dead. In fact, it’s become the most essential part of the office.
Most office spaces are getting gutted and transformed into bookable collaboration spaces — huddle rooms, conference rooms, flexible workstations, and desk hoteling — and Joan covers it all.
Joan offers a complete office management solution for your hybrid office:
☑ Meeting space booking
☑ Virtual desk hoteling
☑ Office analytics
☑ Visitor management
☑ Home office solution
Meeting space booking
The ePaper display shows a room’s availability, all but eliminating squatters and overrun meetings. Joan displays are wireless, lasting months on a single charge.
Virtual desk hoteling
The concept of hot-desking isn’t pretty. Employees claim desks on a first-come-first-serve basis, wasting minutes to hours trying to locate available workstations.
With the Joan app, employees can book desks and workspaces remotely before even arriving at the office. The app guarantees they have a place to work by the time they arrive on site.
With Joan, managers have access to analytics and other background data regarding how well the office is running. For example, managers can find out which meeting rooms are booked the most if they’re filled to capacity, and which rooms are underperforming.
Furthermore, managers can track down their teammates in a flexible workspace: which room they’re in, which desk they booked… This feature is also fantastic for contact tracing, should a viral outbreak occur.
Joan offers a free health screening questionnaire, which users can access virtually from their own mobile devices.
Aside from contact tracing, Joan 13 is a great display to show visitor information or company branding to complete the guest experience.
Home office solution
In a hybrid model, your work doesn’t stay at the office. Joan offers an at-home solution to help minimize distractions at home.
Joan home syncs to your office calendar, showing your family, roommates, or visitors your availability throughout the day.
Whether you’re in the office or at home, Joan can help.