What is the hybrid working model?

The hybrid working model is a work style that enables employees to blend working from different locations: home, on the go, or in the office.

The hybrid working model is a work style that enables employees to blend working from different locations: home, on the go, or in the office. An effective hybrid work system encourages:

  • Autonomy
  • Flexibility
  • High performance
  • Collaboration
  • Positive work relationships
  • Effective work habits 

What are some variations of the hybrid working model?

Because there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to hybrid working models, there are many types. Companies worldwide have developed various hybrid models to fit the needs of their businesses and people. 

Here are some of the most popular hybrid working models companies use today:

  • Remote-first. In a remote-first hybrid model, people work from home, may live in different states in the US (or different countries around the world), and hardly ever come into an office. Digital communications are the default in remote-first workplaces as people rarely see each other in person. Companies with remote-first work models may have workforces spread across different countries. They may hold annual, in-person events to promote team building and strong connections across their dispersed workforce.
  • Split-week. Companies that prefer to work on-site but want to provide people with flexibility may opt for the split-week hybrid model. With this model, companies require people to work on-site at least part of the week and from home for the rest of the week, e.g., two days at the office and three days from home.
  • Office-first. The office-first hybrid model offers some flexibility but requires people to work from the office most of the time. 

Why should HR leaders care about the hybrid work model?

HR leaders can help their people establish a system that suits their needs and personality type. For example, a recent college graduate might look forward to the in-person training sessions and social interactions they’ll find at the office. On the other hand, a seasoned professional with little kids may love the opportunity to work remotely, full- or part-time. The freedom to choose their desired work style can invigorate today’s professionals, increasing retention, engagement, and productivity.

Advantages vs. disadvantages of the hybrid working model

The transition to a permanent hybrid working model is a worthwhile but challenging endeavor. Before adopting one for your workplace, there are many advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages Disadvantages
Employees have greater autonomy and flexibility over their working schedule. Training for new joiners and workforce newcomers may not be as effective.
Greater work-life balance. For example, more flexibility has allowed many parents and caregivers to re-enter the workforce. May create inequities between the career trajectories of people who work in the office and those working remotely.
Companies can hire talent from anywhere in the world now that proximity to an office is no longer required. Maintaining a consistent employee experience and company culture for everyone across an organization can be challenging.
Saving on office expenses. Many organizations have downsized their office spaces with the rising popularity of remote work. An organization becomes more reliant on technology to encourage collaboration between people.
Hybrid work promotes adaptability and communication in the workplace, creating a culture of communication and collaboration. Maintaining a consistent and healthy company culture over digital communication can be challenging.
Encourages management to lead with foresight and clarity. The hybrid work working model is not suitable for all industries.

How can you implement a successful hybrid work model?

To implement a hybrid work model that encourages productivity, engagement, and seamless collaboration between colleagues working from different locations, HR leaders can: 

  • Ask your people what works best. Before committing to one hybrid work model or another, survey your people. Ask them what kinds of environments spark productivity and how they envision utilizing different types of spaces. Are they more productive at getting tasks done in a quiet environment? Do large, open spaces help people collaborate and brainstorm?
  • Establish a hybrid work policy. Create a hybrid policy that caters to the responses people gave in the survey. Should there be one policy for every team, or do variations on a policy make more sense? Most importantly, make sure your policy aligns with your workforce’s needs and the business’s needs.
  • Upgrade the office environment. Adapt your office to meet the needs of the modern workforce. For example, create small, quiet spaces for people to hold video conferences and double down on large meeting spaces for team meetings in person. 
  • Have regular feedback meetings. Frequent one-on-one meetings between managers and team members and managers and HR can help you stay connected. They’re also key to understanding the evolving needs of the workforce and ensuring your people feel heard.
  • Facilitate virtual interactive collaboration. Though people on a hybrid work schedule may not interact with colleagues daily, “social media style” collaboration enables people to make announcements, recognize co-workers for excellent work performances, and survey team members on important matters that arise. Video conferencing is a fundamental component of remote and hybrid collaboration, allowing people to benefit from the nuances of seeing each other face-to-face (even if it’s just from the neck up).
  • Encourage relationship-building. Carve out time for co-workers to hang out on a video chat or meet up for coffee if they live close by. Strengthening relationships outside of work can help engage and motivate people. Hobby groups and virtual clubs can nurture relationships and help people find common interests to bond over.
  • Provide equal benefits for people working remotely. Team members who don’t work on-site may feel they’re missing out on the in-house benefits their on-site colleagues enjoy. Providing equal perks for everyone, like an employee meal card or a bi-weekly basket of goodies, can show people they are valued team members.

Tips for creating a hybrid work model that works for everyone

For hybrid models to work, people need to collaborate, commit to specific processes, and leverage the technology that makes remote work possible. Success relies upon the prioritization of:

  • Communicate clearly and often. Team coherency and company culture depend on constant communication between colleagues, managers, and company leadership. 
  • Collaborate whenever you can. Asking the team for their input and suggestions is key to the success of any hybrid model. The more people feel their opinion matters, the more company engagement and morale will increase.
  • Create a healthy work environment. If working on-site is no longer mandatory, companies must invest time and resources into creating a company culture that works for everyone, whether they’re entirely remote, on-site, or hybrid.

What are some real-world examples of hybrid work models?

Real examples of hybrid working models—from companies that have successfully implemented them—may help to decide if your business could adopt a similar working structure.

Shopify

Shopify adopted a remote-first working model it calls “digital by default.” This decision allows the company’s more than 5,000 employees to log in and work from wherever they want, forever (as long as they log in during standard work hours). In the spirit of true flexibility, the company also has an office people are welcome to work from.

Quora

Quora also decided to adopt a remote-first hybrid policy. Quora’s approach, however, requires people to check in at the office at least once per month. Like Shopify, people can opt to work from the office as much as they like.

Apple

In a push for back-to-office work, Apple decided to settle on an office-first hybrid model. People working for Apple have the flexibility to work from home two days a week but must work from the office for a minimum of three.

Microsoft

Microsoft has a firm hybrid work policy, where people can work remotely up to 50 percent of the time. The only catch is that every team member must agree on a schedule with their manager in advance. 

Bank of America

Bank of America’s back-to-office policy requires people to work on-site at least three days a week. Most senior-level managers will work from the office, along with finance teams. But, some teams will only be required to show up three days a week. Some teams, on the other hand, will be able to set more flexible schedules.

How does the hybrid work model improve company culture?

Hybrid work can give people more flexibility, free time, autonomy, and, ultimately, greater work-life balance. This allows employees to dedicate more attention to their personal lives or families while still working full-time and earning a full-time salary. As this new approach to work evolves, companies have the opportunity to harness it for their benefit and shape a fluid, dynamic, and people-first work culture.

How can HR tech help you take on hybrid work challenges? 

No matter what model companies choose, today’s workforce has made it clear that hybrid work is here to stay. And if you want to retain and attract top talent, flexible options are a must for your business. 

Of course, remote and hybrid work come with challenges: communicating over distance, keeping track of people information across sites, and more. Technology is vital to bridging the gaps and is critical to the success of any hybrid work initiative. It can help with everything from enabling people to communicate from different sides of the earth to automating the onboarding process for new joiners, cross-referencing schedules, and encouraging relationship-building across the company.