When the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, schools and workplaces were emptied as students and employees resorted to online learning and remote work. Safety and health were paramount, after all. However, more than a year later, more and more employees are being called back to report in person.
Hybrid work arrangements, though they come in different names, are not new to tech giants such as Microsoft and Google. In these companies, employees can spend at least half of their working time at home and the other at the office. On the other hand, some companies have even opted to go fully remote. Still, for most other companies, working from home (WFH) was only an idea that had been floating around for years. But the global health crisis prompted companies to transition to remote work as quickly as possible, with 70% of full-time employees working from home in the US.
Before we talk about the preparations for businesses planning to go hybrid, let’s clarify some work-related terms that have risen to fame in the pandemic.
Hybrid vs. Remote Work
Across many generations, working at the office has been the default arrangement for most industries. However, the pandemic has pushed companies to reconsider and reshape work policies. The end of “office-centric” policies has been predicted by a few experts. Remote work and hybrid work are proof that this “end” might truly be near.
Remote work, also known as the WFH setup, is not entirely new either. Since personal computers and the world wide web became more accessible, remote work has also increased. Working anytime and from anywhere are just two of the advantages enjoyed by remote workers. A team living in and working from different parts of the world is also possible under the remote work setting.
As the name implies, hybrid work refers to a combination of two different work arrangements: 1) the office setup and 2) the work-from-home setup. The number of days spent working at home and in the office vary depending on the industry and the company itself. Based on surveys, employees prefer to have longer hours at home while employers would like to have employees work in the office more often.
So, if office-centrism is no longer trendy, is there a benefit to keeping traditional and remote working arrangements?
Benefits of Hybrid Work
Some benefits of remote work have been discussed in the previous section. But in addition to those, employees have reported being more productive when working from home because they save time. For instance, they no longer have to commute to and from the office. However, they have also reported feeling less connected to their co-workers because of fewer chances for interaction. In other words, remote workers miss out on simple bonding experiences like having lunch together or chatting near the water cooler. Given the importance of social interaction and in-office connections, this is a disadvantage for remote work.
Enter hybrid work. The easiest way to explain the appeal of hybrid work would be to say it gives companies the best of both worlds. However, some preparations should be made.
Preparing Your Office for Hybrid Work
1. Follow CDC protocols.
The CDC has specific recommendations for ventilation, disinfection, and contact tracing as employees return to work. Proper ventilation is a must since COVID-19 spreads more quickly indoors. Office cleaning at least once a day is also vital because particles on frequently-touched surfaces, e.g., doorknobs, can cause infection. Meanwhile, coordination with the health department is necessary for effective contact tracing.
2. Include employees in planning.
Consider your employees’ preferences as well as their specific roles and circumstances. Begin by assessing the importance of an employee’s role. Do the employee’s tasks require extended periods of concentration? If so, then the employee will hugely benefit from working more hours at home. On the other hand, if the employee holds a position requiring constant communication with teammates, the employee and their team would be better off holding meetings.
However, each team member’s location should decide whether the meetings should be held in the office or through video conferencing. If they live nearby, then they can take advantage of office facilities for their meetings. Last but not least, ask employees how many days they are willing to report in-office and how many days they would rather work remotely.
3. Be prepared to experiment.
Besides employees’ wants and needs, their productivity and the company’s goals should also be factored in. Because of this, a company transitioning to hybrid work should prepare to fail and succeed at various points and in different aspects. In short, going hybrid is a trial-and-error kind of venture. Extend your patience and learn from both employees’ feedback and output.
Adapting hybrid work arrangements requires prioritizing safety, listening to employees, and learning from experience.