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Hybrid 101: How to Begin Transitioning to a Hybrid Work Model

Jen Dewar
Jul 20, 2021 6:50:00 AM

Many people have been working from home for well over a year now, and most say it’s going well. Sixty eight percent of people say they’re successful working from home, and 70 percent of leaders say that working from home is the same or better for their team’s work performance. 

As offices begin to reopen, many companies are embracing a hybrid approach to remote work going forward. For example, 94 percent of midsize companies will have some mix of in-office, remote, and hybrid workers. Only 1 percent will be fully remote, and 5 percent plan to have all employees come back to the physical workplace. 

But this transition won’t come without its challenges. While organizations may have overcome some remote work challenges over the past year, a hybrid model can be more difficult to manage. It’s important to fully consider various aspects of this transition to a hybrid workforce model.

Determine which hybrid approach you will take

A hybrid work model means that some team members work in-office, while some work remotely—but there are many different variations of this:

  1. Remote tolerant. Team members are allowed to work remotely some of the time. This typically means team members would need their manager’s approval to work remotely, perhaps while traveling or to accommodate personal appointments during normal work hours.
  2. Remote exceptions. Most team members work in-office, while specific team members are approved to work remotely. This approach may be used to retain a team member who is relocating, or to accomodate a team member with disabilities or special circumstances. (Note: It’s important to consider how relocation will affect employee compensation.)
  3. Remote friendly. Similar to remote exceptions, but a larger group of team members work remotely all the time, while some work in the office.
  4. Remote allowed. Team members can work remotely some of the time. This could mean team members set a remote work schedule with their managers, or team members have autonomy to decide where they will work on a given day.
  5. Remote days. Similar to remote allowed, but the entire department or company works remotely at the same time. This can encourage collaboration when team members are in the office, and allow for independent work when team members are remote.
  6. Remote-first. The company is optimized for remote, operating as though everyone works outside the office—even if some team members come in. For instance, team members would call in to meetings from their individual workspaces, even if several of them are co-located in an office.

Clearly define who can work remotely (and when), and document it in your remote work policy.

Reassess your programs and processes

Your HR programs, policies, and processes were likely developed with in-office team members in mind. Reassess them from the lens of a hybrid workforce to see what may need to change.

For instance:

  • Performance reviews, promotions, and raises. Remote team members are less visible and therefore more likely to see less favorable performance reviews, fewer promotions, and smaller raises than their co-located counterparts. Put processes in place to create a consistent experience for in-office and remote team members, and track key metrics to watch for these issues. For example, run a compensation analysis before each review cycle to compare in-office and remote employees, and make strategic adjustments where needed.
  • Team building. When asked about their biggest concern around not working in an office, 45 percent of workers said it was not seeing colleagues in person. Make a plan for team building and in-person events, which can include virtual game nights, book clubs, and company-wide retreats. Get creative! For example, GitLab offers visiting grants, a travel stipend of $150 for each team member someone visits. 
  • Benefits. Be mindful about offering equitable benefits and perks. For instance, if you offer catered lunches for in-office team members, consider offering a stipend for your remote workers to order lunch from a local restaurant.
  • Recruiting and onboarding. Consider the impact of remote work on recruiting and onboarding. For instance, remote work can significantly expand your talent pool, but also create more compliance-related work. Some companies address this by limiting states or countries where team members can work, or converting employees to contractors in places the company is not registered. 

Reevaluate your tools

As your workforce, programs, and processes evolve, your company-wide technology stack will need to evolve too. Reevaluate your internal tools to determine if they still meet your needs, or if it’s time to look for new solutions that will better support your hybrid workforce.

For instance, do your tools allow you to track each team member’s remote status, so you know whether each team member is fully remote, in the office full-time, or in the office part-time? Do your solutions have security protocols that keep your data secure, even when employees are working remotely?

Depending on your approach to hybrid work, you may benefit from:

  • Chat tools that enable collaboration and connection between team members, no matter where they are. For instance, Help Scout uses Slack, Donut, and Appear.in to randomly pair two employees for a monthly 15-30 minute chat
  • A project management solution, like Asana and Trello, that will allow for asynchronous communication. It’s best if the entire organization uses the same solution, to ensure better cross-team collaboration. 
  • A performance management system that enables teams to execute a fair review process for team members, whether they’re in-office or remote.
  • Compensation management software that will help you ensure pay equity and run compensation cycles for your hybrid workforce.

Also consider physical tools. For instance, you may need to outfit conference rooms with better microphones so team members calling in can actively participate in conversations. And you may want to invest in your remote team members’ office set-ups to ensure optimal productivity. An ergonomic chair, adjustable desk, external monitor, and other peripherals can help each remote team member do their best work. 

Final thoughts on transitioning to a hybrid work model

For many, the transition to remote work was sudden and disruptive. We learned and adapted, as our circumstances dictated, but many of us can agree that there are things we could have done differently. 

Take the time to make the transition to a hybrid work model more deliberate and successful from the start. Think through what needs to change, document it, and communicate those changes with your team. That doesn’t mean you won’t have missteps, so it’s important to get feedback from team members and company leaders as you go, and iterate as needed. Hybrid work is going to be a big experiment—just as remote work was—and it will require some effort to make it successful.

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