By Nils Reisen on 30.05.2023 | 8 minutes reading time
If there’s one thing that the pandemic has taught us, it’s that work can work perfectly in settings that are radically different from what we were used to. Remote work, once seen as a perk for a select few, has become the new normal for millions of workers worldwide.
But the new normal isn’t that normal yet. Many managers and HR professionals are currently racking their brains over which rules and policies to adopt, when and how to support, and which ways they can measure how well their hybrid work setup is working for employees and leaders. Does this sound familiar to you?
In this post, we'll show you how you can unlock your employees' engagement and productivity by creating a hybrid work setup that leverages the best of both worlds.
Sneak peek: there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, with the right tools and mindset, you can find the perfect setting for your organisation and ensure that your employees stay engaged and productive. Plus, we throw in six actionable tips that enable you to get started right away.
As more companies adopt hybrid work models, finding new ways to ensure everyone performs at their best is becoming increasingly important. But what exactly is hybrid work, and how can you apply it for your company? Let’s dive in.
Hybrid work: The future of work or just a buzzword?
Hybrid work is a model where employees work both remotely and in the office. It can take many forms, from employees working from home a few days a week to working from anywhere in the world. The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of hybrid work, with many companies realising its advantages for both employers and employees.
While some companies such as Airbnb, Dropbox and Google have even adopted permanent remote work, most have opted for a hybrid approach, blending remote work with in-person office time. Research by McKinsey underlines that trend: "While 99 per cent of executives expected employees to spend more than 80 per cent of their time in the physical office before COVID-19, that perspective is now shared by a mere 10 per cent." And this trend also reaches frontline workers. Gartner identified hybrid flexibility for frontline workers as one of their 9 future of work trends for 2023.
So one thing is clear: hybrid work is here to stay.
The best of both worlds?
You might have experienced it yourself: working from the office on some days and from home on others has many advantages. And indeed, hybrid work can leverage the benefits of remote and office work and thus combine the best of both worlds.
Benefits of remote work
1. Higher engagement and lower stress levels: In our work with our customers, we have found that engagement and satisfaction are higher and stress is lower when people can work from home. And we have observed these effects in ourselves as well.
2. Improved productivity: Already before COVID-19, research showed that remote work improves productivity. And this has been confirmed in many studies that were conducted during and after the pandemic. Tispurski recently wrote a good overview of the research.
3. Flexibility: Remote work allows employees to work from anywhere, making balancing work and personal life more manageable and, yes, making it not only easier to squeeze in some private things but also some more work.
Benefits of office work
1. Collaborative environment: Office work allows for easy communication and collaboration with colleagues, leading to more efficient teamwork and problem-solving, especially for creative tasks. Particularly important: spontaneous encounters (see below).
2. Access to resources: In an office, you have access to specialised equipment, meeting rooms, supplies, a cafeteria, and other facilities that may be essential to your work.
3. Structured routine: Having a set schedule and designated workspace can help establish a routine that can increase productivity and promote work-life balance.
By leveraging, the strengths of each work setting, hybrid work thus allows for both in-person and virtual collaboration, leading to more efficient and productive individual work while ensuring good communication, teamwork and team cohesion.
While this sounds like great news, hybrid work could potentially also combine the downsides of both remote and office work – the worst of both worlds, so to speak.
Downsides of remote work
1. Lack of social interaction: Remote work can be isolating, leading to employees feeling lonely and disconnected. Another critical aspect is that it is much harder for teams to build cohesion when everyone is in different places.
2. Difficulty in collaboration: Remote workers may face challenges in collaborating with their colleagues, leading to communication gaps and misunderstandings.
3. Blurring of work-life boundaries: When working from home, employees can have difficulties in switching off from work. This can decrease productivity and result in burn out in the long run.
A significant downside of remote work is that it makes spontaneous encounters much less likely. Accidentally running into someone on your way to the cafeteria has proven extremely valuable for obtaining relevant information and getting ideas for your work.
For instance, when Pixar built its new headquarters, it was designed to maximise spontaneous encounters. Steve Jobs was personally deeply involved in the design of this building. In his biography, he said: "If a building doesn’t encourage that, you’ll lose a lot of innovation and the magic that’s sparked by serendipity […] So we designed the building to make people get out of their offices and mingle in the central atrium with people they might not otherwise see". According to Pixar co-founder John Lasseter, "Steve’s theory worked from day one […] I kept running into people I hadn’t seen for months. I’ve never seen a building that promoted collaboration and creativity as well as this one".
Spontaneous encounters are almost impossible when people do not share the same physical space. So far, I haven't seen any successful attempts to solve this problem. But of course, working in an office isn’t just gravy either.
Downsides of office work
1. Distractions and interruptions: An office environment can be full of distractions, from noisy hall meetings and «quick questions» to chatty co-workers that disrupt your workflow. You certainly have experienced that yourself, haven't you?
2. Lack of privacy: In an open-plan office, privacy is limited by design, which can be uncomfortable for some people and make discussing confidential topics difficult. In particular when collaborating with people in other locations, the current office setups with large meeting rooms and only a few "phone booths" can make work at the office cumbersome at times.
3. Commuting: Commuting to and from work can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if you have to deal with traffic or a long journey by public transportation.
With all this in mind, you might wonder what you can and should do or avoid to make sure that work not only still works for everyone but that allows you to leverage the new possibilities optimally. You might be asking yourself the following questions:
- How can we ensure that our people and teams can perform well?
- How do we know how everyone is doing?
- What rules and guidelines should we implement?
Do these questions sound familiar? Read on to find out how to find answers to them.
The chicken AND the egg: Six tips for creating a successful hybrid work setup at your company
After giving it quite some thought, we now have gained clarity on what steps to take for a successful hybrid work setup. We have compiled these steps into a list of six tips. They helped us – and will probably help you, too – to create a successful hybrid work setup.
Here they are:
1. Establish communication channels:: Define when and how you communicate what and to whom.
2. Set clear expectations: Establish a goal setting mechanism including clearly defined deliverables, responsibilities and deadlines.
3. Foster team culture: Ensure teams maintain cohesion in spite of their increased physical distance.
4. Prioritise work-life balance: Be conscious of work-life balance and provide guidance when the lines between work and home are blurred.
5. Embrace technology: Stay connected with your workforce and enable teams to regularly reflect on their collaboration (e.g. with tools such as Pulse Feedback).
6. Be flexible: Be open to accommodating different working styles.
In our short guide, you can find more details on these six steps.
Examples: Swiss Post and Vitra
After the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies grappled – and are still grappling – with the question of how to regulate remote work and office presence. Here are two examples I find interesting.
Swiss Post refrained from issuing a set of rules to govern its hybrid work setup. Instead, they decided to give responsibility to their teams and let them decide who will work where and when.
Designer furniture brand Vitra introduced a hybrid work typology with four groups that differ with respect to the amount of time they spend at the office. Employees first select the group that best fits their situation and needs and then discuss their choice with their superior.
Embrace the future of work – with confidence and purpose!
Hybrid work is here to stay, and it's up to us to lead the way in shaping its future. The key to success is finding a balance that works for your organisation. And this balance may differ from team to team.
If you are aware of the specific pros and cons of the different work settings, have a clear picture of your employees' needs and allow for enough flexibility for solutions to emerge, you can ensure that your hybrid workforce thrives. Getting regular feedback is key, as is making sure that your employees can regularly reflect on their collaboration and actively shape their work environment.
Let's embrace this new era of work with confidence and purpose, and create a more productive, engaged, and fulfilling work experience for everyone.
Isaacson, W. (2011). Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster.
Jaschik, M. (2021, April 23). Hybrid arbeiten: Diese Struktur hat das Familienunternehmen Vitra. nine to life. Abgerufen am 25. April 2023 von https://nine-to-life.de/04-hybrid-arbeiten/
Flexjobs, J. H. (2023, April 18). 25 companies embracing permanent remote work-from-home jobs. FlexJobs Job Search Tips and Blog. Abgerufen am 27. April 2023 von https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/companies-switching-remote-work-long-term/
McRae, E. R., & Aykens, P. (2022, December 22). 9 future of work trends for 2023. Gartner. Abgerufen am 27. April 2023 von https://www.gartner.com/en/articles/9-future-of-work-trends-for-2023
Pöschl, F. (2021, July 1). Büro Oder Homeoffice? - Post-Angestellte entscheiden selber über Homeoffice-Regel. 20 Minuten. Abgerufen am 25. April 2023 von https://www.20min.ch/story/post-angestellte-entscheiden-selber-ueber-homeoffice-regel-444116240302#
Scharf, S., & Weerda, K. (2022, June 27). How to lead in a hybrid environment. McKinsey & Company. Abgerufen am 27. April 2023 von https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-organization-blog/how-to-lead-in-a-hybrid-environment
Tsipursky, G. (2022, November 4). Workers are less productive working remotely (at least that's what their bosses think). Forbes. Abgerufen am 5. Mai 2023 von https://www.forbes.com/sites/glebtsipursky/2022/11/03/workers-are-less-productive-working-remotely-at-least-thats-what-their-bosses-think/?sh=7abc4dea286a