The modern-day workplace is no longer confined to one physical location; it can now exist anywhere there's an internet connection. The workforce has changed too - more people are working remotely than ever before. The concept of the "9 to 5" job doesn't exist anymore. This means that companies need to rethink how they design their hybrid offices for maximum productivity and efficiency, which often includes both digital and analog tools so employees have access wherever they are.
What exactly is a hybrid office? The term can be used to describe a variety of different office setups, but in general, it refers to an office that incorporates both physical and virtual elements. The physical element might be a traditional office space with desks and chairs, while the virtual element could be a remote team working from home or another location.
The hybrid office is an evolving term that can refer to a variety of setups. Mainly, the setup depends on how you'll answer this question: when and where employees will work from?
Essentially, there are three hybrid office models:
Understanding each type and which one your company will adopt will help you understand where your employees are going to work and when they're reporting to the office.
These companies are operating 100% remotely all of the time. They may not even have a physical office space. This is a common setup for early-stage tech companies over the past decade. Piret Kerem, Head of Engineering from Xolo, shared in our Accomplished Peeps series:
"We allow people to make their own decisions and decide on their preferences [of where to work and when]. We don’t have requirements as we trust people to choose where they work the best. Our offices are open and the possibility is there."
Xolo is a financial services company with 85 employees based in Estonia that has adopted a remote-first culture even before the pandemic.
💡 If you want more inspiration from companies with a hybrid model, read more interviews in our Accomplished Peeps series.
Larger companies with thousands of employees, on the other hand, have switched to a remote-first setup to adapt to the New Normal. Dropbox, for example, has 4000 employees who are now working remotely 100% of the time. The company has kept its office space to support in-person meetings and collaborations. Individual desks have been removed and spaces no longer support solo work.
For companies that need their employees to have some face-time, they have an office-occasional setup. People work remotely but have the option to come into the office to work. This setup varies as well depending on the roles, teams, and managers.
There are a variety of combinations for this setup as well. Companies can decide to:
A good example of an office-occasional hybrid office is at Saps Labs India. In 2021, they overhauled and redesigned their campus to accommodate their new hybrid office model. The research and development company has a:
"blended strategy that supports different parts of the workforce with combinations of in-person and distributed working and have installed activity-based work areas with agile furnishings and free seating."
This setup is as close to the pre-pandemic work model but with a bit of flexibility. Employees still report to the office but are allowed to work remotely some of the time depending on the manager or role. It's hard to find tech companies nowadays that require all of their employees to report to the office 100% of the time. The decision to adopt this hybrid office model is dependent on the roles rather than a blanket policy.
Salesforce, for example, has three main flexible options for their employees. Most employees have the flex option where they report a few days per week in the office and work at home the rest of the time. Others are fully remote. For a small group of staff, they are required to report to the office 4-5 days a week.
While companies big and small have a variety of hybrid office models, there’s one thing we can say for sure: the hybrid office concept is now focused on creating collaborative spaces instead of individual workstations.
💡Want to discover more hybrid companies around the world? Check our Top Hybrid Companies to Work for in 2021 list.
Are you planning to switch to a hybrid model this 2022? There are many factors to consider that it can be overwhelming, especially for office managers that take care of the logistics.
Here are 10 questions to reflect on, so you can better understand what to include in a hybrid office and how to start supporting remote workers:
Asking these questions can help you focus on which areas you need to execute on and which ones you need to let go of (at least for now). At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself: does your workplace support a hybrid workforce?
💡Pro Tip: Read The Types of Flexible Working Models That Actually Work to give you more ideas on which hybrid model your team should adopt.
One of the main challenges of maintaining a modified hybrid office is getting people to come to the office. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies were forced to adopt a remote-first setup.
But this 2022, leaders are now encouraging a healthy balance between time at home and time in the office. More importantly, in-person collaboration and networking have negatively affected innovation. According to Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index, “Shrinking networks are endangering innovation.”
That’s why it’s critical to build a culture and a system that easily supports in-person meetings and collaborations. For example, Slack apps like ‘Where’ helps connect a hybrid workforce by easily knowing which days people are working from home or in the office.
Companies need to focus on more than just the physical environment. Employees today want a collaborative work experience that will boost productivity, creativity, and innovation within teams. The key is finding an effective way to combine face-to-face interactions with virtual collaboration, so you can provide both environments in one location. The hybrid office is definitely here to stay, but it will undergo many iterations and will continue to evolve. Leaders who are constantly getting insights from their hybrid workforce will continue to innovate and lead the future of work.