5 Best Practices for a Hybrid Workplace
The idea of a “normal” office workplace is now something of the past. Remote work and work from home are a new norm. There is another shift in the workplace occurring as offices are starting to plan their reopening. The idea of a hybrid workplace is becoming more critical and attractive as employers and employees revisit recent learnings and their needs moving forward. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, believes the hybrid workplace is “here to stay” as the productivity of working from home will remain vital during this time.
A hybrid workplace is a flexible workplace model that is designed to support a distributed workforce of both in-office and remote workers. The hybrid workplace isn’t a completely new idea, with many companies (especially in the tech and start up worlds) allowing flexible work from home policies or remote hires. However, there are nownew ways of working across the board – businesses have been forced to rethink what it means to have a physical workplace.
The global shift to remote work was drastic at first, but opportunities quickly presented themselves. The virtual business landscape brought many positives that most people didn’t even think about before. For example, virtual workshops and conferences allow hundreds of people across the globe to connect without the cost of travel or timing limitations. Cost savings in general for both employees and employers emerged. Time was also saved across the board – instead of needing to plan for a busy commute, parking, elevator ride up to the office, setting up a conference room, etc., joining a meeting became as quick and easy as clicking “Join a Meeting” on Zoom. The Voltage Control team has always been remote (outside of our in-person workshops and events) so this shift wasn’t new to us – we’ve documented best practices for remote teams, and even assembled a toolkit that allows our remote team to facilitate virtual meetings that are as effective, if not more effective, than traditional face-to-face interactions.
More and more companies are making the decision to offer permanent remote work options for their employees, including Twitter, JP Morgan, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and Dell. Other large employers like Google and Facebook have extended work-from-home options for employees through the end of this year. Remote work, when directed by effective systems and processes, works.
Employees have demonstrated the ability to work productively and successfully, in large part due to available tools and technology (discussed in more detail below). However, many also can’t wait to get back to the office. Being in person with other colleagues provides a sense of collaboration and inclusiveness that isn’t easily replicated, especially if used to it before. Working from home also has its own set of distractions, especially for those with families, spouses, roommates, and pets.
As more and more companies and offices are planning their re-openings keeping all this in mind, we predict both remote work and in-office presence will co-exist. Therefore the workforce will need to approach this hybrid model strategically, leading us into 5 best practices of a hybrid workplace:
1. Remember the importance of technology + tools
These tools played an obvious role when the majority of office workers were forced to be remote. However, as some employees return to the physical office and some remain remote, they will continue to be critical to keep everyone aligned and organized as the virtual + in-person worlds merge into a hybrid workplace:
- Zoom – Videoconferencing platform with breakout room capabilities
- Trello – A place for assigning work and tracking work progress using a Kanban-style list-making application. Assign individuals to cards to create clear to-do lists and organize priorities.
- Google Docs – Smart editing and styling tools support joint teamwork to flow smoothly and easily and keep ideas in one place. Teams can work on different pages or in different docs accordingly.
- Google Slides – Interactive work templates with multiple pages to allow individual and collective work.
- Google Sheets – Collaborative spreadsheets to organize and update tasks and information.
- Google Drive or other cloud storage – Drop all assets and work content into a shared space for easy access for all team members. Use different folders to organize information.
- Basecamp – Real-time communication tool to keep track of everything you’re working on in a shared space.
- Focus To-Do – Pomodoro time and task management app that helps you perform tasks efficiently.
- Process Street – Make checklists for your team to help you remember and keep track of all of your to-do’s.
- SessionLab – Dynamically design, organize and share workshops and training content.
- Slack – Team messaging platform that is a smart alternative to email. It allows the team to have a shared view of work progress and purpose
- Loom – Screen recorder that allows you to capture video screen messages instead of sending long emails. It’s also helpful for sending team members visual directions if you cannot screen share in real-time.
- Doodle – Calendar scheduling system for time management and to easily coordinate one-on-one and team meetings.
- World Time Buddy – World clock, time zone converter, and online meeting scheduler to coordinate and plan across different time zones.
2. Take Care of Your People
Your employees are your most important asset. Ask them what they actually want – don’t assume everyone wants the same thing when it comes to remote vs. in-person work presence. This is a benefit of the hybrid workplace – it allows flexibility depending on employee comfort level, schedules, and physical location. Consider offering your employees options of working at your company, for example:
- Remote First: Primarily working from home
- In-Office First: Primarily working from the physical office
- Something in between: Splitting time relatively evenly between working from home and from the office
Also, try to maintain company culture for everyone in the hybrid workplace, regardless of what they choose. Just because someone is not in the office does not mean they should be overlooked. Hold informal online meet ups, virtual town halls, and ensure they’re included in any perks that those in the office receive (for example, if food or coffee is provided to office employees, consider giving remote employees a snack stipend or coffee subscription).
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3. Make Your Job Listings Remote
If you are offering existing employees the option to work remotely, include this hybrid workplace strategy in your recruitment efforts. Wherever you can, make new job listings remote. This may also allow businesses to unlock talent that may have been inaccessible previously. Perhaps the best candidate for a job opening lives in another state. With remote hiring options, you are not bound to proximity to get the best for your team.
4. Communication is Key
Ensure communication flows between in-office and remote staff. This is increasingly important as workers become more spread across different time zones and locations. Consider daily standup updates on Slack, end-of-day status emails, all hands/town halls, check-ins with direct reports, and video meetings to include everyone on the team. It will take extra effort to ensure all employees feel connected and can communicate effectively, but it is what will make your team successful.
5. Be Adaptable
Experiment with different workflows and processes to discover what works best, and be open to change. This idea of the hybrid workplace becoming the “norm” is new to many – there will be a learning curve so employees and employers should remain patient and flexible. It will definitely take some time to get used to, but testing new and different processes will allow for more improvement and better solutions moving forward.
Employees increasingly value flexibility in the workplace, according to a survey by Salesforce, resulting in the rise of the hybrid workplace. For employers, the hybrid workplace can offer better and more diverse talent when location isn’t a constraint. Companies may also see a positive impact in other areas, such as employee satisfaction, productivity, and cost savings. Changing the way a business runs will no doubt have its challenges – but it’s clear the hybrid workplace is here to stay, and embracing the opportunities it offers will likely be well worth it.
Here at Voltage Control, we are exercising and sharing the best tools and techniques needed for teams to thrive in the hybrid workplace, through productive meetings (in-person and virtual), remote work team collaboration, considerations for return to work, facilitation skills, virtual events, meeting culture, Magical Meetings, and design sprints.