September 14, 2022

Hybrid work: The work model of the future 

Hybrid working brings new challenges for modern offices. A classic layout is no longer needed and can often be restrictive. The new trend is here to stay, and those who adapt to it early will be ahead of the game in the job market. We'll show you what's important.

The pandemic has catapulted us into a hybrid work world at the speed of light, so to speak. The evolution away from traditional work models to Hybrid Work would have happened sooner or later anyway, the changes of the past few years have only accelerated the whole thing. 

In the past, companies have had to adapt to new situations, and it has been confirmed: Alternatives to office work can definitely work. For example, many companies have already incorporated hybrid working into their corporate mission statement - welcome to the age of New Work.

What is hybrid working?

As the name suggests, it is a mixed form of working: hybrid work models combine the advantages of classic office work with those of remote work. It doesn't matter where an employee works remotely from - it can be the café around the corner, a hotel terrace, the beach or the home office.

Hybrid work takes full advantage of digitization, allowing employees to easily and securely access tools and data from anywhere.

Hybrid working gives employees worldwide more flexibility and freedom. However, there can be fundamental differences depending on the company. While some companies set hybrid work schedules that dictate which days and times you have to be in the office, other employers give their employees complete freedom to work where and when they want.

Hybrid work models therefore offer employees in particular many advantages. However, if the concept is implemented correctly, companies will also benefit from the new way of working in the long term.

Women working in a cozy position

What hybrid work models are there?

The various hybrid work models differ in two dimensions: Work location and working hours. Here, it is the place of work that determines the type of hybrid working:

1. Office First: Working in a home office is only approved in exceptional cases. Work takes place in the office at fixed (classic), partially flexible (semiflex) or completely variable (OWA) times as standard.

2. Synchronous-hybrid: Fixed days for working in the office and home office are defined, on which employees work at fixed (synchronous) or partially flexible (synchronous semiflex) times. 

3. Static-hybrid: Employees decide once for office or home office. Working hours vary from rigid to fully-flexible. 

4. Fully flexible: All employees are completely flexible in their choice of work location and can decide each day from where they work.

5. Remote First: Home office or telecommuting are the standard, while meetings in the office are the exception.

Hybrid work models now add the time dimension:

1. Fixed working hours: Employees specify when and how many hours of work is done.

2. Partially flexible: Employees can organize their working hours flexibly - for example, through flexitime.

3. Fully-flexible: For companies, it is irrelevant when and, in some cases, how long employees work. Employees work independently, enjoy the full trust of their superiors, and it is the results alone that count. 

So the hybrid working world has many faces, and the different models basically have only one major common denominator: the combination of working in the office and remote work.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of hybrid work?

Hybrid Work offers employees and companies a number of advantages, but also some disadvantages.

  • The best of 2 worlds: Hybrid work combines the benefits of working in the office and at the home office. While the home is ideal for tasks that require concentrated work, the office scores with direct interaction with colleagues. 

  • Greater flexibility for employees: they can decide for themselves where and when they work.

  • Improved work-life balance: time-consuming and nerve-racking commuting is eliminated and family commitments can be better met. In addition, employees can better balance their work with other, private errands. 

  • Greater satisfaction: Employees are more satisfied when they can freely choose their work location and working hours.

  • Increased performance: through satisfied employees. Satisfied employees also mean less fluctuation. 

  • A plus point in recruiting: Hybrid working is an important argument when recruiting employees. In addition, new employees do not necessarily have to live in the same city where the company is headquartered.

  • Cost savings: Companies save on energy and rental costs because the shared desk concept means less office space is needed.

Where there are advantages, the disadvantages are not far behind. However, thanks to a wide variety of hybrid work models, these tend to be challenges to overcome when implemented correctly:

Mother works in Homeoffice while her child is painting
  • Hybrid work models aren't for everyone. Not everyone can or wants to work from home. So these employees will not be won over to hybrid working.

  • Increased coordination effort: managers need to coordinate their team, which may be in different locations and time zones. 

  • New equipment needs: employees must be equipped with the appropriate technology, meeting rooms with video conferencing systems, and desk-sharing workstations with appropriate equipment.

  • No cost savings for static or semi-flexible work models, since employers must bear all costs for the office as well as for technical equipment for home office and the like.

  • Less direct, human interaction in the team. The result could be social or psychological problems.

  • Work and private life mix. Switching off from work at home, even though some of it takes place within your own four walls. That can take some getting used to.

Introducing hybrid working successfully

To successfully establish hybrid work models in a company, concrete, measurable goals must first be defined. In addition, there must be an open discussion about goals and potential conflicts, involving all employees. 

For example, everyone involved should be aware that more home office or remote work will lead to less social interaction. This can bring uncertainties or even fears for some employees, which should be heard and dispelled right at the beginning.

Once the overarching goal of the new, hybrid work model has been clarified, it's time to take stock. Which activities require undisturbed, concentrated work? Which ones require direct contact with the team? Are there tasks that can only be handled from the office?

It may be worthwhile to define hybrid work personas. Here, concrete requirements are supplemented by soft elements, such as the need for social interaction. 

This is followed by adaptation to the concrete circumstances. The best way to do this is to go through the entire employee journey once and then translate the findings into the corporate guidelines.

Once a company commits to hybrid working, this can also be the basis for further far-reaching changes. For example, companies can adopt an agile organization with working groups or establish a bottom-up approach in the future. 

Hybrid working models also mean that managers have to adopt a situational management style and implement sustainable target agreements with the team using the OKR method.

Hybrid working and technical challenges

Hybrid working brings with it a host of technical challenges. This means that companies that previously had only a rudimentary digital setup must fundamentally restructure themselves. 

For remote work, home office and other forms of collaboration to work, appropriate IT equipment is extremely important. For example, every employee must be equipped with technology suitable for home office use. This includes an external monitor, mouse and keyboard, and a headset. Of course, the same equipment should be provided for the workstation in the office.

Companies must also invest in hardware and software and integrate them securely into the existing IT landscape. Only in this way can remote or hybrid work function and be sustainably productive.

New project management tools are just as much a part of the technical transition as cloud-based technologies that enable data access from anywhere.

The various models of hybrid working differ primarily in terms of the collaborative aspects. As a result, each offers different solutions for digital collaboration. While asynchronous models can work well with Kanban boards like asana and Trello, hybrid working models with many synchronous processes need a shared presence through online offices (Sococo, iv Campus, Teemyco). 

For models with fixed days in the home office, on the other hand, video conferencing tools such as Zoom are perfectly adequate.

It is not only the provision of technical tools that lays the foundation for hybrid working. Employees also need ongoing training in the use of software and tools to ensure that collaboration with colleagues runs smoothly. 

People working together on a project

Communicate hybrid working models correctly

When introducing hybrid working models, the interpersonal aspect is extremely important and must not be neglected, especially at the beginning. 

An essential part of implementing hybrid working in companies is the accompanying communication. Employers must clearly define and communicate who works where and when.

In addition, the team culture must be adapted in the long term if colleagues no longer see each other regularly in person. For example, regular meetings via video conferencing or digital lunch breaks can maintain cohesion so that even employees who work remotely feel included.

Basic principles for hybrid work models to succeed

1. Test, test, test! 

Above all, it's important to test tools that boost productivity. In addition, companies should always be open to new technologies and not shy away from costly purchases. In the long run, these will pay off - so always keep an eye on the return on investment.

2. Create a hybrid work environment

A concept must be created of what the office of a hybrid work model can look like for a company. This involves considering the equipment of conference rooms, quiet zones, creative areas and places to meet. 

3. Hybrid working is a team affair 

The permanent change to hybrid working must also take place in the minds of the employees. That's why it's especially important to regularly solicit feedback from those who prefer traditional working. That way, everyone gets involved.

4. Gathering experience and learning

For hybrid working to be successful in the long term, the problems it causes must be analyzed regularly and strategies developed to resolve difficulties.

5. Perfect equipment for hybrid working

Switching between home office (or remote work place) and office must be as easy as possible. Both workplaces must therefore be equipped with laptops. In addition, there is a keyboard, mouse, external monitor and possibly a headset. Ergonomic office furniture is also part of the equipment.

6. Rely on cloud-based solutions 

Hybrid working is hardly possible without cloud-based technology. Here it is important not to miss the transition, so that you as a company are not left behind by competitors. 

Digital Workplace as the Basis for Hybrid Working

A digital workplace is a platform that gives all employees access to data and information so that they can work together effectively and productively. 

Digital workplaces create the conditions for exchanging documents digitally between people and systems, for editing them, and for storing them in a legally secure manner. Automated processes also speed up work processes in companies and reduce the workload of employees - regardless of where they are working from.

Depending on the company, the digital workplace includes various tools and platforms that make it easier for employees to collaborate. While teamwork and information exchange take place via information portals such as intranets, collaboration portals such as digital team rooms and project portals are also among the elements of the digital workplace. 

In addition, apps adapted to specific business requirements are part of the digital workplace. 

Hybrid working means flexibility and adaptability as well as the abandonment of isolated solutions in the digital workplace. Companies that see IT infrastructure as a whole and invest in seamlessly networked tools and applications will be the winners in the labour market. 

Advantages of the Digital Workplace

  1. Automation: Repetitive processes are carried out through automated workflows. This eliminates manual intermediate steps and routines - making work easier for employees. 

  1. Flexibility and security: Workplace management is centralized, which means more flexibility for employees and more security for companies.

  1. Centralized data & documents: Centralized storage and access guarantee flexible and seamless knowledge management - the foundation for hybrid working and structured collaboration

  1. Sustainable strategy: As holistic concepts, digital workplaces interweave all corporate and IT areas.
Coworkers gather around the Hybrid work ready office

Hybrid working in the hybrid office: What does it look like?

Offices have undergone a functional change since the pandemic. They are no longer primarily workplaces in the company, but mainly places for meeting and exchanging ideas and, at the same time, places of retreat for concentrated work.

 

The office of hybrid working comprises three core areas for which suitable zones must be created: Focus, Creativity & Meetings, and Social. 

  • Focus areas are quiet, flexible workstations that employees can book individually for concentrated work in silent mode.

 

  • Meeting or creative zones are equipped with whiteboards, conference tables and seating areas and are ideal for small group meetings or kick-offs.

  • The remaining office areas, such as the coffee kitchen or lounge corner, are reserved for informal exchange and social interaction.

With hybrid working, it is particularly important for companies to create opportunities for their employees to get together in person. After all, in the courtyard office or when working remotely, there are no random conversations in the hallway or at the coffee machine. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the cozy areas in the office - where employees feel like they're at home and can still interact with colleagues in person.

Office design elements for the hybrid office

  1. Shared Desks: One workstation, multiple employees. This saves space and resources. Prerequisite: Employees must be able to network easily with their laptops. 

  1. Flexible office furniture: Ergonomic and configurable furniture creates workplaces that can be individually adapted to the needs of different employees. 

  1. Private meeting rooms: Instead of large conference rooms, small, private meeting rooms for 6-8 people (e.g., work groups) create an environment for creative and productive work. 

  1. Community Kitchen: A neutral, inviting place to eat (together) is important. It should be as practical and cozy as possible and is used for quick meetings or personal exchanges.

  1. Office café: Café atmosphere boosts creativity and productivity and can be easily replicated in the Hybrid Office. The ingredients: Bar chairs, a self-serve coffee bar and quiet lounge music. 

  1. Outdoor areas: If there are unused outdoor areas, be sure to convert them into an outdoor office space. Fresh air and sunlight improve concentration and memory, reduce stress, and encourage creativity and good humour. Here, combine long tables with small ones for two, so that people can brainstorm as a team or work alone.

Office concept for hybrid working: the combi office

There are several office concepts for hybrid working - the combi office being the most economical. 

Combination offices combine single-person offices with multi-person offices and open spaces, providing a good mix of concentrated work, communication and exchange. 

Advantages and disadvantages of combi offices:

Advantages:

  • Plenty of space - both for concentrated work and teamwork.
  • Privacy is maintained thanks to individual offices
  • Depending on the situation, targeted communication is possible

Disadvantages:

  • High space requirement per workstation
  • Relatively high costs due to high space requirements
  • Little flexibility
  • Hierarchies due to exclusion of executives

Whether a combi-office makes sense for your company depends entirely on the nature of the new hybrid work models and the extent to which hybrid working is realized. 

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