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The Types of Flexible Working Models That Actually Work

"Is the hybrid work model really the future of work?"

As a leader, this is probably one of the questions that occupy your mind most of the time. You might be thinking what are the types of flexible working models and which one is the right one for your organization. The truth is that flexible working models are not one-size-fits-all. The best way to figure out  what is right for your business is by looking at your company's unique needs and culture. Each type of flexible work arrangement has its own pros and cons, which is why it's important to evaluate each model closely. Another main factor to consider when choosing, will be what your employees want. However, at the same time time, keep in mind how they will be able to manage their responsibilities in an environment that doesn't have set hours (and location).

4 Models for Remote and Hybrid Work

Before committing to any type of model, it's critical to get to know the different options that you have on the table. The great thing about a hybrid setup is that there are tons of options for your company and employees. But that's also the downside!

With so many options, it can be difficult to choose which is the right one for you. So, what are the hybrid work models to choose from?

Essentially, there are two ways to categorize your setup: by schedule and the location or work environment.

Schedule

This type of setup will mainly revolve around the schedule of your employees. For example, do you want to provide flexible start and end times for their shifts? One of the best companies with a hybrid work model that revolves around schedule is Amazon. The company implemented Anytime Shifts where employees can have the freedom to choose their schedule and how many hours they work each week. Amazon employees who work in the warehouse and other on-site locations, still need to report in a physical office but have the flexibility to choose their schedule.

Location or Work Environment

Which teams need to be on-site when they're doing their shifts? And, are there teams that can operate remotely all the time?

Looking at the schedule and location as the main framework is a good starting point for leadership teams to help them understand which types of hybrid work models may suit them.

So what are the four types of flexible work plans that combine both schedule and location?  The most common options are remote-first; office-first, remote-allowed; hybrid-remote; and office-occasional. Wow, what a mouthful! But they are more simple than you think, so let's dive in.

Remote-first

Simply put, every employee works remotely. It's possible that they have a physical office or a main headquarter, but no one is required to report to the office. The workplace is mostly used for special events and in-person meetings (when nearby employees want to meet up). And, when they do want to meet up, they can use a slick Slack app to facilitate the meeting.

I've been working remotely for the past 11 years, and this setup is most common for tech startups. For example, tech founders in Israel may have an office space in an incubator or a co-working space, but their development and marketing teams may work remotely full-time in other countries, such as the Philippines and Ukraine

Pros

  • Lower overhead cost
  • Access to talents from around the world
  • When done right, the company can operate efficiently
  • Exposure to multi-cultural teams

Cons

  • Miscommunication and misunderstanding may happen when the communication process is not set up correctly
  • Disconnection among remote employees

Office-first, Remote Allowed

The company has a physical office or one central location where employees report to work. However, employees have the option to work remotely should they choose to.

For example, when I was working as a writing consultant in an outsourcing company in the Philippines, we had an office and each employee had their own desk space. In this scenario, the team leader allowed their employees to work remotely, especially during the holidays. In this case, it's the managers' call as to how often his or her team reports to the office. In most cases, the manager decides together with the rest of the team to match up their schedules so they share some common days in the office.

Pros

  • Provides flexibility to employees who are more productive when working remotely
  • Most of the operations can still be kept in the office
  • Office culture is still maintained and not disrupted completely

Cons

  • Desk space could be an issue if employee schedules are not coordinated properly
  • Confusion (and event resentment) if some managers don't want their team to work remotely

Hybrid-remote

Okay, I hope you're head is not spinning with all of the hybrid working model examples! The third one in our list is hybrid-remote wherein some employees are 100% remote while others are required to report and work in the office. For example, Citigroup, one of the biggest financial organizations in the world, has implemented a hybrid work model post covid where some employees need to report in the office, such as bank tellers (because this job needs to be done on-site). Roles that can be done remotely (like marketing officers) are fully remote 100% of the time.

Pros

Providing flexibility to employees with roles that can be done virtually is a great way to lower the attrition rate and also attract talent worldwide

Cons

  • The team is too scattered to have a sense of community, culture, and connection.
  • Can create confusion as to who is eligible to work remotely, so it has to be very clear what roles are required onsite and which ones can be done remotely

Office-occasional

Last but not least is the office-occasional setup, which is a good option for a hybrid work model post-Covid. All employees have the option to work remotely, but there are days that they need to spend in the office. For example, they are allowed to work remotely from Monday to Thursday, but every Friday they have to report to the office. Reporting to the office on a Friday is required because it might be the time for teams to meet in person and collaborate.

Pros

  • In-person collaboration is still on the table
  • Provides flexibility for employees without giving up being in the office completely

Cons

  • If not set up properly, it may cause overcrowding and can threaten the safety of on-site employees
  • Rules and regulations need to be clear to justify when it's needed to report to the office

Choosing the Right Types of Flexible Working Models for Your Team

Earlier, we talked about schedule and location as a framework to better understand which types of hybrid working models work best. But beyond those two, another critical factor to look at are the types of tasks.

According to HBR.org, you can design your organization depending on how many relational or transactional tasks are in your daily, weekly, and monthly operations.

Relational Tasks

  • Need more in-person creative collaboration between team members
  • Rely on more spontaneous encounters

A good example of this are the animators working in Pixar or designers working in an architecture firm. If the success of the company relies mainly on performing relational tasks, it's best to design a hybrid-work model that provides plenty of in-person interaction.

Recommended flexible working models:

  • Office-first, Remote Allowed
  • Office-Occasional

Transactional Tasks

  • Can be performed virtually
  • Routine tasks that are heavily based on procedures
  • High-volume tasks

Call and data-processing centers are the best examples of companies that have transactional tasks.

Recommended hybrid models:

  • Remote-first
  • Hybrid-remote

There are plenty of other factors to consider besides the type of tasks, but this should give you a more concrete idea of which flexible working examples have the best chance of fitting with your needs.

How to Start Implementing the Different Types of Hybrid Work Models

Now that it's pretty much clear on which model to choose, how are hybrid work models implemented? There are countless factors to consider, but the four things that are critical when implementing are your company culture, data privacy, rules and regulations, and your digital infrastructure.

Company Culture

Your decision as a leader will largely depend on your company culture. For example, when you value trust and transparency, it makes sense to commit to a remote-first setup without having to track every minute and every click of your employees.

Data Privacy

Regardless of your company culture and your industry, every company needs to educate its employees about data privacy. Enabling two-factor authentications when logging in and not connecting to a public wi-fi are simple policies but can often be neglected.

Rules and Regulations

The more types of hybrid working models you implement, the more rules and regulations you need. Make sure that company policies are revised and contracts are ready to reflect the new work models.

Tools and Infrastructure

Once you've chosen the right setup for your company, the next step is to invest in the right tools to ensure proper communication and continued collaboration.

👋 Bring your hybrid team together

There’s a better way to schedule your days in the office...right from Slack!

The Next Step

What are the different types of working arrangements we've discussed in this article? We've covered a combination of some employees working remotely 100% of the time and others working on-site on some days. Remember there are more potential combinations, and it's a matter of choosing the right one that serves both your company and employees. Plus, choosing the right types of flexible working is only the first step. There's still a long way to go! The important thing, however, is that your actions will be more aligned and you'll be able to make smarter decisions.