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Hybrid working

What is Hybrid Working? A Complete Guide

Hybrid working has taken the world of work by storm, and there’s no wonder why. Balancing your working life between the office and working remotely is a luxury that not many of us had pre-pandemic. 

Of all the changes that the COVID-19 pandemic brought to us, the dawn of hybrid working is one of the best. Today we’re discussing what hybrid working is, its advantages, and how you can make it work in your favour. Let’s get started!

The Definition of Hybrid Working

Hybrid working is a working model that combines traditional in-office work with flexible remote work. This allows employees to work from home on certain days while attending the office when necessary. For employers, hybrid working can be beneficial for both cost savings and employee satisfaction.

When the pandemic properly began in 2020, workers were forced to set up shop at home and work there for most of the year. Kitchen tables were turned into ad-hoc workspaces, and spare rooms all over the world were turned into offices. 

For many, being able to work from home was ideal, and made their lives a bit easier for a while. Having discovered the benefits of home working for their employees, many organisations decided to make a permanent change to hybrid working. 

Advantages of Hybrid Working

So why exactly has hybrid working stuck with us? There are plenty of overall benefits of hybrid working, but here are a few that we think are the most important:

1) Better Work-Life Balance & Wellbeing

One of the most talked-about aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the effect it had on our mental wellbeing. Emerging from this was the revelation that having a better balance between work and life is good for our mental health. 

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of hybrid working is how it allows for a better work-life balance. Time saved from commuting allows us to catch up on things in our non-working lives, whether it be socialising, childcare, or general life admin.

2) Increased Productivity

Some of us find that we are more productive at home, where the distractions of the office environment are gone. Others find that the office is where we’re at our best, and allows us to get into the mindset of working. 

Whether it’s the lack of proper office space at home, or distracting colleagues at work, hybrid working bridges the gap between the two. This allows those who work better in the office to choose to spend their time there, with the same applying to those who work better at home. 

3) More Appreciation of the Working Environment

Perhaps the biggest issue that people found with working from home full time is the lack of interaction with their colleagues. With the social element stripped from working, many of us found ourselves losing motivation over time. 

This highlighted just how important a good working environment is to get the best out of your employees. When we are given the choice of working from the office or from home, we come to understand the benefits of each environment, and can plan our time accordingly.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Working

Hybrid working certainly has its advantages, but there are also some drawbacks to be aware of:

1) Increased Complexity

One major disadvantage of hybrid working is increased complexity in terms of project management and communication. 

Trying to coordinate tasks between colleagues who are physically present in the office and those who are not can be difficult, especially if various technologies or online tools are required for collaboration. This could lead to confusion when assigning responsibilities or monitoring progress on projects. 

However, cutting-edge project management software – such as Verto 365 – ensures seamless collaboration between remote and onsite employees.

2) Social Isolation

While having the option to work from home can bring greater flexibility and autonomy in scheduling, it may also lead to feelings of social isolation or disconnection from colleagues if not managed properly. 

Additionally, employees who need more hands-on support may find it hard to get the help they need when their manager or coworkers are not physically present.

3) Difficulty Separating Personal & Professional Space

Another downside to hybrid working is that it can be difficult to separate personal and professional space. With a traditional office-based model, it’s easier for employees to associate the office with work and their home with leisure, leading to a clearer sense of work-life balance. 

However, with a hybrid model, the boundaries can be more difficult to distinguish as both the home and the office are used for work.

Take a look at our Benefits of Hybrid Working blog for a deeper dive into this.

Types of Hybrid Working Models

A hybrid working model is any combination of remote and on-site work that allows a company to optimise its operations, while still providing employees with the flexibility they desire. 

Here are the three primary models of hybrid working adopted by organisations:

1) Remote-first

Companies with a remote-first model place remote work at the forefront of their operations. Most employees will spend the majority of their working days at home, attending the office on a weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly basis. 

Companies with a remote-first model may also have a mixture of hybrid and fully-remote employees. 

Companies often adopt a remote-first approach when they either:

  • Have their team spread out over a wide geographic area
  • Do not have the budget to maintain an office space

The remote-first approach is commonly adopted by smaller, more-agile organisations, such as startups.

2) Office-first

Companies with an office-first model require employees to primarily work from the office, with the option to work remotely on either a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. 

Employees may be required to attend the office on set days, while remote work may need to be booked in advance with HR.

Companies often adopt an office-first approach when they:

  • Require frequent in-person collaboration between employees
  • Have a large percentage of their workforce in a centralised location

The remote-first approach is usually adopted by established, client-facing companies, such as law firms.

3) Fully-flexible

A fully-flexible model provides employees with complete freedom to work either from the office or remotely at their own discretion. 

There is usually no minimum requirement of days that must be worked from the office, with team members being able to arrange office visits between themselves when collaborative working is required. 

Companies often adopt a fully-flexible approach when they:

  • Have established office premises, but operate within an industry where office-based working is not necessary.
  • Would like to provide maximum autonomy to employees

Fully-flexible hybrid working models can be adopted by a wide range of organisations, but are particularly common amongst small and medium-sized enterprises.

The Evolution of Hybrid Working

1) Phase 1: 2000 – 2020

Hybrid working as a concept began in the late 2000s when technology was becoming more accessible and remote working was gaining traction. 

Certain companies – notably those in the technology space – started to experiment with having employees work remotely for certain days of the week, while having them present in an office setting on other days. 

This allowed some staff members to benefit from a better work-life balance while ensuring there were still people physically present in the office for important meetings or collaborations.

2) Phase 2: 2020 – 2021

While the concept of home working was slowly growing in popularity over the 21st century, it’s experienced substantial growth since the pandemic began.

The move to home working happened almost overnight as companies had to quickly adapt their operations amidst the global lockdown. This resulted in extensive training for employees on how to use digital tools, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams for remote communication and collaboration projects. 

Before this sudden transition, there was some reluctance among workers about having to work remotely due to technical difficulties or a lack of structure. However, this soon faded away as companies adeptly handled these challenges with skill and agility.

As lockdown restrictions began to ease across the world, many businesses introduced a hybrid model to ensure members of staff were able to work from the office where required, albeit in a safe and comfortable manner. 

3) Phase 3: 2021 – Present

As the world began to return to normal following the pandemic, many businesses had already invested significantly in the infrastructure required for hybrid working. In addition, the benefits of maintaining a hybrid model – both to employers and employees – were substantial for many organisations.

As a result, many organisations now adopt a hybrid working model as standard procedure for employees, despite there no-longer being a legal requirement for home working. 

Is Hybrid Working the Future?

It seems that hybrid working is here to stay, for now. Businesses all over the world are realising the benefits of giving employees a little more freedom. But will it stay with us forever? 

According to Nick Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, around 5% of paid working days were from home in the UK and USA. When the pandemic hit in early 2020, this rose to around 50%. This has now dropped to around 25%, with many previously home-working organisations allowing their workers to attend the office two to three days a week. 

Time will tell how this rate grows in the future. More traditionally white-collar organisations such as banks and councils have been keener to retain office working as the norm. But for now, it looks like hybrid working is a favourite among forward-thinking organisations. 

Will Hybrid Working Suit You?

So where do you stand on hybrid working? Are you someone who works better from the comfort of home, or do you prefer a bustling office environment? Here are a few things to consider when thinking about how hybrid working might suit you:

1) Where are you most productive?

You’ll probably already know whether you are more productive at home or in the office. If you’re someone who struggles to get into the right mindset for work while at home, full-time office work might be the better option. 

Some of us are equally productive no matter where we are, which makes hybrid working ideal. Some tasks lend themselves to home working, while others benefit from a collaborative environment. If this sounds like you, hybrid working might just be perfect for you.

2) Do you have a suitable workspace at home?

Perhaps the biggest issue that the world found with working from home was the lack of a suitable workspace. Many of us had to use our kitchen tables as a desk, which tends not to foster the right headspace for being productive.

Some of us are lucky enough to have a dedicated space at home, such as a spare room converted into an office. If this is you, it sounds like you’re well-equipped to handle hybrid working.

3) How well do you collaborate from home?

It’s no secret that the office environment makes collaborating with colleagues easier. Being able to bounce ideas off each other allows for more creative thinking, which isn’t so easy when working remotely. 

Some people find that all they need to collaborate effectively is regular updates via video call, but others thrive on real-world collaboration. It’s up to you to determine if you can collaborate just as well from home as you do in the office.

Making Hybrid Work for You

If you are looking to implement a hybrid working model in your workplace, there are a handful of prerequisites that will make the pivot a lot smoother. 

1) Clearly define your stance on hybrid working

Every worker should be crystal clear on their organisation’s stance on hybrid working. Formal policies should be in place that explains how the organisation stands on the hybrid model. Many organisations have made hybrid working an option, meaning that workers can choose whether to work from home or from the office. 

Others mandate that their workers attend the office a set amount of days per week while allowing them to choose one or two days to work from home. If you’re a decision maker in your organisation, it’s up to you to define your policy on hybrid working, and clearly communicate it to your workforce.

2) Find a method of communicating effectively

Employees need to be able to communicate seamlessly whether in the office or working remotely. Many organisations spread their communications over multiple channels, which can make things confusing for their workers. 

Thousands of organisations around the world are consolidating their communications using platforms like Verto 365. By hosting all company comms and workloads in one place, you improve your employee’s capacity to collaborate and communicate effectively.

3) Be aware of the effect on mental wellbeing

Understanding how hybrid working affects the mental wellbeing of you and your teams is absolutely essential. The more you understand this, the better you can communicate with your colleagues. 

Some of us can feel somewhat isolated when working from home, which has a significantly negative impact on our mental wellbeing. Being attentive to the mental health needs of your colleagues and employees is absolutely vital to ensure everyone stays happy and productive at work.

The Infrastructure Required For Hybrid Working

In order to establish an effective hybrid working model, it’s important to invest in suitable technology that allows remote employees to interact with those onsite.

Here’s an overview of the standard infrastructure required for hybrid working:

1) Suitable Office Space

For businesses looking to configure their office environment for hybrid working, the first step is to plan and design a space that works for both remote and on-site employees. With a hybrid working model, it’s important to invest in an office space that’s:

  • In a convenient location for all members of staff to access
  • Appropriately sized to comfortably accommodate those working from the office, while limiting the amount of unused space

In addition, it’s important to invest in appropriate equipment for the office to ensure seamless communication with those working remotely. This includes robust computer systems, high-speed internet, and ergonomically-designed furniture to ensure maximum productivity. 

2) Home Office Equipment

For hybrid workers to derive maximum benefit from the arrangement, they need reliable access to a laptop or desktop computer that’s powerful enough for daily tasks. 

A smartphone with a good data plan can also come in handy so that people can stay connected when away from their desks. Additionally, a headset or microphone with noise-cancellation features will ensure clear communication during video calls and meetings. 

You may consider providing employees with essential remote working equipment, as well as a list of recommended additional items to facilitate remote working.

3) Communication Channels

Video conferencing software like Zoom or Microsoft Teams helps ensure remote team members have access to meetings, regardless of where they’re located. 

Other necessary tools include messaging apps like Slack or Google Hangouts, which allow quick communication between colleagues and remote teams.

4) Cybersecurity Infrastructure

With employees accessing company infrastructure from various different locations, it’s important to have robust cyber security measures in place.

To help ensure a secure work environment, organisations should implement a range of cybersecurity tools. These include:

  • Cloud access security brokers (CASB) 
  • Endpoint protection solutions 
  • Network segmentation
  • Two-factor authentication for essential tools
  • Data encryption tools 
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)

It’s also recommended to provide essential data protection training to employees, ensuring digital activities are carried out in a secure manner at all times.

5) Project Management Software

Finally, online project management systems – such as Verto 365 – should be used to ensure seamless collaboration between remote and onsite employees.

Project management systems house numerous intuitive features to facilitate collaboration, including document management, instant messaging, and an intuitive project dashboard. This substantially improves both the efficiency and communication of a hybrid team, ensuring you meet your strategic objectives as seamlessly as possible.

Managing a Team: Project Management Best Practices

Fostering a Strong Hybrid Working Culture

With a hybrid workforce, employers need to create an environment that brings out the best in their teams and encourages them to work together from any location. 

Here’s an overview of how to foster a robust hybrid working culture within your organisation:

1) Ensure Everyone is Comfortable With The Arrangement

The first step to nurturing a strong hybrid working culture is to ensure that all employees feel comfortable with the new structure. 

This means providing resources such as training materials and advice on how to effectively manage both remote and office-based staff members. 

In addition, it’s important to highlight the numerous benefits of the hybrid working structure to your team, as well as how they can leverage the increased flexibility.

2) Schedule Regular Check-ins With Staff Members

Implementing regular check-ins with managers and employees can ensure they remain engaged and motivated, while also providing an opportunity to discuss any obstacles or issues they’re facing. 

Additionally, it is important to continually provide opportunities for professional development, such as virtual training sessions or workshops. This ensures all employees have access to learning opportunities regardless of their location.

3) Organise Regular Social Events

Organising virtual or in-person events for your team can engage employees and build relationships among them. 

For example, you could plan a monthly in-person social where employees from different locations can meet up and establish stronger relationships with one another. 

It’s also possible to plan virtual events – such as quiz nights over Zoom – that encourage conversation and allow for meaningful connections between coworkers.

Hybrid Working FAQ

1) What is the Difference Between Hybrid and Home Working?

Hybrid working involves a combination of time spent either onsite at an office or working remotely. This approach enables employees to benefit from both worlds, allowing them to take advantage of being able to collaborate with colleagues in an office environment while also having the flexibility that remote working provides.

Home working, on the other hand, involves undertaking tasks solely away from a company’s physical premises. Employees can carry out their duties remotely from wherever they choose – typically their own homes.

2) Why Do Employees Prefer Hybrid Working?

Employees may prefer hybrid working due to the opportunity for greater flexibility in their schedules. 

Hybrid working allows individuals to better manage their lives by having more control over when they need to be in the office and when they can work from home. This can reduce stress and improve morale, resulting in greater job satisfaction for those who choose a hybrid approach to their work. 

3) How Many Days at Home is Considered Hybrid Working?

Generally speaking, the definition of hybrid work typically involves two or more days spent in the office and two or more days worked remotely at home. 

It’s important to note that this can vary depending on the size and type of business you’re in. Some companies may offer four days at home with one day in the office or vice versa. 

Additionally, other employers may allow for full-time remote working but with regular weekly team meetings held in person.

Make Hybrid Working Seamless With Verto 365

A platform like Verto 365 can help make hybrid working simple and easy for everyone. If your organisation is using Microsoft Teams for work, Verto 365 can make collaborating and communicating easier than ever. 

When integrated into Microsoft Teams, Verto 365 brings a whole range of tools and embeds them into the MS Teams interface. Quick chat tools make comms fast and direct, while work management and planning tools like Kanban Boards and Document Sharing ensure everyone stays on the same page. 

If you are looking to make hybrid working easier for your organisation, start a free trial of Verto 365 today, or request a demonstration from one of our hybrid working experts!

About the author – Laura Watts

Laura is the Marketing Manager at TMI Systems Ltd., working predominantly on Verto 365 and closely on the Microsoft partnership enabling the platform to be used in its entirety from Microsoft Teams. Laura and her family moved from London in 2021 and now live and work in Gloucestershire.

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