I don’t know if anyone’s told you this lately—but you’re kind of a trailblazer. Through 17 months (and counting) of this global health crisis, you have led your team through uncharted territory, slicing through the vines of virtual meeting mayhem and wading through the muck of managing a workforce you can’t even see in person.
And now, you, brave soul, are tasked with paving the way once again as you prepare your team for the (at least partial) return to the office.
But even trailblazers need a little guidance sometimes. So I asked managers and leaders to share their best tips for the transition and gathered real-life examples to help you build the best hybrid work schedule for your team.
What Is A Hybrid Work Schedule?
A hybrid work schedule is a cross between working remotely and working in-office, and it’s often seen as a compromise between the two—but perhaps it’s actually the best of both worlds. In Zoom’s April 2021 survey of 1,500 U.S. remote workers, 65% of respondents said hybrid work is their ideal work model, and only 15% said they’d prefer working from home all the time.
Hybrid work schedules exist on a spectrum, with some being “office-centric” and others “remote-first.” They vary greatly depending on companies, teams, and even individuals. Below, we’ll go over some companies’ hybrid work schedules to give you some ideas and inspiration.
5 Real-Life Hybrid Work Schedule Examples
Back in 2019, D.C.-based software company ChurnZero developed a unique hybrid schedule that it calls “Rotational Regional Remote,” or “R3” for short. Here’s how it works:
- Divide the company into letter groups (A, B, C, D), with each equally-sized group having coworkers from different departments and one C-level leader. There’s also an E group for employees who want or need to come into the office every day, at least temporarily (such as new hires).
- Further categorize the company by departments (for ChurnZero, it’s Sales, Customer, and All Other).
- Have a subset of each letter and department group come into the office on a rotating basis while the others work from home.
- For ChurnZero, its four letter groups and three department groups complete the cycle in 12 business days, resulting in each employee seeing every colleague within six business days and spending an average of 50% of their time in the office.
2. Two-Three Split
In May 2021, Google CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees announcing a move to a hybrid workweek of three days in the office and two days of remote work. He specified that, for optimal collaboration, the days that teams came into the office would be decided in part by product areas and functions. Google is also allowing employees to apply for fully remote work.
3. Half And Half
Microsoft announced in October 2020 that, going forward, the standard would be for its employees to work from home half of the time, adding, “We are not committing to having every employee work from anywhere, as we believe there is value in employees being together in the workplace.”
4. Remote First
“Remote first” implies that while some employees may come into the office some of the time, the standard is remote work. According to Quora’s CEO Adam D’Angelo: “Remote work will be the primary orientation of our company—the default for all choices.”
Quora implements its remote-first model by:
- Allowing employees to relocate to any location where Quora can legally employ them
- Converting its current California office into a coworking space for Quora employees
- Requiring everyone to join meetings on their own camera
5. Pick And Choose
And lastly, many organizations are granting employees autonomy by letting them choose their days to come into work, or at least choose from preset options.
Salesforce, for example, provides three choices to its employees.
- Flex: In-office one to three days a week for collaboration, meetings, and presentations.
- Fully Remote: 100% work from anywhere. This is reserved for employees who live far from offices or have roles that don’t require their physical presence.
- Office-Based: Work from an office four to five days a week. This will be the smallest percentage of the Salesforce workforce.
Now that you’ve seen some examples of hybrid work schedules, how can you develop the best schedule for your team? Let’s find out.
How To Create A Hybrid Work Schedule: A Step-By-Step Guide From Folks Who’ve Been There
To help you craft your hybrid work schedule, I researched other companies who have gone before you and spoke with leaders from different organizations undergoing the shift now. Here’s what I learned:
Step 1: Gather Data
Ask Your Team
Before crafting a hybrid work schedule, it’s vital to listen to your team. You can do this by gathering feedback via one-on-one meetings, surveys, or both.
News organization Quartz used people management software Lattice to survey its staff, which revealed that most of its New York-area employees planned to use the office two to three days a week, but no one planned to use it full-time in the future. Salesforce solicited employee feedback and found that 80% wanted to stay connected to a physical space. Both companies used this data to guide their hybrid model creation.
Lida Lewis, who serves as a workplace consultant at design, engineering, and architecture firm Page, recommends asking each team member to outline what they do on the job.
“Have your employees craft an understanding of their full range of job duties and tasks—including production items, but also mentorship, leadership, and other intangibles,” Lewis says. “An updated job description, of sorts.”
With this information, you can better craft a custom hybrid schedule that works for your direct reports and your organization. Lewis suggests looking for commonalities and perhaps grouping employees into common on-site hours for better mentoring, collaboration, and camaraderie.
Read About Other Teams
Many companies have been transparent about their processes and findings as they transitioned to a hybrid work model—and that’s to your benefit! Here are a few to study:
- In July 2021, Quartz’s Co-Founder and CEO shared lessons from his company’s return to the office after 15 months of remote work. While the news organization remains fully distributed, all employees can choose if and when to come into the office.
So far, he’s found that the most popular days for staff to work onsite are Wednesdays and Thursdays and that it isn’t vital for bosses to work in-office at the same time as direct reports.
- Three months into the pandemic, Quora CEO Adam D’Angelo wrote about the decision to become a “remote-first” company after seeing the success of working from home, sharing that 60% of his employees had already chosen not to return to the office even after the pandemic.
He adds that maintaining office space will still be crucial for those who enjoy the social interaction and fewer distractions. He also chose not to place leadership teams in the office to avoid any potential bias against remote workers (as managers tend to promote employees they see in person more often).
- After 16 months as a fully remote workforce, Etsy wrote about its decision to start offering three work options to its employees: flex (2+ days a week in the office), fully remote, or fully office-based.
Step 2: Separate Tasks By Office-Friendly And Remote-Friendly
Now that you’ve gotten input from your team, it’s time to sift through the data. A hybrid model requires bringing the best of both worlds (remote and physical) together.
“The best tip I could give to a manager is to realize that different tasks require different solutions,” says Marilyn Gaskell, founder of TruePeopleSearch. “Consider the kind of tasks your employees need to perform—if it can be performed remotely, it should be.”
In Gaskell’s case, her company chose to invite employees back to the office only for collaborative events, such as meetings, brainstorming, and networking—the things best done in person. All other tasks can continue to be done remotely.
Step 3: Consider Your Hybrid Schedule’s Equity And Inclusion
Sure, giving your team complete freedom over their schedule sounds nice, but realize it could have unintended diversity effects. Fully remote work has diversity advantages as you can hire from a bigger talent pool in different locations. But when switching to hybrid, if you let employees determine if and when to come into the office, you risk creating a siloed workforce, where only a certain group of people (particularly those with access to transportation and childcare) shows up in person. This could mean that working mothers and women of color get left out of the room.
A Rotating Schedule Can Ensure Everyone Gets Office Time
One challenge that came up repeatedly for leaders who transitioned to a hybrid schedule is inclusivity: How do you ensure that both in-office and remote employees feel the same level of belonging?
The rotating schedule might help. For example, ChurnZero’s R3 schedule means that each employee sees all of their coworkers in person within six business days. This can help foster a sense of belonging, as everyone will get face time with each other and connect in a way that they can’t do over video chats. It’ll also mean they have a physical space that can anchor and ground them—a work home, if you will—even if it’s only a couple of days a week.
Keeping Leadership Out Of The Office Could Prevent Bias Against Remote Workers
There’s an equity piece to all of this, too: With your workforce split between remote and in person, how do you ensure every employee has access to what they need to achieve their full potential?
One potential solution is to follow Quora’s lead and avoid having leadership teams in-office. Why? To avoid bias against remote employees.
Research shows that getting “passive face time,” or merely being observed at work, boosts one’s chances of promotions, pay raises, and the like. This means that remote workers are more likely to get passed over for opportunities simply because managers don’t see them in person. They also risk getting less access to leadership in general, creating more inequity.
To avoid this, Quora decided not to have leaders based in the office, and even the CEO himself only visits the office a maximum of one time per month.
Step 4. Start Small
For most, working from home has become standard for well over a year. Heading back to the office should be more like dipping your toes into the water—not a full deep dive in.
“I’ve found the best way to start transitioning to the hybrid model is with just one or two days back in the office,” says Michael Rosenbaum, CEO and co-founder of parking marketplace Spacer. “This gives people the time and space to get used to the commute and change in lifestyle again, but still gives them the benefits of having social and face-to-face time with their coworkers. This also allows us to schedule big meetings on those days when we know we can have in-person discussions.”
Step 5: Reevaluate And Make Changes As Needed
As with everything else, transitioning to a hybrid work schedule will require tweaking. Mishaps and hiccups at the start are normal.
“Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and rework your schedule to find a setup that works for you,” says Ben Lamarche, general manager of recruitment agency Lock Search Group. “While there are different types of hybrid work schedules, no one is better than the other for your organization. This is a new approach to work for many of us, so we might have to learn through trial and error.”
For example, though Lamarche’s team has always been close-knit, the switch to hybrid damaged that sense of camaraderie, as some employees felt out of touch. To fix this, they introduced virtual team bonding events, such as coffee breaks, happy hours, and movie nights.
Hybrid Work Schedules: Hope For The Future
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the prospect of developing a hybrid work schedule, remember how far you’ve already come. Think back to March 2020 when the first Covid cases were cropping up around the world, employees were panicked over how to stay safe at work, and words like “lockdowns” and “essential workers” became everyday vocabulary. You likely had to throw together a work-from-home policy with only hours of notice and no blueprint to follow.
These days, you’ve got two tools you didn’t have back then: data and experience. You now know how your team operates both in-office and remotely. And you now know how other companies have fared transitioning back to the office under a hybrid work policy.
Armed with this knowledge, you’re ready to take on the next phase of this journey.