Recently, the concept of a hybrid work schedule rose in popularity among businesses and employees alike. This innovative approach blends the pros of both remote and in-office work, allowing employees to have more flexibility in how and where they work, and giving teams more predictability to schedule meetings and brainstorm sessions. According to one recent survey, 87% of employees expressed a desire for flexible work options and 82% of businesses have reportedly adopted some form of flexible work arrangement.
By understanding the concept and benefits of a hybrid work schedule, companies can harness what’s good about it to increase productivity, improve work-life balance and attract and retain top talent. In this post, we’ll discuss what a hybrid work schedule is, how it evolved from traditional work schedules, explore its advantages and find out how to effectively implement and address the challenges associated with this emerging work arrangement.
What is a hybrid work schedule?
A hybrid work schedule is a policy that gives employees the freedom to determine when and where they work. It allows employees to work from home some days and in the office on others. Many companies have introduced the hybrid work model as a compromise for employees who got used to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but benefit from the collaboration of working in an office space.
Types of hybrid work models
There are many types of hybrid schedules, and the type that a company chooses to put in place will depend on the kind of work their employees do, how much the team benefits from in-person work and other factors. Here’s a brief overview of the three main types of hybrid work models:
- Primarily in-office: In this type of work model, employees are expected to work from the office a majority of the time, but can take work-from-home days for events like doctor's appointments, childcare situations or others. This is a more traditional work situation but still provides flexible work arrangements when employees need them.
- Remote: In a remote model, employees work from any work location they want, but the team may meet up occasionally for company-wide meetings or conferences. Even fully remote teams can gain from in-person meetings from time to time. This model can work well for companies that can’t or don’t want to have a specific office location. Employees who work remotely may have more flexibility in choosing where they work, for instance, they may be able to travel or live as a digital nomad rather than being expected to work from a specific home location.
- Hybrid: A large number of employers have implemented a truly hybrid work model, which allows employees to work in-office on some days and from home on others. Some offices mandate which days of the week employees have to be in the office, while others will let team members pick based on the employee’s preferences. This model can help teams develop predictability when it comes to working together, especially if team members are expected to be in the office on specific days.
How traditional and hybrid work schedules have evolved
Work schedules have come a long way from the traditional 9-to-5 office-bound model. Over the years, businesses have recognized the need for flexibility and have embraced alternative work arrangements. The rise of digital technology and the changing expectations of employees have fueled the shift towards hybrid work schedules.
While many employers realized the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to adapt in ways they may have been slower to embrace beforehand. As the need to work from home has decreased, some companies have found pushback in trying to bring their employees back to the office full-time. A hybrid schedule can strike the balance between traditional in-office work and a more flexible remote environment.
7 types of hybrid work schedules
There are several scheduling options for hybrid employees. Again, this will depend on the company’s specific needs, the type of work employees do and what types of tools the company has. But here are seven of the most common hybrid scheduling options:
In a split schedule scenario, employees spend some days working from home and some days working from the office. This is usually determined in advance. For instance, team members are expected to be in the office Monday through Wednesday and work from home Thursday and Friday, although some employers allow employees to choose what days they come in from week to week.
Depending on the type of work employees do, it can be good to allow certain teams to decide what kind of hybrid work schedule they want to best accomplish their goals. Often a company will ask that all teams try to work toward a set number of days in the office, but allow individual teams to determine when those days are.
In a company-decided hybrid model, the executive leadership team determines when everyone should be in the office and when they can work remotely. While this may be the most predictable model for a company, it may also be the least flexible for employees or teams who may need more choice in determining when and where they’re most productive.
In a staggered schedule, employees may come into the office not just on different days, but at different times of day. This has been a common work schedule for a long time for places like hospitals and call centers which require round-the-clock staffing with coverage for a variety of shifts. But it’s also become a new hybrid model for teams that may require some employees to be in-office at the same time for a few hours each day and then allow them to choose how (and where) they work the rest of their time.
In a flexible place or flexi-place model, employees get to choose where they work. This can include a “hot desk” system, where employees can work from any desk within the office location. In a larger company, this may work better if you implement a reservation system so employees can reserve a space before they come in. Like the bottom-up model, this model puts the decision on where to work in the hands of employees, although this is decided on an individual basis rather than a team basis.
Similar to a flexi-place model, the flexible time or flexi-time model gives employees the opportunity to choose what time they work. This may work well for team members who have different schedules due to family commitments, childcare or health concerns. For instance, some team members may need to take a few hours in the afternoon to pick children up from school or daycare, so they could work from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and then log back in from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to finish their day after dinner. This can also work well for teams that work in different time zones but want to be available for each other during a set block of hours.
In a completely flexible work environment, individual employees get to choose when and where they work. This may include an open office policy, where employees can come into the office when they feel like it or work completely at home or even from other remote locations. Many startup companies and tech companies have offered total flexibility to their employees for years, which allows them to hire almost anywhere in the world and gives their employees the flexibility to work however they want. However, this can make it difficult to keep office space or to justify the cost of a permanent location for some companies if all the employees choose to work from home.
Benefits of a hybrid work schedule
A hybrid work schedule offers many benefits for both employers and employees. Some of the key advantages include:
- Increased employee productivity. Some studies show that employees work better when they have a choice in when and where they do their work. This includes higher rates of innovation, satisfaction and overall job performance.
- Improved work-life balance. Employees who have some flexibility in their work schedules tend to have better work-life balance, which improves their ability to be productive. It also helps to prevent burnout, which is an increasingly important concern for employers.
- Reduced commuting time. Commuting time has a major impact on employee health and satisfaction. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health, longer commute times lower satisfaction with both work and life. Long commutes also raise concerns about the environmental impact of commuting. By allowing employees to work from home even just a few days a week, employers can improve their workers’ overall health and job satisfaction.
- Better talent attraction and retention. A hybrid workplace can be a draw for many workers who want or need flexibility in their time to allow for any number of personal factors. Allowing employees to have remote working options also opens the talent pool up to a greater geographical area. At the same time, current employees will usually appreciate the benefits of a hybrid workplace and be less likely to want to find another job.
- Flexibility in office costs. Many companies find that they can downsize their office space if they allow employees to work remotely, cutting down office costs. Even by shutting down the office and allowing employees to work from home for one day, employers can save on the costs of energy, water and office amenities.
Challenges of a hybrid work schedule
While a hybrid work schedule offers a number of benefits, it also comes with its own set of challenges.
- Potential for miscommunication. Without the ease of face-to-face communication, it can be easy for information to get lost or misunderstood in a hybrid work environment. Technology like video conferencing and instant messaging can help mitigate the issue, but it’s important for employers to foster an open and inclusive communication culture.
- Maintaining company culture. With employees working remotely, it can be difficult to maintain a strong company culture. Companies that implement hybrid schedules will need to invest in strategies to cultivate a connected and engaged workforce. This can include virtual or in-person team-building activities, recognition programs and opportunities for cross-functional collaboration.
- Productivity concerns. Not everyone can work productively from home when there are distractions like laundry, TV or family to attend to. At the same time, employees who work remotely but aren’t meeting their goals can slip under the radar and go a long time without being noticed. Productivity monitoring tools like ActivTrak can give managers location insights that help them understand where employees are working their best, and where schedules may need to be tweaked to improve performance.
- Ensuring accountability and trust. According to a recent study by Microsoft, 85% of leaders say they have trouble trusting that their remote employees are actually working. Without the traditional cue of a body sitting in its assigned workspace, it can be hard for managers to find ways to measure whether or not employees are actually working. Again, productivity monitoring tools like ActivTrak can help mitigate this by providing data on how much employees are working and how efficient they’re being, which can help improve trust across the board.
How to implement a hybrid work schedule
Successfully implementing a hybrid work schedule requires careful consideration and planning. Here are some steps to ensure a smooth transition:
Get employee and manager buy-in
One way to help ensure success in a new hybrid work situation is to ask employees and managers what they would prefer. By giving teams an opportunity to state their needs, expectations and beliefs, you can help design a system that benefits everyone as much as possible. You can also address concerns and soothe fears proactively.
Be clear about responsibilities
It’s a good idea to have a written hybrid work policy and make sure that every employee understands their role. Will managers be responsible for devising work schedules or will HR do most of the work? HR and IT security teams will also need to be prepared to handle some of the challenges of remote work.
Be prepared to compromise
Many workplaces that have tried to implement a strict return-to-work policy have been met with pushback from their employees, including teams threatening to leave the workplace altogether. Different teams may have different needs within your organization, and a one-size-fits-all approach may not be good for your company. Work with employees, managers and team leaders to determine the best approach for each department, and be prepared to change the program or compromise as necessary.
Find the right tools and systems
Technology is a key to helping hybrid and remote teams function at their best. Finding the right workforce management tools and systems for your team is important to ensuring success. Provide your team with the project management, communication and productivity tools they need to make a smooth transition to a hybrid situation. You’ll also need to be able to manage in-office issues like meeting room reservations, shared calendars and more.
Provide ample training
Employees and managers will need training on systems and tools that can help them get their work done in a hybrid work environment. Change can be difficult for any office, but by making sure team members are equipped with the right tools and good training on how to use them, you can help them succeed.
Evaluate the process and make changes
Your hybrid work policy will probably need to change as situations arise. Use tools to monitor productivity to help you and your team members understand where some processes may need to change. Get feedback regularly from employees and managers to help you gauge how they’re doing. The nature of work is constantly changing, and companies that can grow with it rather than resist it will have a much better chance of success in the long term.
Manage hybrid work schedules and employees with ActivTrak
Get insight into how your hybrid workforce is doing with ActivTrak’s productivity monitoring tools. Easily see where employees are working most productively with comprehensive dashboards for hybrid and remote workforces. Sign up for a free demo today and see how ActivTrak can help you implement or manage a hybrid work schedule.