After two-plus years of the pandemic, many companies and organizations are looking to return their workforces to the office. Being together in the same physical location brings many benefits, but remote work offers advantages, too.
A hybrid model that combines remote work with in-person office work has the potential to improve how you run your business, whether it’s in PR, marketing or any other sector.
Although it does present some challenges at first, adopting a hybrid-work model can lead to greater productivity, employee satisfaction and work-life balance.
Because the hybrid-work model provides more flexibility, employees can create a routine and an environment that work for them when they’re at home, while still retaining workplace benefits such as face-to-face support, fewer distractions and more opportunities for social interaction.
Allowed this flexibility, employees can emphasize their strengths, which in turn increases their productivity. But to reach peak productivity from a hybrid environment, workplaces need to focus equally on two different work modes: synchronous and asynchronous.
In the synchronous work mode, employees work the same hours as their co-workers. They can either work together in a shared workspace or apart but with virtual meetings. Either way, when employees work at the same time, they can easily collaborate, share ideas and accommodate one another’s strengths and weaknesses. Working synchronously but from home, with virtual meetings, allows employees to reap the benefits of remote work while still sharing ideas and enjoying that level of collaboration.
In the asynchronous work mode, on the other hand, employees don’t work at the same time. Each employee follows his or her own work schedule (typically working whenever they feel they’re in the best condition to work), irrespective of their colleagues’ work schedules.
Employees can work asynchronously in the office or remotely.
Employees who work in the same office asynchronously might see one another in-person if they happen to go to the office and work at the same time. But they won’t meet as frequently as they would if working synchronously. Nevertheless, asynchronous work in the office provides the benefit of some socialization and fewer distractions, compared to working from home. It also plays to employees’ strengths. It’s the employee, after all, who determines when he or she is at their best to work and be productive.
Employees who work asynchronously and remotely from different locations might never see one another in-person or even talk virtually in real-time. However, asynchronous work from home, in particular, allows employees to focus more deeply on their tasks, provided distractions are minimized. This approach also lets employees personalize their work environments.
Hybrid work builds trust …
When employees are allowed to work autonomously, making their own decisions on when and where to work, they feel trusted, which increases their satisfaction and productivity. Employees who feel trusted are more likely to share their ideas with management, to take initiative and to perform beyond expectations. The hybrid model gives employees greater autonomy without losing the benefits of the in-office environment.
Hybrid-work models that allow employees to work autonomously from home also make them feel trusted when they’re in the office. Employees are more likely to trust their colleagues to perform their jobs well when everyone is given the same autonomy, leading to greater employee satisfaction.
… and improves work-life balance
One major benefit of the hybrid model is that it allows employees to balance their work and personal lives. While working at home, employees can, for example, also take care of their children and household chores. Having more control over work-life balance reduces stress, boosts productivity and improves employee satisfaction.
Spending all your time at home can be mentally taxing and make it harder to separate your work from your personal life, however. Working in the office part-time in a hybrid model lets employees feel they’re still “going to work.” Having social interactions at work and at home also improves work-life balance.
Challenges adopting a hybrid-work model
Although the hybrid-work model offers many advantages, it also presents challenges.
At Prohibition PR in Leeds, England, one challenge we initially faced when adopting the hybrid-work model, but later overcame, was that it diluted our office culture.
Office culture depends largely on face-to-face interactions between employees. Virtual office culture, by comparison, can seem codified and forced. Many elements of company culture, such as traditions for celebrating good work, can’t be done remotely. Diminished office culture can leave employees feeling less engaged with their work.
Prohibition has 26 employees who are now working at least three days per week in the office and two days at home. We have maintained our company culture and spirit while adopting the hybrid-work model, but it took us a while to get it right.
One often-overlooked problem when adopting the hybrid model is that it leaves physical meeting rooms and other communal workspaces underused, which wastes money. To remedy this problem, try sending an email to your staff explaining the advantages of communal workspaces.
You might also arrange team-bonding events that help returning workers feel more comfortable around their colleagues and therefore more apt to use shared workspaces. At Prohibition, we have a small bar area where we occasionally eat lunch together.
If you don’t have enough employees to justify your onsite facilities, consider renting those spaces to small businesses such as a coffee shop or sandwich bar. Such amenities for in-office workers can promote greater employee satisfaction and productivity, helping to increase your revenue and retain your staff.
Chris Norton is founder of the PR agency Prohibition in Leeds, England. A former university lecturer, he co-wrote the Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ social media handbook. “Share This Too.”
[Photo credit: deagreez]