Offices might be starting to open up again, but that doesn’t mean people are running to get back to their desks. Some people enjoy working from home or aren’t ready to get back to the office after COVID-19, and some local ordinances prohibit offices from opening up at 100% capacity. No matter what the reason is, organizations are learning to take it slow during their reopening process.
For some organizations, the fast transition to working from home has turned into a long-term projected WFH model, with companies like Square, Facebook, and Twitter telling their employees that they can stay remote forever. WFH is just an option, though; many companies will continue to maintain offices, just at a smaller scale.
With teammates split between the traditional office and working from home, with some combining the two, traditionally office-based companies are learning to adapt a hybrid work-from-home/office model. This model incorporates best HR practices for fully-WFH and office-based teams to help all employees feel like they belong.
Let’s go into what the hybrid model means, its pros and cons, and some best practices.
Defining the WFH/office hybrid model
While working remote is nothing new—IBM implemented a hybrid model in the 80s!—what is new is the number of people working from home. That won’t last forever, though—so we’re seeing employers considering implementation of a hybrid WFH/office model.
While many organizations allowed WFH prior to the COVID-19 crisis it was often on an ad hoc basis, or, at most, once or twice a week. Now, however, after remote work’s proven success, we’re seeing an increase in demand to continue working from home—and employer willingness.
The hybrid WFH/office model is when an office is split equitably between WFH and office-based workers, with teams made up of employees from both camps. Formal adoption of this model means that HR accommodates equally for both groups of employees, adopting best practices inclusive of all employees and creating a culture that engages employees wherever they are.
Pros of implementing the WFH/office model
For traditionally office-based organizations, going fully-remote may seem impossible; for many employees, going fully-remote might give them the chills. A hybrid model, however, accommodates all employees—letting those who enjoy the office keep coming in, while those who thrive while WFH stay at home and those who enjoy both choose freely.
While maintaining the in-office culture that many employees may enjoy, hybrid offices also reap the benefits of fully-remote organizations, like more diverse recruiting and accommodations fur the disabled and chronically ill.
A hybrid model streamlines working processes for those interacting with freelancers working remotely or client-facing folks who spend lots of their time on calls. Working from home allows these people to work hours that not only accommodate their schedules, but also their work partners’.
Cons of implementing the WFH/office model
A clear “con” of the WFH/office hybrid model is that often remote employees feel left out of culture and events. Traditional office culture often includes physical meetings, happy hours, and water-cooler chats; without these being accommodated for, remote employees are less engaged.
If HR programming doesn’t consciously accommodate remote needs in meeting scheduling and benefit allotment, remote employees may feel like second-class citizens. While catered lunch is a thoughtful touch for in-office employees, those working from home over a homemade PB&J might not see it as thoughtful at all.
When leadership works frequently from the office, WFH employees may feel that they lack the visibility of in-office employees. This may lead to these employees feeling like they constantly need to prove themselves.
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3 tips for implementing the WFH/office model
- Take advantage of tech tools
While there are many reasons to work from home, it can still be an isolating experience—especially when teammates are working together from the office. To overcome this, rely on your tech stack to help you engage those employees.
- Create group chats on Slack/Teams based on hobbies and interests, along with individual teams and departments. Keep conversations alive using plugins like Donut for Slack or fun prompts that will keep employees connected. Encourage employees to reach out 1:1 to get to know each other.
- Foster asynchronous communication, independent of meetings. Instead of daily standups, for example, encourage employees to list their accomplishments of the day and plans for the next day in a team Slack/Teams chat.
- Utilize project management tools. Encourage employees to practice transparency with each other and to leave detailed notes on their projects in project management tools so their teammates can work seamlessly and independently.
- Redesign benefits packages for the hybrid model
There are benefits like catered lunches and happy hours that, while wonderful for your in-office employees, may make your WFH counterparts feel left out. To include everyone in your culture, adapt your extras to include everyone.
- Instead of catered lunches, give employees a monthly lunch budget.
- Instead of weekly in-office happy hours, send employees monthly gift baskets and have a virtual get-together.
- Instead of company parties, encourage teams to get together on their own.
- Adapt your meeting practices
While meetings are a great way to get a bunch of people together to work together, they also put unnecessary stress on employees working from home who might be introverted, on different time zones, or just meeting-averse.
- Consider holding meetings only for project kickoffs, with other check-ins and progress reports happening virtually and asynchronously.
- Document meetings meticulously so employees who were unable to participate will be in the loop.
- Keep meetings short and focused by encouraging agenda-setting beforehand.
- Discourage use of meeting rooms by in-office employees; instead, encourage each employee to take meetings from their personal computers, so no employee feels left out.
The future is hybrid
Allowing your employees to choose where they want to work is the future of engagement and retention. Building a thriving hybrid model will help your people stay loyal and productive from wherever they work best.