How to create a successful hybrid workplace

Practical tips to improve your hybrid working process

Introduction

If you have the option, do you prefer working from home to make you more efficient? Would you rather come into the office every day to get human interaction? Or are you like most of us that want the best of both worlds?

When asked, most employees who worked from home during the pandemic want to continue doing so. Regardless of when the pandemic ends, employees will keep demanding flexible working conditions. Even though most people do not want to work from home full-time, they want to work remotely to some extent, and 80% think that working from home has worked well.

Future workplaces will consist of hybrid teams where some work on-site and others from home or on a beach in Costa Rica. Important to consider, however, is that most people believe that completely digital meetings work better than hybrid ones. Finding a balance between the needs of remote-workers and those in the office will be key to a successful workplace in the future.

So, what is required to make a workplace with regular hybrid meetings function as well as a traditional workplace? We believe you need to build a sustainable infrastructure internally as parts of the staff are at the office and others at home. In this guide, we help you set up a hybrid work environment that will help your business adapt to this new way of working as well as the changes still to come in the future.

The definition of a hybrid workplace

Many experienced the hybrid workplace for the first time during the pandemic. Some worked from home, while others were still stationed at the office, resulting in a new approach to online meetings.

The hybrid workplace is simply the combination of office and remote work. Whilst the hybrid workplace was originally a matter of necessity, for many businesses it has transpired to be an environment better adjusted to each employee’s specific needs and to achieve improved work-life balance.

Digital meetings where every participant sits behind their personal computer tend to work out well. There are obviously moments where the internet connection throws people out and the occasional puppy barking in the background, but they are generally pretty stable.

Problems usually began to increase when meetings went hybrid. It’s much harder to make sure everyone is heard when some face each other in a conference room, while others are at home by themselves. That can affect the outcomes of meetings, as those who meet in person may have their points prioritised as it is easier for them to communicate among themselves. This area definitely has room for improvement.

Employees want to keep working remotely…

Employees will continue to seek flexibility and to control where and how they work to a greater extent. In a Microsoft survey from 2021, 73% of workers replied that they want to keep having flexible remote working options. In The Swedes and the Internet 2021, you can read that half of all professionals in Sweden worked from home in 2021. 9 out of 10 who worked from home want to continue to do so after the pandemic.

…And so they should

But not only is a hybrid workplace a means for satisfied employees; it’s also a success when it comes to productivity. In a study by BCG, 75% of the asked employees who had worked remotely during the pandemic said to be as productive as before when performing their individual tasks. About 50% say they are also at least as effective when performing collaborative tasks that would usually take place in a physical conference room.

 

Office design of the future

Planning office space

A positive aspect of hybrid work is that companies can reduce office space and save substantial amounts. But it might be tricky to figure out how much space you need when you don’t know how many employees will actually come in each day. Designing your physical workplace in a way that supports both in-person and remote workers is certainly possible, but there are a few important things to consider such as desk assignment and room layout.

Hot desking and hoteling

Hot desking means that employees do not have a designated workstation – you take whatever spot is free. The number of employees outnumbers desks, and you only use as many desks and rooms as you need. That will become common as more offices turn hybrid.

Hoteling is practically the same concept, although it means you need to reserve a spot through an app or other software before you can use it. You can set up rules for how often each person is allowed to book a spot; let’s say you can book an office space twice a week.

Remember
Take employees with specific needs into consideration. Those with small children at home whose partner is on parental leave will probably prefer to come in often. And many aren’t comfortable working from home, especially younger employees out on their first job. Many live in smaller apartments, plus they want to meet new people and experience working life “for real”. Think about prioritizing the desk situation, like if you want to let younger employees and parents have priority.

How should offices be designed?

Combine collaboration and meeting rooms and make sure there are separate spaces for focus and social interaction. If employees mainly come in for social interaction, meetings, and collaboration, you want to create an inspiring, social environment.

If possible, make sure you have a few smaller focus rooms. If you only have larger meeting rooms, one might have to book those even for small one-on-one meetings. Allowing employees to take calls or just sit in a secluded space for a while is just as crucial as having larger spaces for social interaction.

Adapting an existing workspace for hybrid needs
A hybrid office design should suit all employees, regardless of whether they’re working from home, the office, or both. But as many offices won’t be able to add new rooms, there are other smart adjustments to be made.

  • Video conferencing setup – all companies will need a system ensuring smooth communication between in-house employees and remote workers. Therefore, all conference rooms should be equipped with a camera, strong internet connection, VoIP, video conferencing software, and if it’s a larger space, microphones to ensure excellent sound quality.
  • Creating different areas – even if it’s impossible to rebuild, you could designate specific areas for various activities. In an activity-based setup, certain areas transform to social spaces, others for focus work. You can implement flex-desking in a separate part of the office where employees can book a desk for those days they’re coming in.
  • Room booking systems – so people at the office always have a room prepared for meetings and never let meeting participants wait for them to find an empty room.
  • Modular furniture – use flexible furniture that can be tailored to fit your company’s requirements. You can assemble and disassemble them, thereby adjusting the number of desks in use, etc.
  • Outdoor spaces – don’t forget that easy-going meetings can be held outside if the weather allows, and why not combine it with a walk to get that pedometer going?

 

 

Internet of Things extra tip

Install IoT sensors to count how many people are currently in the office. This way, you can also identify which desks need to be cleaned based on how often they have been used.

Adjusting for better home offices

An essential part of hybrid work is ensuring a better work-life balance for your employees. They will appreciate being able to eliminate lengthy commutes, find time for exercise or just plan their days to allow for smoother drop-offs at school.

But in the 2021 survey by Microsoft, 42 percent say they miss office essentials, and 10% don’t have a proper internet connection. For the hybrid workplace to function, you must create suitable conditions for everyone that decides to work from home.

What technical solutions and equipment are needed?

Technology is obviously a key factor, and you need one or several intelligent solutions. Some prefer Microsoft Teams for all communication, while others combine, for instance, Google and Slack.

Regardless of the solution, you want to find a way for people working at home to communicate just as easily as those sitting across from one another in the office. A good tip is to create channels and chat groups. You can categorise conversational topics in different Teams channels or set up chat groups for subjects as diverse as after-work hangouts and lunch tips.

Some practical arrangements are recommended even if you can’t offer employees larger apartments or a better indoor climate. Offer all employees a screen, keyboard, desk chair, and headset. It can make a huge difference! Of course, a desk that can be raised and lowered can also cause considerable enhancements to the working environment, but you probably need to have some limitations to how much you can invest. Most employees will understand that you can’t take full responsibility for the home working environment.

 

6 tips for successful hybrid video meetings

Online video meetings are usually more efficient than meeting in person. They also tend to result in people being on time for once! Although there are certain things to consider. Most digital meetings today that combine people at the office with remote participants tend to be inadequate. Everyone should be able to collaborate regardless of location.

Leading employees in the hybrid workplace

A positive aspect of leading employees digitally is the possibility of forming a closer bond. Although you might not sit next to each other at the office, you get to see your coworkers’ kitchen, cat, or partner and get introduced to their home environment. Something that usually offers a closer insight into their lives than if you only met at the office.

The same treatment for everyone

As a leader, make sure that remote employees are getting the same opportunities as those working from the office. The hybrid workplace shouldn’t result in special treatment of any sort.

To get a better idea of what the employees want, simply ask them! Send out surveys or talk to them separately and ask them about:

  • How have they experienced working from home? 
  • How many of them want to work from home? 
  • How many days would they like to work from home?
  • Who needs to/must come to the office regularly? 
  • Do they miss any technical setup at the office?
  • Are they lacking any equipment at home?
  • Does anyone need training in specific programs?

 

Extra tip

Getting a grip of who is available and who’s away is something that can become quite tricky in a hybrid workspace. With smart software that makes it easy to communicate availability, employees can set up personal profiles. Then you’re able to see who’s away for lunch, home sick or available for a meeting.

 

Conclusion

When planning a future hybrid workplace, you need to look at the employees and what they need. They are your most important asset, and implementing a higher degree of flexibility is essential today and probably even more so in the future. The hybrid workplace is not a temporary situation; it is the future of work. We suggest you start going in that direction sooner rather than later.

One final reminder, though. Allowing employees to work from home to achieve a better work-life balance can also come with downsides. The office, colleagues, and commuting might be replaced by endless working hours. You can cram in meeting after meeting and be online in chat rooms 24/7.

Microsoft’s previously mentioned 2021 survey showed that the time spent in MS Teams meetings more than doubled during 2020. The average MS Teams meeting was longer, and time spent in chat rooms and on emails increased.

Since many experience that they can work even more from home, they might feel overworked. In fact, 54% in that survey felt overworked, 39% exhausted.

So, our final reminder is to keep regular meetings with everyone and look out for warning signals. A hybrid workspace should be as beneficial to your employees as the company itself, never at the expense of your employees.

At Telavox, we are dedicated to making communication easier within and between companies. We have developed a solution making workdays a whole lot easier by using one app for calls, texts, and video conferences. Get in touch if you’d like to get to know us better!

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