How to make hybrid working, work – 8 ways to make the most of the hybrid work model

The hybrid workplace is the new norm. Accelerated by the pandemic and the necessity of remote working, hybrid work models involve some in person time at company office spaces, and some remote work. Employees work from the office office for important meetings, or a couple of days a week for in person collaboration. Recent research conducted by International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that three quarters (74%) now offer hybrid work arrangements.

But the adjustment to a hybrid workforce can be a challenge for both employers and employees. Many companies value in person work and encourage employees to come into the office, whilst others have completely got rid of the office space, seeing it as an unnecessary expense.

And employees want it. According to a survey out of the World Economic Forum

The majority of employees, 68%, prefer hybrid work, versus 28% wanting to work full-time from home and only 8% preferring full-time on-site work. So how do employers make the hybrid work model, work?

White woman with brown hair sat at wooden desk working from home with her small dog.

What are the benefits of a hybrid work model?

Inclusivity and diversity

A hybrid workplace model provides employers with access to a more diverse pool of talent, rather than being limited by geography. It can also be more inclusive, as it means people with physical or mental health challenges, or caring responsibilities may be able to operate within a flexible hybrid work model, but full time in person work would not be feasible.

Reduced costs

By having a hybrid model and a proportion of the company working from home at any one time, businesses will need less office space, which can reduce costs. Half of the 350 largest international employers surveyed by property consultants Knight Frank and commercial real estate firm Cres are planning to cut their office space by between 10% and 20% in the next three years.

Work life balance

That same study from the World Economic Forum found that as well as having a time and cost saving, 7 in 10 (67%) employees say that hybrid working has resulted in a better work life balance. However, that is only true if it is done well, with a working model that still looks after its employees, regardless of the location. This means allowing people to work the hours that suit both them and the business, and not contacting them out of hours.

In our survey of American employees, All Worked Up, 40% of those screening as having clinically significant anxiety and/or depression said they hadn’t sought help because they didn’t have time. Giving people the time so they can look after their mental health should be a priority for all companies.

Allows for heads down work

One of the challenges of having to work from the office is that it can be hard to do deep focused work, as there are always people around and conversations in the background. Being able to have time at home or a remote location where distractions can be switched off and focused work done can boost productivity.

Black woman wearing glasses working from home at a desk in front of her laptop.

Improves employee engagement

Interestingly a hybrid workplace model can improve employee engagement. It means that employees value their in person interactions more, and show up with more energy and enthusiasm than they may if they felt pressured into being in the office for presenteeism – which is an expensive issue that employers are facing.

Job satisfaction

Often it’s not the job itself that causes poor job satisfaction, but long days due to a commute, or the cost of travel. Allowing your hybrid teams more flexibility can reduce those grumbles that may have come from 100% on site working.findings indicate that increased perceived autonomy can significantly improve individual and group productivity.

Boosts engagement

And those long commutes may mean that team members have to leave the house early and get home late, which can cause tiredness and fatigue, and impact the quality and quantity of sleep they can get. A hybrid model has all the benefits of in-office work, and allows people to rest and relax more, without the need to be travelling, which can be seen as wasted time.

Increases autonomy

When employees have a choice over where and how they work, this increases their sense of autonomy. One study by Jabra reports that 59% of respondents reported that “flexibility” is more important to them than other benefits, including salary, and 77% said they would prefer to work for a company that gives them the flexibility to work from anywhere. Findings from one research study, published in Frontiers, indicate that increased perceived autonomy can significantly improve individual and group productivity, due to intrinsic motivation being higher.

What are the disadvantages of hybrid working?

Man with hangs over face looking stressed while working from home late in the evening.

Employee burnout

When working remotely it can be difficult to switch off. There is no clear demarcation or boundary between home and work, which can result in longer working hours. An study from the University of South Wales found that a third of respondents in 2021 worked more hours than in pre-pandemic times, and almost 12% of employees worked outside their usual working hours due to management expectation or workloads – a number which doubled from 2020.

Increases presenteeism

Because in some workplaces there is still the narrative that remote workers are slacking, and those coming into the office are more committed, those doing remote work may feel that they have to stay online longer than necessary, to prove themselves. Acknowledge workers do not necessarily need to do a set number of hours to still contribute, and we should value people not just for time, but outcome. People may also feel that they have to come into the office because of the demands of the hybrid working model, even when they have no specific reason to be there.

Impact on company culture

The biggest counter argument made by senior leaders against the hybrid work model is that it has a negative impact on company culture. In person collaboration can be important for idea generation, team building and work relationships – all of which are difficult when working remotely.

What is the impact of a hybrid working model on mental health?

Hybrid working and mental health can have a positive correlation. A study from IWG found that hybrid workers are exercising more, eating better, and 66% report better mental health as a result of working in a hybrid model.

The main benefits are that people feel they have a better work life balance due to more time being available to them, so are less drained and more able to engage with family, friends and their home life.

However the digital connection that comes with hybrid working can make it hard to detach from work, so a responsible hybrid workplace model should ensure that employees understand that they are only expected to be as responsive and do as much work as they would if they were on site.

Given that an astonishing  40% of US employees have anxiety and/or depression, with similar numbers in the UK and Australia, it is crucial that we find ways to support them in this new landscape of remote and hybrid work.

8 ways companies can make the most of the hybrid work model

1. Survey employees

Hybrid working doesn’t suit everyone. Survey your employees and gather employee feedback so you know what works for people, and the effect that certain strategies or policies are having. 

This should be an online and anonymous survey asking people questions about the hybrid work model and what they like and dislike about it, the impact it has on their productivity, wellbeing and team collaboration.

2. Mental health check ins

Use Wysa’s free and anonymous Employee Barometer to periodically check in on the mental health of your employees, and understand where they might need more support with common mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. Companies using Wysa for Employers have access to aggregated data on their workforce and can see if the hybrid work model is having a negative impact on mental health.

It can be easier to spot the signs of poor mental health in the office, but ensure that those who are doing remote work also feel supported through regular one to ones, and incorporate a Wellness Action Recovery Plan as standard so you know what everyone needs to be at their best, and what the signs of decreasing mental health might be.

3. Have a structure

Allow employees to have a structured hybrid work schedule that works for them, and allows them to flourish in the hybrid working model. Always on digital communication can make it difficult to switch off, so encourage your employees to set boundaries and have a distinct working pattern that suits them as well as your business.

4. Collaboration tools

Companies who have had hybrid work success have often implemented tools and techniques to allow for collaboration, such as digital whiteboards, communication channels, and project management systems meaning that even when working in a hybrid model employees can feel part of an overall strategy and as though they are working towards something.

5. Have fun

Company culture thrives just as well on informal team catch ups, after work drinks, or lunchtime clubs. On days when most people are in the office, have a team lunch, or allow people to finish at 4 to do some group yoga. This reminds people that there is value being in the office, beyond being seen by your boss. It also feels less structured than many team building activities, so team members will want to participate. A good benefits plan will improve culture and wellbeing.

6. Be consistent

Grumbles about the hybrid work model may come when there is not a consistent rule for everyone. If your company mandates at least two days on site, it is unfair for senior leaders to not also do the same. Ensure that leaders understand what hybrid workplaces mean and why it is important for them to set an example.

7. Trust your employees

No one wants their boss checking in on them every few minutes to see if they’re still working. Outcomes based work where people are working to agreed deliverables or impact are far more effective at engaging people than micromanaging their every move, which will exacerbate stress levels.

8. Engage remote workers

Recognise that even when people are not on site they are still part of the team and deserve to be part of an inclusive hybrid workplace. From group meditation sessions to mental health workshops, team lunches to digital fun Friday activities, there are lots of ways you can include people from hybrid teams or even full time remote workers.

By working with Wysa for Employers you can ensure support for the mental health of your employees, and understand where changes may need to be made in your hybrid work model to support  their wellbeing, which will in turn have a positive effect on company culture and employee productivity.

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