- What does ‘hybrid working’ mean?
- What are the pros and cons to hybrid working?
- What are some hybrid work solutions?
- How to create an effective hybrid workplace policy
- What’s the impact on mental health and hybrid work?
- Why is it important to foster a collaborative and inclusive hybrid work culture?
- The future of hybrid work
- How Hubble can help
Before the pandemic, “flexible working” was slowly (but surely) taking office culture by storm. London was known as the “flex capital” of the world, and competitive facilities — such as fitness studios and breakout space — brought one of the biggest revolutions in real estate for over a century.
Then the pandemic happened. Once remote work became the norm, employees acquired a taste for the flexibility it offered, and their expectations shifted. This gave rise to the “hybrid working model”, and it’s safe to say it’s changed the world as we know it.
But what exactly is hybrid working? How does it differ to in-office work? And how do you go about implementing this flexible work arrangement? Below, Hubble’s laid out everything you need to know in one comprehensive article:
What does ‘hybrid working’ mean?
With hybrid working arrangements, there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. This means several different forms and strategies fall under the ‘hybrid work’ umbrella, and companies will adopt the one that best reflects their culture, goals, and employee preferences.
- Office-First Strategies
- Preference-Based Hybrid Strategies
- Time-Based Hybrid Strategies
- Set-Day Hybrid Strategies
There’s a variety of hybrid strategies that businesses can implement to reflect their best working practices and the sentiments of their employees. For example:
An office-first approach to hybrid working is where the office/HQ remains the primary workplace. This is not to be confused with a fully office-based strategy. With a fully office-based strategy, employees are expected to be physically present five days a week during regular business hours.
However, an office-first hybrid strategy offers more flexibility. Instead of issuing a back-to-office order, employers are simply indicating that while the physical office is a place where employees get most of their work done, there’ll still be opportunities to work remotely.
A preference-based hybrid strategy is where employees choose their preferred work location. This can either be in the HQ or remotely — and their choice is entirely dependent on their needs and preferences.
For example, a parent may choose to work from home due to childcare responsibilities. Or, an employee may book a coworking space for the day in a location that’s close to someone they’re visiting for the weekend.
How they spend their working week is up to them!
A time-based hybrid work model is where employees work from the office or remotely based on designated days. In other words, they must work a set number of office days throughout the working week, but they can choose the specific days.
For example, businesses could adopt the ‘3-2’ hybrid working model. This is where employees are required to spend three days in the physical office and two days remotely (or vice versa), making it ideal for businesses that consider team building and collaboration as prominent parts of their culture.
As opposed to fully-remote or fully-office based companies, those adopting a hybrid model will need to set guidelines and expectations around how and where employees work — making each hybrid working setup bespoke to the company adopting it.
Set-day hybrid is very similar to a time-based strategy. However, the key difference is that employees are expected to follow a consistent and pre-determined hybrid work schedule set by the employer.
In other words, the specific weekdays (and how many) are typically ‘mandated’ — meaning it’s not the employees’ choice; it’s the employer or managers who decide.
For example, they could allocate days where it’s fine for employees to work from home. This could be on a Friday where there aren’t that many company meetings. Or, a manager could assign days where the team is needed — whether that’s for a brainstorming session or team meeting.
A remote-first workspace strategy typically means that remote work will be the primary option for most (if not all) employees. Of course, there’ll be a few exceptions — especially if an employee’s job role requires their physical presence.
But for the most part, processes will usually be remote-first, whereby the default is for all remote workers to dial in for team meetings, for example.
What are the pros and cons to hybrid working?
As is the case when implementing any new strategy, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons.
Of course, there are plenty of benefits of hybrid working. But there are also obstacles to overcome. Whether you’re an HR expert or senior leadership, it’s critical to monitor the strategy’s performance and adapt accordingly.
Here are some potential benefits of remote and hybrid working, as well as some issues to consider if you want to make hybrid working a success:
|Benefits of Hybrid Working
|Disadvantages to Hybrid Working
|Boost in productivity
Hybrid work models offer employees more control over their schedules. They can choose which workspace to work in and when, helping boost productivity by giving them freedom, autonomy, and choice.
|Increased reliance on tech
With hybrid working, there’s an increased reliance on collaboration tools, like video-conferencing software and instant messaging. This may leave you vulnerable to cybersecurity attacks and at the mercy of employees’ home internet connections.
Opting for a hybrid work model could decrease your office footprint. With a team of remote workers, you may not need a full-time office space for your entire workforce. This means you can eliminate the risk of spending money on “wasted desks”.
In hybrid work environments, presence bias (or proximity bias) can run rampant. This is where managers instinctively favour people closer to them, leading to favouritism, promotions, and negligence of remote workers.
Hybrid models can boost employee engagement and satisfaction by improving their work life balance. If your hybrid employees can spend more time nurturing their personal lives, save money, and choose the workplace that encourages their best work, they’ll be happier.
|Drop in flexibility
While hybrid working is flexible in nature, some employees may feel restricted by the strategy you choose. For example, if they’re required to work in the office 3-days per week, you may run the risk of lower rates of employee satisfaction and losing valuable workers.
What are some hybrid working solutions?
As mentioned, a hybrid work model has advantages and obstacles to overcome. But what are some solutions you could adopt?
For us at Hubble, the best hybrid workplace setups are unique to each company.
It’s up to each business to decide which hybrid policies will align with their core values, messaging, and employees — and with that comes plenty of choices to consider:
Take a full-time office for your whole team
A common misconception with hybrid working is that you can’t have a full-time office and still offer a flexible working policy. But the truth is, the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
If a significant proportion of your team wants or needs to be in the office most/every day of the week, taking an office equivalent to one desk per person may still be the choice.
Plenty of hybrid businesses choose to rent a serviced office. This is a plug-and-play workspace where utilities and bills are packaged into an all-inclusive monthly bill.
But what really makes these offices appealing is their flexible terms. Unlike traditional leases, contracts can start from three months rather than 5-10 years. Some are even monthly rolling!
Opt for a smaller HQ (or HQs) that all employees have access to
Alternatively, you could opt for a smaller HQ that all hybrid workers have access to.
This is ideal for companies looking to decrease their office footprint, but still want a physical workplace of some sort. It’s a popular hybrid solution, as you can retain an office presence but for much better value for money — and all employees can access the workspace when they need to.
On the busier days, employees can grab a desk in the building’s onsite coworking areas and breakout spaces, meaning you’ll always be able to collaborate in-person whenever needed.
Rent a part-time office
Hybrid companies may also choose to rent a part-time office (like us at Hubble!). With this hybrid workspace solution, two businesses collaborate and rent an office space for select days per week.
Your hybrid team will use the private space for the same 1-3 days per week, helping you replicate the magic of in-person working while making substantial savings on office rent.
We saved £129k a year by moving to a part-time office. This is a 60% saving vs. before, and we’re roughly in the exact location with a similar quality office. It’s worked wonders for keeping our teams happy, engaged and productive.
Repurpose your existing office
Hybrid working companies can also adapt or diversify their existing offices to serve new purposes and boost employee engagement. While it can be a hefty task, it’s an ideal solution for businesses who have chosen to stay in their office or are locked into a lease for the foreseeable.
For example, you could increase the amount of breakout or collaborative space available. You could also add more meeting rooms and include more quiet spaces, such as phone booths.
This trend has propelled the hybrid movement, with over half of London’s new office space constructions being refurbishment projects.
Give your teams access to on-demand workspace
If you’re looking to give your employees access to high-quality workspaces but don’t require them to be in your company HQ all the time, then utilising on-demand workspaces is a great option.
On-demand workspaces consist of coworking spaces, private day offices and hourly meeting rooms you can book by the day or hour. This hybrid work model is ideal for companies with smaller or part-time offices and remote workers who need to meet in real life.
Go fully remote
As mentioned earlier, flexible companies may decide to go fully remote.
It’s pretty common for people to think a “remote-first” strategy means working from home and only working from home. But that’s not always the case.
Remote work allows employees to flexibly work from various locations rather than having to be physically present in a centralised office. Just take a look at Olio’s hybrid work success story!
Olio came to us after experiencing challenges related to remote work, especially in shaping corporate culture, promoting collaboration, and offering employees alternatives to working from home.
They considered taking a full-time office but hesitated due to cost implications and the fact it’s not a global solution. So, to remove barriers around talent and retention and make in-person work easy for their remote workers, Olio opted for a flexible Hubble On-Demand membership.
With thousands of on‑demand workspaces available in the UK and beyond, Hubble On‑Demand makes it easy to organise in‑person work for your remote team, wherever and whenever you need.
Keen to learn more about Olio’s remote-first success story? Check out their company case study!
A combination of the above
Since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to the hybrid workplace puzzle, it’s common for businesses to adopt a combination of the above solutions.
Creating effective policies for hybrid work
There are plenty of ways for businesses to create and implement a hybrid working policy. But since “hybrid work” is still relatively new, it can be tricky to know where to start (or restart!).
Here are Hubble’s quick tips to successfully setting hybrid working guidelines:
Step One: Survey your team
Every single team member in your company is unique. They’ll have different preferences, personalities, and life experiences that will influence how they’d like to work in a hybrid setup.
As such, when creating an effective hybrid or remote work policy, the most valuable thing you can do is speak to your people.
Run a pulse survey or two every couple of months. Here, you can discover your employees’ preferences, how they’ve changed over time, and what they want to avoid in the future.
Step Two: Establish your non-negotiables
Next, outline a few non-negotiables. These are the rules and expectations you’ll set, as an employer, around how much flexibility your employees can have with their hybrid work schedule.
These will depend on the specific hybrid work model you choose. For example, if you select a “Set-Day” hybrid setup, then employees will be expected to come in one certain days. That’s the non-negotiable.
But that’s not to say the aim is to be draconian. Rather, non-negotiables are just clear rules for your team based on your chosen hybrid strategy.
It’s not about being strict, but rather creating a balanced structure. This way, employees get flexibility, and employers can ensure that workspaces are used effectively.
Step Three: Start writing (or rewriting) the policy
Next, you’ll want to start writing (or rewriting) your hybrid work policy. Work with HR departments and legal experts to map out themes you want your policy to explore. For example:
- The principles
- Company culture/values
- Work hours
- Best practices for remote work
- Employee wellbeing
Then, address any gaps in your policy’s plan. You may be surprised at the important topics you’ve missed. For example:
- Travel and accommodation
- Health and safety
- Workplace equipments
- Tackling “presence bias”
- Definitions of your chosen hybrid practices
- “Who to contact” sections
Doing this will help ensure your policy won’t leave employees scratching their heads.
Step Four: Communicate the policy with employees
Of course, there’s no point having hybrid work regulations if your people can’t access or understand them. So, once you’ve written the hybrid work policy, it’s time to upload it and ensure it’s accessible by sending it to employees and ensuring there is a dated offline version available.
You could set up a designated channel for discussing the policy or pin it so it’s easily findable. Make sure all managers are trained on the hybrid policy and actively support it — their advocacy is crucial for its success.
Step Five: Continuously review the policy
Once you’ve planned, written and uploaded your hybrid workplace policy, all that’s left to do is to review it and continuously gather feedback.
You can do this by measuring its success through productivity metrics, employee satisfaction surveys, retention rates, and the quality of output or performance.
What’s the impact on mental health and hybrid work?
The link between flexible work and mental health has been long-documented. In 2019, nearly 40% of people employed at flexible workplaces claimed it significantly improved their mental health.
In 2022, 53% of employees said they prioritise their wellbeing over work more than they did before 2020.
So, it’s clear flexible and hybrid working gave rise to what’s called “The Great Reshuffle” — a workspace trend where we’re now putting our lives before our work.
But why? How does hybrid work models improve employee health? And are there any potential pitfalls?
|Physical and Mental Health Benefits
|Physical and Mental Health Cons
With hybrid working, daily stressors can be reduced. For example, you don’t need to fork out on the commute or let the laundry and dishes pile up. Instead, you have more time to tackle life admin and work from the best location that suits your needs.
|May increase risk of lonelier teams
With full-time office work, people naturally build relationships in the office. However, with hybrid working, teams are dispersed across different places, which may increase the risk of loneliness.
|Better work life balance
Hybrid workplaces can improve work-life balance by providing flexibility and autonomy. For example, companies may implement a hybrid policy that allows their teams to work from anywhere, including abroad — drastically improving work life balance.
|May lead to overworking
Research shows that employees who worked consistently from home were less than half as likely to get promoted. As a result, individuals can go unnoticed, triggering a cycle of anxiety and burnout as they overwork to demonstrate commitment.
Allowing workers flexibility over their work schedules can reduce employee burnout, helping them feel less pressured and able to get their creative juices flowing. This helps hybrid workers feel confident in their work and happier, boosting their mental health.
|Mental health can fly under the radar
Without regular check-ins or “watercooler chats”, you could have a team member who’s struggling with their mental health and you wouldn’t know. This can put you in a position where you can’t offer support, or adjust workload accordingly.
Fostering a collaborative and inclusive hybrid work culture
A hybrid or remote work environment is both the physical and cultural environment you cultivate for your employees.
While the physical environment can span three types of workspaces — the office, the home and on-demand workspaces — a hybrid work culture consists of:
…that make your company an engaging workplace. You should align company values, belief systems, and attitudes within each of these with your new hybrid working model.
For example, more digital communication tools, trusting employees to work independently, and being cautious that hybrid working may change how well teams work together.
Creating a collaborative and inclusive company culture is crucial for several reasons.
Firstly, it boosts productivity and engagement by allowing employees to work how they want, where they want. This level of inclusivity ensures all employees — regardless of location or background — feel valued and trusted by their employer to work to the best of their abilities.
Secondly, establishing a strong hybrid work culture can create a sense of unity and belonging among team members. This cohesion is especially important for hybrid and remote work environments, as team members may not always benefit from in-person collaboration.
A strong work culture will also work wonders for hiring top talent and retaining valuable employees. Hybrid companies with positive cultures promoting flexibility, autonomy, and choice are more likely to be sought out by skilled professionals, helping drive the organisation’s long-term success.
The future of hybrid work
So, what does the future of hybrid work look like? Here are Hubble’s top predictions and evolving work trends for the future of hybrid work:
1) Hybrid working is here to stay
For us at Hubble, hybrid work models are here to stay.
Flexibility, autonomy, and choice are the number one demands for employees worldwide. Companies will either continue offering this to their teams or risk coming across as “too draconian” and alienating employees if they decide against it. (For example, Apple and Amazon).
Whether you opt for a hybrid workspace strategy or go fully remote, flexible work policies will remain a key part of work culture in the future.
2) Business leaders will continue experimenting
But while hybrid work will remain a popular workspace strategy, its evolution will undoubtedly involve experimentation.
Solving the workspace puzzle will take a few attempts. We’re not going to get it right the first time. We predict business leaders will continue embracing experimentation and will learn from what’s worked and what hasn’t — all to help them reach their business goals.
Our “Workspace Satisfaction Report” survey results found that 68% of business leaders plan to change their workspace strategy in 2024 — highlighting a clear willingness to try something new.
We think companies will be in a ‘test and learn’ mode when developing a workspace strategy that works in the future.
3) Employers and employees will continue valuing in-person work
Our survey results also revealed how much companies value in-person working.
44% of fully remote companies agree that some degree of in-person working is important for maintaining company culture, followed by 38% of hybrid companies.
These statistics suggest that companies value in-person interactions, whether they’re working remotely or hybrid.
They’re actively finding ways to have their team meet face-to-face — mainly to strengthen culture (40%) and collaboration (32%) — and we don’t see this going anywhere in the future.
How Hubble can help
To summarise, hybrid working is a flexible work arrangement that combines remote work with office work, allowing employees to split their time between working from home and in an office environment.
And at Hubble, we can help. Whether your team is hybrid, remote, or fully office-based, our flexible workspace platform can optimise your workspace solution by providing great places to work, such as:
- Full-Time Offices: Our strong relationships with top workspace providers mean our expert advisors can manage your entire search and negotiate the very best rate.
- Part-Time Offices: Make substantial savings without losing the magic of in-person working with your very own office for the same 1-3 days per week.
- Hubble On-Demand: Give your team members access to thousands of on-demand workspaces to work and meet, helping you make cost savings and maintain collaboration.