The definitive guide to the hybrid office model

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The definitive guide to the hybrid office model

guide to hybrid office model

The Covid-19 pandemic brought a lot of changes into our lives.

For one, everybody now knows an armchair epidemiologist. (Aunt Susan, if you’re reading this, no, reading about viral load online doesn’t make you “a doctor now.”)

But one of the biggest changes has been the switch to remote and hybrid working.

What started as a temporary measure to keep businesses functioning during lockdown now appears to be the future of work: A McKinsey survey of 100 executives found that 9 out of 10 organizations will combine remote and on-site working in the long term.[1]

But building a remote team, or even a partly remote team, is no easy feat.

In this post, we’ll show you what a post-Covid hybrid office model looks like and how to implement one in your business.

Table of contents

What is a hybrid office?

Put simply, a hybrid office is a flexible working model in which employees are able to work either remotely – from their own homes, a coworking space, or even an Airbnb in the Bahamas – or in person in a designated company office space.

Its popularity has skyrocketed in recent years thanks to the stay-at-home orders issued in response to Covid-19: Pre-pandemic, only 6% of employees worked primarily from home, and about three-quarters had never worked from home.

Now, it’s a brave new world. Lockdowns saw 70% of employees work remotely, and in 2021, 73% began returning to the office for a hybrid schedule at least one day a week.

charts showing the percentage of employees working remotely pre-pandemic, during lockdowns, and when they were asked to return to the office

On the surface, the hybrid office may not sound too different from the remote-supporting workplaces we’re used to, but there are some key differences:

Remote-supporting workplace Hybrid office
Office-based work is the default, with remote working offered ad hoc; Teams and projects are run on the assumption that work will take place mainly in person; The company culture is built around an office hub or multiple hubs Remote work is consciously incorporated into company policy; Teams and projects are designed with a remote working policy in mind; The company culture incorporates a specific attitude to remote working

The different types of hybrid office models

Every organization is different, so each one may implement hybrid office models differently. But broadly speaking, they fall into three categories.

different types of hybrid office models

1. Hybrid in-office mix

A hybrid in-office mix is a model that involves categorizing your workers into two types:

  1. Fully remote workers
  2. Fully on-site workers

You could leave it up to individual employees to determine which working style they prefer. Alternatively, you could implement the model on a role-by-role or team-by-team basis.

For example, you could make your web development team fully remote since their work is mainly digital and frequently conducted remotely already. At the same time, you could choose to keep your sales teams in the office because they do more client-facing work.

Deutsche Bank is an example of a company that adopted this hybrid office model. In 2021, it instructed most of its staff to work from home but made exceptions for trading teams.

2. Hybrid split-week

The hybrid split-week model gives employees more flexibility in their schedules. They can spend a certain amount of time out of the office, which is typically set by top management or assigned by a manager or supervisor.

There are various ways to set up this model. 

Uber, for example, allows its employees to set their own schedules as long as they spend 50% of their time in the office. For instance, they could come to work for five days one week and none the next.

At Capital One, on the other hand, Mondays and Fridays are enterprise-wide remote work days, and employees are “strongly encouraged” to be in the office on the days in between.

3. Hybrid at-will

Employees have total control over their work schedules in a hybrid at-will system. The company provides a coworking-like environment where employees can book workspaces and meeting rooms when they need to come in for meetings or collaborate with team members.

We know this sounds like a free-for-all, but there are usually rules attached to this system to reduce the burden on management, for instance:

  • The requirement to book a desk if you want to be in the office
  • Limits to how often you can go into the office per week
  • Requirements for holding in-person meetings

For example, HubSpot allows employees to choose one of three work modes:

  1. Office: Employees come into the office at least three days a week and have dedicated desks. HubSpot does not provide a work-from-home setup.
  2. Flex: Employees work in the office a maximum of two days per week. They have “hotel desks” when they are in the office and a supported work-from-home setup.
  3. Home: HubSpot sets up the employees to do their work almost entirely from home.

Summary of hybrid office models

Hybrid in-office mix Hybrid split-week Hybrid at-will
Where employees work Either fully remote or fully in-office At home for part of the week and in the office the rest of the time At home or at the office
How the schedule is implemented Individually, role by role, or team by team By management in their hybrid working policy The individual employee
Examples Deutsche Bank Uber, Capital One HubSpot

The pros and cons of a hybrid office

So, now you know how hybrid office models can work. But should you implement one for your business? 

Let’s weigh the pros and cons.

The pros

pros of a hybrid office

1. Better work-life balance

We all wish there were more hours in the day, but the next best thing is telecommuting. It gives you more control over your day-to-day life. Saving the time you’d spend on a traditional commute for part of your week gives you more opportunities for things like:

  • Quality time with family and friends
  • Exercising and self-care
  • Catching up on sleep

It’s no wonder that a UK study found that more than three-quarters of home and hybrid workers reported improved work-life balance.

2. Higher productivity

Hybrid working can not only make your employees happier but also help them be more productive. That’s why 63% of high-revenue-growth companies have implemented this model.[2]

The key to these productivity gains is creating a solid hybrid work policy that guides employees in managing their work according to their environment – for instance, by doing focused work at home and group work in person.

3. Reduced real estate costs

Many office spaces have become considerably emptier since the pandemic began due to hybrid work models. On the surface, this looks like bad news, but it’s actually a great opportunity to downsize to a smaller office and reinvest your money into other areas of your business.

Even if you opt for a hybrid office model in which all employees are required to work in the office at certain times or on certain days, you will still be able to save on office expenses like:

  • Power bills
  • Cleaning services
  • Snacks and drinks for employees

4. Wider talent pool

Finally, offering workers a hybrid office model gives you access to a wider talent pool.

When you implement a hybrid in-office mix in which many of your workers are fully remote, remote hiring could give you access to professionals across the country or worldwide who would otherwise be out of reach.

Even if you adopt a split-week or at-will model, your inclusive practices will pull in a wider range of candidates whom you might have previously excluded, including:

  • Working parents
  • Professionals with disabilities
  • People with caring responsibilities

The cons

cons of a hybrid office

1. Requires skilled management

Of course, it’s not all gravy. When managing a hybrid office, it takes work to combat:

  • The lack of an in-built routine for employees
  • Employees’ isolation from one another compared with a central office
  • Communication gaps in asynchronous working
  • The limitations of text communication compared with face-to-face interactions

You’ll need an airtight hybrid work policy to make it work – but personally, we think you’re more than up to the task.

2. Risk of remote discrimination

If you worry that “out of sight = out of mind” for your workers, they have the same reason to worry about you.

Research shows that 42% percent of supervisors say they sometimes forget about remote workers when assigning tasks, and 34% of remote workers say working remotely on a permanent basis would reduce the number of career opportunities available to them.

This can lead to “remote discrimination,” with remote workers receiving fewer advancement opportunities.

Again, the solution is a clear hybrid work policy.

3. Increased cybersecurity risks and costs

Finally, you have to make sure you cover your bases. In a hybrid work model, employees access sensitive or confidential company data from home more often, so there are more opportunities for security breaches.

According to an OpenVPN survey, 36% of businesses reported experiencing a security breach due to unsecured remote workers. 

However, 92% of IT professionals said the benefits of hybrid work outweighed the risks.[3] The way to deal with security vulnerabilities is by implementing strict cybersecurity protocols – more on these down below.

7 tips for implementing a hybrid work model

You need a solid game plan to get all the benefits of the hybrid office model and limit the effects of its drawbacks. Here are seven tips for implementing a hybrid work model.

7 tips for implementing a hybrid work model

1. Create a crystal-clear hybrid work policy 

The first thing you need to do is to outline a clear hybrid work policy that answers these key questions:

  • Who gets to work from home, and for how many days? (In other words, which type of hybrid setup are you using?)
  • Who is in charge of deciding employees’ schedules?
  • What support will you be giving remote employees? This includes laptops, desk chairs, and microphone setups for meetings.

It’s also essential at this stage to clarify your employees’ and managers’ expectations for important processes like:

  • Team meetings and reviews
  • Check-ins and status reports
  • Outcomes and performance 
  • Working hours and availability
  • Dealing with urgent issues

To learn more about setting a hybrid work policy, read our post on remote work best practices.

2. Set strict cybersecurity regulations and protocols

As we mentioned above, hybrid working opens up more opportunities for cybersecurity issues. The old “castle and moat” system used for office-based businesses won’t work here. This is particularly concerning if you frequently work with sensitive data, such as:

  • Clients’ legal information 
  • Clients’ accounting and financial data
  • Embargoed information (for instance, about corporate strategy)

You need to set clear guidelines on where and how sensitive information can be stored and accessed by users in and out of the office. One way to address this is by investing in secure servers.

It’s also crucial to provide clear training for employees on how to use key software and explain why it’s important for them to keep information secure. 

The 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that although the biggest cybersecurity threats to businesses come from outside actors, individuals are still significant perpetrators, for example, through:

  • Stolen credentials
  • Phishing scams
  • Good old-fashioned human error

3. Give all your employees hybrid-specific training

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a hybrid employer is not equipping your employees with the remote work skills they need to maximize productivity.

Take meetings as an example. They’re one of the biggest differences between in-person work and remote work because of the limitations videoconferencing technology places on organic conversations.

You’ll need to account for this if you decide to allow hybrid meetings within your hybrid working policy (as opposed to holding all meetings in the office). The Harvard Business Review recommends:[4]

  • Investing in the best audio equipment and training your teams to use it. For example, passing a microphone around in the office ensures everything is crystal clear for remote joiners.
  • Installing more screens in meeting rooms to make remote participants life-size.
  • Nominating a facilitator for each meeting who is trained to make sure that everyone speaks and is heard.

4. Ensure you have (and maintain) a cohesive company culture

Building a cohesive culture in a hybrid organization is a challenge. You can’t just put out some pizzas and let the magic happen as you used to in a traditional office setting (although, if we’re honest, we’re not sure this always worked in the first place…).

You have to intentionally engage your employees throughout the employee lifecycle, which includes:

  1. The hiring process
  2. Preboarding and remote onboarding
  3. Regular employment reviews
  4. Development and promotions
  5. Notice period and exit interviews

the employee lifecycle

Make them feel respected, listened to, and valued professionally and personally. This can be done through non-transactional activities like:

  • Remote socials
  • One-on-ones with senior leadership over Zoom
  • Company-wide sporting challenges tracked via a Slack channel

5. Rethink your office space and long-term rentals

A shocking 63% of workers claim that their organizations have not made any significant changes to their workplaces to adapt them to hybrid working.[5] But with “The Machines” (aka laptops) rising up to match the number of bodies in the workspace, you’ll need to rethink how your workplace functions.

One option is to flip the functions of open and enclosed spaces.[6] In a traditional office setting, meeting rooms are closed, and work areas have an open-plan layout.

But in a workplace where teleworking is more common, it may make more sense to offer individual pods or enclosed spaces for focused work and use larger spaces to accommodate meetings.

Indeed, 34% of the US workforce said their ideal office environment was mostly closed.[7]

6. Invest in the right technology tools – and train your workforce to use them

With so much work happening online, you need to invest in the right tools. These include: 

  • Virtual private network (VPN) technology to protect employees’ internet connections
  • Cloud-based project management tools and customer relationship management software
  • Video communication software (don’t just assume that Zoom is the best for everything – shop around)

We recommend being picky here. Don’t overwhelm your workforce with apps they don’t need. Instead, choose a few powerful ones that help smooth your processes.

Once you’ve got your tech set up, focus on your employees’ digital dexterity. This term refers to employees’ ability to adopt and use new technologies to achieve business success. You can improve digital dexterity in your business by:

  • Investing in learning – organizations that actively promote employees’ skill development increase their employees’ skill preparedness by up to 28% more than self-service options
  • Using people who don’t work in IT but have a good digital understanding to translate concepts for others
  • Nominating employees to be “skills disseminators” to coach other employees

7. Source talent that is well suited to remote work culture

Finally, tailor your remote recruiting program to bring in candidates who can add to your remote work culture.

This can mean identifying the kind of digital skills they have. To accomplish this, determine what kind of tech users they are:

five types of technology users

You can also assess their interpersonal skills. These might seem less important in a more dispersed workforce.

But Harvard researchers have identified the “hybrid paradox,” which dictates that although interpersonal interaction is less frequent in a hybrid workplace, interpersonal skills are becoming more and more valuable. For example, these skills are indispensable for chairing meetings and managing remote relationships.

Luckily, you can evaluate them using pre-employment testing, which makes it easy to compare candidates’ competencies and ability to add to your culture.

Summary of tips for implementing a hybrid work model

Tip for implementing a hybrid work model Examples
Create a crystal-clear hybrid work policy Define which hybrid setup you’re using; Outline what support (if any) you will be offering employees to facilitate working from home; Specify who is in charge of setting employees’ schedules
Set strict cybersecurity protocols Train employees on how to handle sensitive data; Give employees regular training on how to avoid phishing scams, malware, etc.
Give all your employees hybrid-specific training Train all managers in how to chair hybrid meetings
Ensure you have (and maintain) a cohesive company culture Engage employees through the preboarding and remote onboarding processes; Institute regular remote socials
Rethink your office space Flip the functions of open and closed spaces; Equip meeting rooms with the tech necessary for hybrid meetings
Invest in the right technology Use pre-interview testing software to streamline your hiring process; Use a VPN to protect your employees’ internet connections
Source talent that is well suited to remote work culture Use pre-employment testing to identify candidates who are suited to hybrid work

The hybrid office: the best of both worlds

You might not be able to stop your Aunt Susan from giving you unsolicited medical advice over Facebook, but now you know:

  • What hybrid office models look like 
  • The pros and cons of implementing one for your teams
  • How to go hybrid like a pro
  • Where to start with assembling a hybrid workforce

Sounds like you’re ready to take the post-Covid workplace by storm!

To find out more about remote recruiting, read our guide on how to hire top talent remotely.


Sources

  1. “What executives are saying about the future of hybrid work”. (May 17, 2021). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/what-executives-are-saying-about-the-future-of-hybrid-work

  1. McKendrick, Joe. (May 30, 2021). “Remote Work Evolves Into Hybrid Work And Productivity Rises, The Data Shows”. Forbes. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joemckendrick/2021/05/30/remote-work-evolves-into-hybrid-work-and-productivity-rises-the-data-shows/?sh=5ffacfc14825

  1. “Remote Work Is the Future — But Is Your Organization Ready for It?” (March 25, 2019). OpenVPN. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://openvpn.net/blog/remote-workforce-cybersecurity-quick-poll/ 

  1. Frisch, Bob; Green, Cary. (June 3, 2021). “What It Takes to Run a Great Hybrid Meeting”. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://hbr.org/2021/06/what-it-takes-to-run-a-great-hybrid-meeting 

  1. Bogunovic, Sofia. (December 13, 2021). “Top hybrid work trend stats from global companies for 2022”. TravelPerk. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://www.travelperk.com/blog/top-hybrid-work-trend-stats-from-global-companies/ 

  1. Keane, Jim; Heiser, Todd. (July 22, 2021). “4 Strategies for Building a Hybrid Workplace that Works”. Harvard Business Publishing. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://hbr.org/2021/07/4-strategies-for-building-a-hybrid-workplace-that-works 

  1. “Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey Summer/Fall 2020”. Gensler. Retrieved September 6, 2022. https://www.gensler.com/uploads/document/740/file/Gensler-US-Workplace-Survey-Summer-Fall-2020.pdf 

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