As offices reopen and employees head back to work, many businesses are choosing to make working from home a long-term option for their staff. Some companies, such as Square and Twitter, have already told their employees they can work from home permanently. While most companies won’t choose to go fully remote, a hybrid approach — a combination of remote and in-office staff — is gaining popularity and is likely to become the new normal in the years to come.
Benefits of the Hybrid Office
The hybrid model has the potential to benefit everyone in the company, from management to part-time employees. It creates an environment where employees can choose the type of workspace, hours and style that will help them thrive. It allows staff who enjoy working at the office to keep coming in, those who work better from home to choose that option, and the potential for a little of both for those who prefer variety.
Because of this flexibility, the hybrid model can allow for more diverse recruiting of new staff. With a remote option, a company could more easily hire the best talent from across the country — or even the world. It also allows for improved accommodations for disabled and chronically ill employees, and sets a company up to better handle bad weather days or sudden long-term closings due to a pandemic or other emergency.
Challenges of the Hybrid Office
While the hybrid office model offers many benefits, it does have its challenges. The biggest of these is maintaining a cohesive team without everyone working from a central location.
The bulk of employee engagement in company culture happens naturally at the office — chats around the water cooler, working lunches, and happy hours or other gatherings. Unless your company is intentional about creating and maintaining a culture that encompasses both in-office and remote employees, staff who work from home can easily be left out. This results in a company full of individuals, rather than a cohesive team.
In addition to missing out on company culture, remote staff run the risk of being passed over for promotions or chances to affect company decisions. If company leadership works mostly from the office, remote employees may not be as visible to them as in-office staff. Management will need to make a concerted effort to ensure remote employees are not overlooked.
Tips For Building a Successful Hybrid Office
Despite the challenges, it is possible to build a hybrid office experience that works for everyone — but it will require making some changes to the way you run your business. Here are a few places to start:
- Use Technology to Improve Team Cohesion. Implement the use of programs or apps that allow for better communication among staff and continued collaboration on projects. Use a messaging app like Slack or Microsoft Teams for both informal and work-related discussions. Additionally, encourage employees to reach out to each other for one-on-one online chats or Zoom calls to get to know each other better and, in turn, boost camaraderie, teamwork and morale.
- Make Asynchronous Communication the Norm. Use email or messaging apps for discussions instead of meetings when possible, and use cloud-based software apps (such as Google Drive) to collaborate on projects. This way, staff can chime in when convenient for their schedule, work load, and/or time zone. This kind of asynchronous communication allows all employees, regardless of where they are working, to focus on the project at hand and respond to messages when it makes sense to pause their work. When meetings are necessary, use a virtual platform such as Zoom, and be sure to consider equal accessibility for both in-office and remote staff when choosing a meeting time. Keep your team connected by creating a culture of inclusion.
- Use Project Management Tools. Use an app like Asana to manage projects online and encourage transparency among staff in regard to what they’re working on. This allows management to assign projects, and team members can have project discussions right in the app. Encourage staff to leave detailed notes so all teammates can work seamlessly and independently to complete each project.
- Build a Culture of Documentation. In other words, write everything down. Keep detailed notes in an easily accessible location for all of your processes, systems, policies, core values, operating principles, technical resources, and career development paths, and document all decisions and next steps in writing for any necessary employees to see. This helps keep all current employees on the same page and comes in handy when onboarding new staff (remote or in-office), as they can read about past projects and get up to speed on company policies.
Transitioning to a hybrid office model will involve making some changes and navigating a few challenges, but your company and employees will reap the benefits for years to come.
Versare’s Tools for Remote Employees
You already provide the tools your employees need to do their jobs when they’re in the office, from technology and office supplies to workstations and cubicles. Make sure your remote staff are taken care of in the same way, whether you buy and distribute necessary supplies or offer each remote employee a home office budget.
One particular difficulty for those working at home is creating a work environment free from distraction. Versare’s privacy panels can provide the much-needed separation and sound absorption your remote employees need to stay focused. Many of our room dividers will do the trick, but we especially recommend the following for the home office:
- SoundSorb Tri-Fold Desktop Panel - Made of the same sound-absorbing material as the X-Fit Desktop Panel, this panel creates a private, individual work area on any surface. It blocks distractions from three sides, offering the utmost in privacy and focus.
- SoundSorb VersiPanel - This acoustical freestanding panel system will allow an employee to add privacy to their desktop and assist in absorbing sound.