Hybrid Work: Pros, Cons, Process, and Examples
Hybrid work has emerged as a preferred model for employees and employers. Learn the benefits and challenges of hybrid work, how it compares to in-office and remote work models, and how to build an effective hybrid workforce.Explore hybrid work
Table of contentsWhat is hybrid work? Benefits of hybrid work: A look at pros and consSteps for implementing a hybrid work modelExamples of hybrid work Build the ideal hybrid work model for your team
What is hybrid work?
Hybrid work is a flexible work model that includes any number of arrangements involving some amount of in-office work and some amount of remote work.
In fact, the only two work arrangements that are not forms of hybrid work are working fully remotely or fully in the office. If someone works remotely most of the time, but comes into the office once or twice per year for important meetings or social events, that person could technically be considered a hybrid worker, even though most people would consider them a remote worker for all practical purposes. Here we’re focused on jobs where meaningful amounts of time are spent in both environments.
Benefits of hybrid work: A look at pros and cons
Hybrid work has become popular during the pandemic as many employers were forced to send many employees home to work, or to have them work some of the time remotely, and some of the time in the office. During this time a number of benefits, pros and cons have been identified.
Pros of hybrid work
Hybrid work offers the “best of both worlds.” At least that’s the argument for its continuation even post-pandemic. Proponents of hybrid work argue that by allowing employees to work from home some of the time and asking them to work in the office some of the time, the organization can eliminate or mitigate the negative aspects and maximize the positive aspects of both models.
Specifically, the pros of hybrid work include:
Nothing says flexibility like hybrid work. The concept of hybrid work lends itself to a wide range of variations, based both on employer and employee needs. Employees have largely enjoyed the newfound flexibility that such arrangements allow, offering them the maximum in work/life balance.
While many employees might prefer working fully remotely, hybrid work is actually about twice as popular as fully remote work globally. That sentiment has been displayed publicly as some employers have attempted to call employees back to the office. Such mandates have not been viewed favorably by many employees.
Depending on how a remote work arrangement is set up, employers may be able to significantly reduce the physical office space required for their workers.
For example, a company that has half of its employees come to the office on certain days and half on the others could theoretically get by with half of the space needed if everyone was working in the office full time. In addition to paying less for buying or leasing office space, employers would pay less for heating, electricity and other forms of overhead.
Expanded recruitment opportunities
Again, depending on the specifics of the hybrid arrangement, employers who don’t require staff to be in the office five days per week can expand the geographic reach of their recruitment efforts. It might be unrealistic for someone in Baltimore to commute every day to a job in New York City. But that arrangement could be easily done if they only came into the office a couple of days per month.
This expands the talent pool for employers significantly, which can be particularly important when recruiting hard-to-find talent that may not be readily available locally.
Cons of hybrid work
Despite the obvious benefits and high level of support from employees, there are some drawbacks to hybrid work situations. Some notable cons of hybrid work include:
Some critics of hybrid work say it can be a logistical nightmare to arrange in-person collaboration when everyone’s on different remote/office schedules. Companies may also end up paying for more office space than they use because it’s too difficult to coordinate schedules. And some employees don’t always see hybrid work as a significant improvement over fully in-office work. It can be hard to please everyone with these types of arrangements and the variations are broad.
Employees may have to stay close to the office
While some employees may savor the opportunity to work in casual clothes, sweatpants, or even pajamas every day, those who may need to come into the physical work setting on occasion have less flexibility than others. A hybrid model also doesn’t hold the same benefit for employers hoping to cast a wider net in recruitment as a fully remote model would.
Questions of fairness
The variety of hybrid work formats means high degrees of variation among companies and within companies between different departments and teams. This inevitably leads to questions of fairness and the potential for bias, whether real or perceived.
An employee who has to come into work three days a week when a colleague only has to come in one or two, or not at all, may start to feel that they’re being unfairly treated. Members of the accounting department might resent their director’s policy if it requires them to spend more time in the office than other departments, for instance.
Companies moving from an in-office to a hybrid work arrangement face potential legal risks they should be aware of and discuss with their legal and HR teams. Employees who choose to live out of state thanks to the flexibility of hybrid work may require different tax treatment. Those questions of fairness and bias discussed above could lead to claims of illegal discrimination. And hybrid work also poses particular logistical and legal challenges when dealing with non-exempt employees.
Steps for implementing a hybrid work model
Converting a company’s workforce from an in-office to a hybrid workforce is immensely complex—even more complicated than switching to fully remote. It requires careful and thoughtful planning and effective communication with all stakeholders—considerations that should be part of workforce planning.
Here are the steps to take when instituting a hybrid work model.
1. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of a hybrid model
Companies should evaluate the right type of work model that will best suit their team and business goals. Some industries—including various retail, healthcare, service and other organizational settings—may not be able to make hybrid options available for all staff. Some could theoretically work remotely but feel it’s too detrimental to collaboration or productivity.
2. Determine employee sentiment
While hybrid work models have become popular, not all employees in all settings will value this option. Seeking their input as part of the process for considering hybrid work is an important step to ensure support and ongoing engagement.
3. Create policies
Because of the many variations and potential for unfairness that may be related to hybrid work, it’s especially important to establish, communicate, and consistently apply policies to manage hybrid work. HR should work closely with senior leaders and managers to design and implement policies, and to regularly review them based on feedback from all involved.
4. Seek feedback
It’s important to seek feedback about how hybrid models are working, not just from employees and managers but also from customers, vendors, and other partners. This feedback can help inform policy changes or additions, and process improvements.
5. Set KPIs
Is your hybrid policy working? It’s impossible to know if you don’t establish key performance indicators (KPIs)—metrics, or analytics—you will use to determine the impact of a hybrid work model (both positive and negative). Has productivity increased or decreased? How about employee engagement? Employee turnover? Overhead costs? Going through the process of establishing KPIs and using analytics to benchmark current status will help to answer those questions.
6. Review compliance and security
It’s important to do due diligence with the legal, HR, IT, and security teams before finalizing and implementing a hybrid work policy, and after a hybrid model has been implemented.
7. Monitor and iterate
You’re not likely to get everything right when you first establish a hybrid work model. It’s important to continually seek feedback, track KPIs and make adjustments as necessary to reap the benefits and avoid the potential drawbacks of a hybrid work model.
Examples of hybrid work
There are countless examples of hybrid work. Here are a few to help give a sense of the different ways companies can blend in-office and remote work.
Three days in, two days out
One quick and easy way to set up a hybrid work schedule is to just split the week as close to in-half as possible and have people come in one half and work remotely the other half. Other variations are, of course, also possible.
Hoteling refers to a workplace arrangement whereby employees do not have fixed workspaces but temporarily use shared workspaces and equipment based on a reservation or first-come-first-served system. A flexible hoteling system would allow employees to come into the office whenever they wanted and use shared workspaces according to their availability.
In-office for collaborations
Some companies allow staff to work remotely whenever they don’t need to closely collaborate with their teammates, in which case the entire team would come to the office.
Build the ideal hybrid work model for your team
The myriad variations and logistical challenges with hybrid work can make it daunting for even highly sophisticated companies—sometimes particularly for highly sophisticated companies. But no company should feel like they can’t implement a hybrid policy simply because it’s too complex.
Understand what matters to your employees
Managers can make or break a hybrid work policy. Seek their input about how teams might work best, and what employee preferences might be for the ideal workplace model. Take into account how your teams collaborate best and consider the impact a hybrid work model could have on employee engagement and productivity.
Take a look at comparisons and analyses of employee compensation across job functions, geographic regions, seniority levels, demographics and employee performance. This helps identify potential disparities that could give rise to claims of discrimination, but it can also help company leaders develop and execute compensation strategies involving geographically dispersed hybrid staff.
Unfortunately for employers, developing, implementing, and maintaining a hybrid work arrangement is incredibly complex. Fortunately, Visier offers a suite of best-in-class business intelligence tools ideally designed to address the challenges of hybrid work.