How to Create a Hybrid Work Schedule to Harmonize Remote and Office Work
Many of us have settled into the new routine of working remotely and creating a balance between work and personal life. While we enjoy this new flexibility, with vaccines rolling out, businesses are focusing on bringing their people back to the office.
As we emerge from the pandemic, only 46% of companies will continue to allow working remotely. Others will go back to the office, or adopt a hybrid model - one where it’s possible to work remotely as well as from the office.
While we have experience of working from the office, and have a fair idea of working remotely, there’s only little we know about the hybrid model.
In this article, you’ll learn about a hybrid work schedule, how to get started with it, and how to use it to get the best of both worlds. If you want the comfort of working remotely with the perks of seeing your teammates - all in one work model, read on.
What is a hybrid work model?
A hybrid work model is like designing a structure where both - employees and organisations can benefit from. Here, employees can either work remotely, from the office, or in a combination of the two - all at the same time.
This work model is not just constrained to the location of your employees. Several other factors are considered — how their day is structured, how they get work done, and perhaps most importantly, how they communicate with their colleagues, and report their work.
What is a hybrid work schedule?
A hybrid work schedule is an arrangement that informs when employees should work remotely or from the office. Here, each employee’s needs are taken into consideration while prioritising your organisation’s goals. There are different types of hybrid work schedules, and each comes with its own set of pros and cons.
Why hybrid work isn’t going any time soon
To begin with, it gives your employees the freedom to work at their convenience. While remote work is definitely great and gives room to flexibility, it’s not ideal for all. Some people prefer the social interactions with their colleagues, others feel more productive working from the office.
What makes a hybrid work schedule idea is that employees aren’t obligated to work either entirely from home or from the office.
The future of work is still hazy and unpredictable. Despite vaccines being rolled out in full force, a large number of people are unvaccinated and afraid to go back to the office. All of this contributes to the fact that many companies will continue to use the hybrid model or experiment with a fully remote schedule.
What are the pros and cons of hybrid work for employees?
Figuring out how to implement a hybrid work model is far from being straightforward. Just like remote or office work, hybrid work schedules also come with their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the common ones.
As you can see in the chart above, most of the drawbacks of hybrid work stem from a lack of communication. Which is why, we’ll be discussing them in more detail shortly.
Best practices for mastering the hybrid work challenge
When designing a hybrid work model, it’s important to understand different drivers of productivity—energy, focus, coordination, transparency, and accountability. Next, consider how to overcome the challenges of these drivers. Let’s look at each in turn:
Transparency is the foundation of a successful hybrid work model. For it to work, your employees need to be open and honest about how and where they’re working from. This is not for the purpose of micromanaging or spying on your people, but rather to let everyone else know how and where they can be contacted.
One of the easiest ways to go about this is to set a status in Slack. Next to your name, you can write when and where you’ll be in the office. For example:
- In the office 10 AM-6 PM
- Working remotely 8 AM-4 PM
This will allow your coworkers to see when you’re available to communicate with them. Moreover, if you want to be 100% transparent, you need to ensure that the same hybrid work schedule applies for everyone and that there is no room for special treatment.
Meaningful 1:1 meetings
For a hybrid work schedule to work, it’s important to schedule regular check-ins with your employees. Ask for their preferences, key tasks, or feedback on this new work arrangement. Besides the standard department meetings, having 1:1 meetings will help you understand how your people coordinate with one another. Agree on specific time and date or use a meeting scheduler to set-up an impromptu meeting.
It’s also easier to notice signs of burnout or any issues that an employee may be having in their everyday work. No matter how busy you seem to be, make sure to find some room for these meetings at least once a month with each employee you directly manage.
To thrive in a hybrid work model, it’s important to trust your employees to do their work on time. Making them accountable for their work will not only foster independence but also make them conscious of deadlines.
In a hybrid work arrangement, employees can be accountable in different ways. Some of them include:
- Sending daily reports with their work and plans
- Having weekly/monthly catch-up meetings to discuss their work
- Tracking their performance in the project management software you use
- Setting and meeting KPIs on a weekly/monthly/quarterly level
In a hybrid schedule, it’s much more difficult for a manager to track your employees’ productivity. Reason why, your employees need to be accountable for managing, completing, and reporting their work.
When your employees are working from home, it’s important they use the preferred method set by your managers for reporting. If you’re the founder of a start-up, it’s essential to hire people who are accountable and can report their own work.
Hybrid work schedules to help you get started
To make hybrid a success, you need to design a model that best suits your organisational needs. There is no one size fits all approach. Many models have emerged with time, each favourable for a specific work environment.
Here are some to select from:
This is one of the most common schedules for remote work. In this arrangement, everyone follows one common rule set by the manager. For example, all employees need to work from the office every day of the week except Fridays, when they can work at a place of their choice.
This is a classic model because it’s predictable and easy for everyone involved to get accustomed to it. If you see a company offering a hybrid work schedule, chances are they’re working in this setup. There are rarely any downsides to this model, except it’s not too flexible.
It is similar to the cohort work model (only certain days are remote/hybrid), with one key difference. Employees that come to the office have the flexibility to work within their own timeframe. For example, from 8 AM to 11 AM. This gives even more freedom and flexibility to your employees.
This is the original hybrid work model. In this setup, the management and the employees decide when they’ll be working remotely or from the office.
Depending on who’s in charge, there are two different subtypes of this model.
A flexible schedule led by the management is one where the company management decides who works in a hybrid setting and when. The biggest advantage is that you can shuffle employees around as they’re needed in the office. This model can be a blessing if the management is efficient. If not, you’ll have managers calling people in for the smallest issues possible. Also, this model requires an additional effort on behalf of the manager to plan and create a schedule.
A flexible schedule led by the employee is favoured by all employees. Here, they can decide when they want to work remotely or in the office. This model banks on the benefits of flexibility and freedom that employees enjoy. One of the drawbacks is that your employees might not be available when you need them at the office. If you want to practice this model, it’s important for you to communicate your needs, and that you hire people who can take accountability for their work.
Which model is the best for you?
It’s really hard to pick the best model without considering the unique characteristics of your company, management, and employees. The truth is, each company has its own way to get work done and to communicate. Our best piece of advice is to mix and match different models until you find (or create) one that fits you best.
How to communicate your hybrid work schedule
Just like all good things in life, a hybrid work model needs to be planned and intentional for it to work for your company and employees.
Start off by selecting a model that works for your organisational needs. You may not get it right at first, but choose one to start with. The cohort schedule is probably the easiest to begin with. You can later evolve from there once you see what works for you.
Second, don’t just implement a hybrid schedule out of the blue. Take baby steps by introducing a one day WFH policy. With time, you can continue to modify and improve your model. It’s also a good idea to select a department or a group of people to experiment with, before scaling your hybrid model across your organisation.
Third, document how and where you work. Think of this as your hybrid work manifesto - a set of guidelines on how you structure work at your company. It’s easier to brief everyone once you have it in writing and it’s an excellent tool for onboarding new employees.
Last but not least, decide on the tools you want to use for managing a hybrid work schedule. Besides communication tools (such as Slack), you’ll also need a set of tools for project management and reporting to ensure everyone is aligned to their KPIs and goals.
Best practices for offices that focus on hybrid
If you’re ready to introduce hybrid work in your own office, here are some of the best examples of habits, tools, and techniques you’ll need to get started.
1. Set clear KPIs
To get a clearer view of the impact your employees’ are making, the best thing to rely on are KPIs. For example, the number of sales calls made, the number of articles written, support tickets solved, etc.
2. Invest in proper tools
Investing in communication tools like Slack or Zoom makes it easier to communicate with your people. Tools like Google Workspace are good to start with, but there are limitations to it. Providing your team with the right tools enables them to work efficiently and collaboratively from home.
3. Establish schedules (and stick to them)
If you’re using a cohort or staggered schedule, have those schedules written out in a document and added to your online calendars. This way, your employees will be aware of when and where they’ll be working from. As a manager, lead by example and stick to the schedule you create for yourself and your team.
4. Determine how you communicate and when
Many hybrid and remote companies stick to an asynchronous communication style, where employees reply to messages not in real-time, but whenever they are available. This is just one way to set up communication, so whichever model you choose, write it down. Moreover, determine which type of communication is best suited for your needs. For example, customer-facing calls are done on Zoom, internal company calls are done on Slack, important tasks go through email, work-related messages go in your project management tool, etc.
Mistakes to avoid
Reimagining the way you work comes with its own box of challenges. Whether you’re introducing the hybrid model for the first time, or improvising your existing one, here are some common mistakes you can avoid.
1. The same rules don’t apply to everyone
When implementing your hybrid schedule, it’s imperative that one rule applies to all.
There is nothing more demoralizing than working from an office 3 to 5 days a week only to see the top management working remotely full time. To ensure a fair play where everyone benefits from your model, it’s important that all your employees follow the same rule.
2. Going back to old methods of tracking productivity
Tracking your employees’ productivity through intrusive time tracking app or screen-recording devices is nothing but redundant. Not only will they feel mistrusted, but also put a setback to their growth in your company. The best way to measure their performance is through KPIs.
3. Setting and forgetting it
Continuous development of new hybrid practices and processes is essential for your model to be effective. Pay particular attention to questions of inclusion and fairness, and see how your employees are adapting to this new arrangement. Your employees shouldn’t feel they’re treated unfairly or you’re biased towards a specific team. It’s vital to create a schedule that satisfies each employee’s needs.
4. Giving different opportunities based on office presence
Some people can afford to be more present in the office, depending on the way they structure their lives. Others, such as parents or those who have someone to care for, cannot come into the office regularly. Make sure that everyone has the same career advancement opportunities, as long as they get their work done efficiently on time. Never put people at a disadvantage just because they cannot be present in the office more, defeating the whole purpose of having a hybrid model and schedule.
5. Micromanaging schedules
In the past, when companies began experimenting with flexible work models, they typically allowed managers to drive the process. A lot of them pressured their employees to come into the office for no good reason. This left them feeling disappointed with the schedule. If you’ve recently introduced a hybrid model, avoid micromanaging your employees to a point they’ll want to quit. Set your rules and stick to them.
6. Getting rid of habits that work
Adapting to hybrid tools can take time. But if your employees have accustomed themselves to using those tools on a regular basis, avoid replacing them. Once you partially allow employees to work from the office, you may be tempted to go back to the old office meetings. But, it’s important you make everyone feel inclusive, especially those who’re still working remotely.
How to create meaningful connections in a hybrid work setting
To thrive in a hybrid work setting, a lot of us rely on tools like Slack or Zoom to connect with our colleagues. To make conversations engaging for your team, we have launched new features in our platform. From organising micro-lessons on a weekly basis to onboarding or training your employees, each function is thoughtfully designed to your needs.
They’re just 5 minutes in length and allow you to take a more structured approach to hybrid work and stay engaged with your employees, without disturbing their workflows or tying them into lengthy meetings.
Besides work-related topics, you can also use Zavvy to assign everyone weekly tasks on resilience, gratitude, and self-reflection. We take this a step further by integrating your favourite communication tools into your existing (hybrid) workflow.
You can always contact us for a free demo, anytime!
While it’s still not certain that remote work will be the future, it is fairly certain that hybrid schedules are here to stay. Even though they have some drawbacks, their pros outweigh the cons by a large margin and they can make for a great system for companies of all sizes. With a great team of people, you can start rolling out your hybrid schedule today and enjoy the benefits both for the management and your employees.