Everything you need to know about hybrid work schedules

Caeleigh MacNeil 撰稿人特寫照片Caeleigh MacNeilMay 19th, 2022
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Summary

According to our research, employees do their best skilled work at home but still prefer the office for most interpersonal work. Different types of work are best suited to different locations, and hybrid work lets you take advantage of that fact. Learn how combining remote and in-office work can help your team get the best of both worlds—the camaraderie of the office, plus the focus and flexibility of working from home.

The COVID-19 pandemic showed us that remote work is possible—and sometimes even preferable. Research shows that workers often concentrate better at home, and less time spent commuting means more time for our personal lives. But as offices start to open up again, it’s also clear that in-person collaboration is equally valuable. Just as remote work gives us more focus and flexibility, the office provides a much-needed place to socialize and work alongside our peers. 

But the divide between home and the office doesn’t have to be an either/or. Thanks to hybrid work, you can get the benefits of both. 

What is a hybrid work schedule? 

A hybrid work schedule is a flexible work model that combines remote and in-office work. It lets employees work from home on some days and from the office on others. Workers don’t need to be in the office all the time, but they’re not strictly telecommuters either. Instead, team members on hybrid teams reap the benefits of both worlds—the camaraderie of in-office work, plus the focus and flexibility of remote work. 

The three different work models

Hybrid work is one of three different work models. Here’s how they compare: 

  • In-office work schedule: Team members work from the office all the time, except for occasional work-from-home days for doctors appointments, childcare, and one-off life circumstances. 

  • Remote work schedule: Everyone on the team works remotely from different locations. There’s no physical office, but remote employees may see each other in person a few times a year for team events or off-site meetings.

  • Hybrid work schedule: This is a combination of the two prior models. Employees work from home on some days and from the office on others. Some hybrid work models let employees choose when to come in, while more structured schedules dedicate specific days for at-home or in-office work. 

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What’s behind the hybrid work trend?

Hybrid work isn’t new, but it’s more popular as a result of COVID-19. The pandemic proved that remote work is possible and even beneficial thanks to improved flexibility, work-life balance, and focus time. As the world started to open up, it became clear that in-office work isn’t the only way to be productive. Employees naturally gravitate toward the office for teamwork and toward home for more focus-intensive tasks. In fact, 49% of workers see the office as more of a social space than they used to, especially when it comes to collaborative tasks like strategy and planning, onboarding, 1:1 meetings, and training. 

The remote-work infrastructure implemented during the pandemic is still in place, meaning it’s been easier for teams to adopt hybrid schedules and stay flexible amidst the continuing uncertainties of COVID. Now 42% of remote-capable employees split their time between home and the office, and that number is projected to top 53% in the coming years. 

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Types of hybrid work schedules

Hybrid work comes in many forms, meaning you can tailor your team’s work schedule to fit specific needs and preferences. As you navigate the world of hybrid work, check out these common hybrid work options and learn about their pros and cons.  

Cohort schedules

Cohort schedules are the most structured hybrid work approach. With this format, everyone follows one common rule set by their manager or the company. For example, everyone at the company works in-office on Mondays and Tuesdays, with the option to work from home Wednesday through Friday. 

Here are a few popular types of cohort schedules: 

  • 3:2 model: Employees spend three days in the office and two days at home. This hybrid work policy is easy to coordinate and allows everyone to be in the office on the same days of the week. There’s at least one drawback, though—the 3:2 model doesn’t allow companies to downsize their office space, so it can be expensive.

  • Bottom-up model: The company lets individual teams decide which days they need to be in the office.They set a goal (like two days in-office per week) and let each team decide what works best for them. The bottom-up model allows teams to work together to determine what office schedule is optimal for everyone—and since different teams are in the office on different days, you can downsize your office space. A potential downside to this method is that it’s harder to get cross-functional teams in the office on the same day. 

  • Staggered schedules: This hybrid model doesn’t just specify the days employees should come in—it also determines what time they should come in, down to the exact hour of arrival and departure. Staggered schedules are the most rigid cohort schedule, and are best for shift-driven work. For example, a doctor's office might use staggered schedules to ensure there’s enough staff available throughout the day, while still operating at reduced capacity to avoid COVID risk. This would allow doctors to see patients virtually on their work-from-home days, but still ensure there’s sufficient in-office coverage. 

Flexible schedules

Flexible schedules are just that—flexible. They provide no hard-and-fast rules. Instead, employees can work from home when they want and come into the office when they want. 

  • Flexi-place: This hybrid model gives individual team members the freedom to decide where they want to work on a given day. It’s similar to the bottom-up method, but the decision-making power lies with individuals instead of whole teams. If you want to downsize your office, flexi-pace schedules can still work as long as you have a desk-reservation system. If you have limited space for in-office work, this means employees can reserve a workspace before they come in. Keep in mind that you might run out of space on a given day, so team members who want to come in may not be able to.

  • Flexi-time: This model allows team members to choose their hours. For example, on work-from-home days team members could work from 8am to noon, run errands, then log back on from 3pm to 7pm. You can also combine flexi-time with flexi-place schedules or cohort schedules to provide even more flexibility for your employees. 

Benefits of hybrid work schedules

There’s a reason hybrid work schedules are on the rise. When done right, they maximize the benefits of both remote and in-office work. Here’s how: 

Boost flexibility and employee satisfaction

Most knowledge workers agree that the divide between home and office isn’t an either/or—it’s a both/and. Employees prefer the flexibility of a hybrid work environment because it helps them fit work around their personal lives. Since employees don’t have to commute every day, they have more time and flexibility for personal and family commitments. And on the flip side, your team can still reap the benefits of in-person collaboration when they’re in the office. That’s the ultimate recipe for employee satisfaction—workers can lead rich personal lives and still feel connected and engaged at work

quotation mark
Hybrid employees tend to outperform office-only employees, and are far happier. The reason is that flexibility is a huge benefit for them—they get to do activities they really value while outperforming at work.”
Professor Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University

Balance focus time and collaboration

Our research shows that workers do their best skilled work at home, where they can concentrate better. On the other hand, employees prefer office time for collaborative tasks like strategy and planning, onboarding, 1:1 meetings, and training and development. A well-made hybrid work schedule reaps both these benefits—team members can work at home to maximize their focus during skilled tasks, then come into the office for interpersonal work. 

Why employee engagement is the secret sauce for your team’s success

Reduce costs

Some types of hybrid work schedules can help you save money. If employees are in the office less, you might be able to downsize and reduce overhead costs for office space and materials. However, this depends on the type of hybrid schedule you use. If different teams come into the office on different days, you won’t need as much desk space. But if everyone at your company needs to come into the office on specific days, you’ll still need a desk for everyone. 

Best practices for hybrid work

Hybrid work can boost your team’s satisfaction and productivity, but you have to do it right. If your company adopts hybrid work, here’s what to focus on to get the most out of your team’s time—together, and apart.

Coordinate time in the office

Hybrid work is most effective when employees can still collaborate face-to-face. That way, your team gets the best of both environments—the distraction-free focus of remote work plus the engagement and interpersonal connection of in-office work. However, this balance requires some coordination. 

The solution? Synchronize time in the office. Instead of letting individuals choose their own location each day, set a common schedule with your team to ensure everyone is in the office on the same days. Before you nail down your schedule, send a survey to collect information about which days team members prefer for in-person vs. remote work. Then, use that information to create a hybrid schedule that fits your team’s unique needs. 

Foster personal connection

Our research shows that 41% of workers feel more isolated when working remotely—so when you work from home part of the time, in-person connection is that much more valuable. That means in addition to synchronizing your team’s time in the office, it’s also important to make the most of your time together. 

Here’s how to encourage personal connections in a hybrid workplace: 

  • Make time for in-person collaboration. Get the most out of your time together—schedule 1:1 meetings and collaborate syncs like brainstorming sessions on days when your team is in the office.

  • Reserve time for in-person bonding. Set aside time for team lunches, coffee chats, happy hours, and other team events when everyone is in the office together. 

  • Don’t neglect virtual connections. Build icebreaker questions into your meeting agenda to encourage team members to open up over video. 

Create a culture of transparency and trust

Hybrid schedules allow your team to work according to how they’re most productive, but they also mean you won’t see coworkers in person every day. For times when you’re physically distant, transparency and trust are essential to help your team stay connected. You need to know what your team members are working on and how to communicate with them—but you also need to trust that everyone is working, even if you can’t see them doing it. 

Here are some ways to foster transparency and trust on your team: 

  • Make your calendar public and block off time for focus and personal appointments. That way, your team knows when you’ll be slower to respond. Plus, sharing your calendar prevents people from scheduling meetings when you’re unavailable. 

  • Share your communication preferences with your team and let them know when you typically answer messages. For example, let your team know if you prefer email over Slack messages, and set expectations that you may not respond right away if you’re trying to focus. You can also set statuses in your calendar or in messaging apps like Slack to indicate when you’re focusing or unavailable to chat. 

  • Set (and communicate) clear start and finish times for your work day. Setting these boundaries is especially important if you’re a manager, because it encourages workers to completely disconnect when they’re off the clock. When team members know when they’re expected to be working, they’re less likely to suffer from burnout and overwork. 

  • Avoid micromanaging. As a manager, it’s important to trust that your team is doing their best, even if you can’t see them in person. Once you set guidelines for your hybrid work schedule, trust your team to follow them and avoid checking up on how and where they’re working. This hands-off approach can be hard, but it’s backed by data—people at high-trust companies report 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, and 76% more engagement than employees at low-trust companies. 

Allow time for focus

According to our research, 21% of knowledge workers say that working from home would boost their focus. But for employees to get the most out of their remote days, they need a break from focus-draining notifications and meetings. Every week workers lose nearly three hours on unnecessary meetings, and every day they’re bombarded with 32 emails. That’s a lot of focus time lost. 

Here’s how to stop the noise and prioritize focus on your team: 

  • Designate one “no meeting day” each week to give people time to find a state of flow in their work. This should be a day when employees can work from home if they want to. 

  • Define what should constitute a meeting and when you can just send an email or another form of asynchronous communication. And remember, not all meetings need to be 30 minutes or an hour long. Sometimes a 15-minute check-in is all you need. 

  • Normalize longer response times.50% of managers and 42% of individual contributors feel like they have to respond to notifications right away. But constantly checking notifications drains away focus, since it can take upwards of 20 minutes to regain momentum after an interruption. As a manager, you can set more realistic expectations around response times and empower your team to snooze notifications when they need to.

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Use the right tools for hybrid work

Since hybrid schedules combine in-person with remote work, you need a tool that can keep up as your employees transition from the office, to home, and everywhere in-between. Meetings and email might work when you’re in person, but things get tricky when you need to coordinate projects at a distance. 

Luckily, work management software can help you collaborate across time zones, teams, and offices. The right tool can help you organize work in one central location and keep everyone on the same page about who’s doing what, by when. That way you don’t need everyone in a room to know what’s going on—instead, your team can work from anywhere without missing a beat. 

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