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While some companies have embraced a fully remote and distributed workforce, others still see value in convening in a physical workplace. Still others are choosing to leave the decision to their employees.
Enter the hybrid workplace. The concept of a workplace combining remote and on-site workers has picked up steam over the last two-plus years pandemic working. In the last few months, hybrid work has also come to mean different things to different people, particularly at the team level.
Some companies require teams of employees to come to the office on the same days of the week. Others give employees flexibility to choose when and if they work on location. Inside those broad outlines, there’s further variety. Some organizations are offering more remote time and limiting office days to twice a week. Others are implementing more rigid rules.
As companies explore hybrid work, there’s a growing need for a better defined structure for managing on-site and remote work. According to the 2022 Microsoft Work Trend Index, 38 percent of hybrid employees struggle with knowing when and why they need to be in the office, and only 28 percent of leaders have established policies for hybrid teams.
So, when does it make sense for workers to come in to the office? And should companies make hard rules or leave it up to teams?
The Different Flavors of Hybrid Work
Identifying the ideal structure for a hybrid workplace is a concern for many leaders. In a 2021 report based on PwC’s US Remote Work Survey, 68 percent of company executives advocated for working in the office at least three days a week. The majority see the office as vital in fostering company culture, employee collaboration and hosting client meetings.
A Gartner report cited four scenarios to structure collaboration in a hybrid world:
- Working together, together: Having teams co-located and attending meetings together.
- Working together, apart: Taking part in virtual meetings although teams are dispersed.
- Working alone, together: Working together in shared spaces but not simultaneously.
- Working alone, apart: Individuals work alone, away from teams.
When many companies are still only contemplating the return to the office, the best strategy remains unclear. Time will tell, and it’s likely to be highly dependent on company culture and industry.
Related Article: Why Hybrid Work Policies Need Flexibility
Building a Team-Based Hub for Work
Many employees have become comfortable with remote work, but some leaders worry the absence of physical proximity does not provide the same level of camaraderie or culture as a traditional workplace. Having a hub where workers can congregate and collaborate can help fill that gap.
“The role of the office is still relevant but offices should be a perk, not a requirement,” said Shishir Mehrotra, co-founder and CEO of San Francisco-based collaboration software company Coda. While remote work has proved effective for making important business decisions, it hasn’t had the same effect on fostering human connections, he said.
Mehrotra suggested teams hold off-site or informal meetings occasionally to establish trust and build bonds between team members. Even companies operating with a distributed workforce across multiple regions are finding the importance of establishing in-person contact between colleagues and have begun exploring or actually budgeting for hubs or workspaces.
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