When it comes to work, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how and where teams are their happiest and most productive. Some employees prefer (or need) to work from home. Some thrive off the day-to-day social interaction that happens in an office.
So, if you want to empower your team’s best work, why not give them both?
More companies than ever are moving towards a hybrid work model, which gives employees flexibility to work both remote and in-office. And for good reason! Not only do employees want the flexibility to split their time between the office and working off-site (according to a recent study, 70 percent of employees prefer hybrid work), but shifting to a hybrid work model can also have major benefits for the organization.
“Companies are making the transition to hybrid because it helps them to attract and retain great talent, it increases employee productivity, and positively contributes to the employee experience,” says Edie Goldberg, Ph.D., founder and President of consulting company E.L. Goldberg & Associates and co-author of The Inside Gig: How Sharing Untapped Talent Across Boundaries Unleashes Organizational Capacity.
But, like any major change, if you want to reap the benefits of a hybrid work environment, you need to make sure the transition goes as smoothly as possible.
So how, exactly, do you do that? Let’s take a deep dive into how to successfully transition your team to a hybrid work model:
Draft A Clear Transition Plan And Communicate It Well
Like the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. So, before you start transitioning to a hybrid work model, it’s important to draft a plan for how you’re going to manage that transition—and what needs to happen in order for that transition to be successful.
What that plan will need to include will depend on how your company is operating right now. For example, if your company has always been fully remote and never had a physical location, your transition plan is going to look very different from a company that shifted to remote operations during the pandemic—but has an established office space to welcome employees back to.
That being said, there are a few key things your transition plan should address—starting with how to determine who will work in the office, who will work remotely, and when.
Generally, this will vary by team. “There is no one size fits all policy when it comes to…[hybrid] work,” says Goldberg. “Companies should develop general policies or guidelines, but then allow departments or teams to determine which jobs can be remote or when or how often teams need to come together.”
But even though individual teams or departments should have the flexibility to determine when and how often team members can work from home (and when they need to be in the office), from a space and safety perspective, it’s important to have a plan in place for how you’re going to track who is in the office—and how you’re going to accommodate them.
It’s important to have a plan in place for how you’re going to track who is in the office—and make sure you have the space and resources to accommodate them.
“Establishing a timeline or schedule for what days and times employees are in the office to avoid overcrowding, designating specific workspaces to teams or individuals, and creating sanitary protocols for cleaning the office and/or workspaces before new people arrive [is a must],” says Hema Crockett, co-founder of consultant-focused talent platform Gig Talent and co-author of Designing Exceptional Organizational Cultures: How to Develop Companies Where Employees Thrive.
Another key element you’ll want to address in your transition plan is how the transition is actually going to happen. Are you going to open your doors and welcome all your employees into the office at the same time—or are you going to phase out of remote work slowly? Is there any additional training you’ll need to do with your team to prepare them for the transition? Are there any changes you’ll need to make to your office space to make hybrid work possible?
The point is, you can’t just decide you’re going to make the shift to hybrid work and expect it to work for your team. If you want the transition to be successful, you need a plan—so before you make any moves towards a hybrid work model, make sure you have that plan in place.
Enable Collaboration Between Team Members—No Matter Where They’re Working
By definition, when you move to a hybrid work model, some of your employees will be working in the office while others will be working from home. So, if you want hybrid work to succeed within your organization, you need to make it easy for team members to collaborate and work together—no matter where they might be working.
“Ensuring the physical office is equipped with the right technology will allow teams to work better together, so outfitting the space with the right tools to do this should be a priority,” says Crockett.
So what, exactly, does the “right technology” look like?
“Companies working in a hybrid environment need to make sure they adopt the…technologies that enable remote collaboration and connection,” says Goldberg.“The ability to simultaneously edit documents or the ability to ping someone to ask a question is important when you can’t simply stop by someone’s desk to get their input.”
Outfitting your office with the right technology and tools is important. But if you want your hybrid team to be able to do their best work, it’s just as important to make sure your remote workers are set up for successful collaboration—and that they have the technology, tools, and support they need to do their jobs (and do them well).
For example, do your remote workers have a comfortable, productive workspace at home? If not, you might consider giving them a stipend to invest in a better WFH setup—for example, getting a more ergonomic desk and chair or buying a room divider to create more separation between their workspace and their personal space. Or have you noticed some remote employees are consistently dropping in and out of virtual meetings? It could be an internet issue (according to a recent survey from Slack, nearly 1 in 4 respondents struggled with internet connectivity issues)—in which case, you might invest in upgrading their internet.
Your transition to hybrid work isn’t going to be successful if your team doesn’t have everything they need to effectively collaborate wherever they may be working—so make sure you’re enabling that collaboration for both your in-office and remote employees.
Foster Relationships Between In-Person And Remote Team Members…
Strong relationships make for more effective teams. But when you have some employees working remotely and some working in the office, it can be difficult for those relationships to form—especially when it comes to new remote team members who have never met their colleagues in person.
“In a virtual or hybrid environment, new employees will be hired that many on the team have not met in person,” says Crockett.
That’s why, if you want your hybrid team to perform at a high level, it’s so important to create opportunities for your team to connect—in-person and remote employees alike.
Host weekly team-building events that foster connection between your remote and in-person employees. For example, you might host a game night in your office’s conference room, set up screens so your remote employees can video conference in, and then make sure every in-person attendee is paired with a remote employee for the game. Or, if you know two team members are going to be spending a lot of time working together—but their schedules don’t have them working in the office on the same days—you may schedule regular one-on-one video conferences so they can get to know each other better.
Bottom line? Teams need trust, familiarity, and strong relationships in order to do their best work. And if you’re managing a hybrid team, you need to create opportunities to bring all your employees together—and create space for that trust, familiarity, and relationship-building to happen.
…And Ensure Your Team Has Equal Opportunities, Whether They’re Working Remotely Or In The Office
Proximity bias is the practice of unconsciously favoring the things that are physically closest to you—including people. And in a hybrid work environment, proximity bias could lead to leaders and managers unconsciously favoring employees that work in the office simply because they see them more—which can make it harder for remote employees to get ahead.
If you want your transition to hybrid work to be successful for all your employees, you need to make sure you’re creating equal opportunities for remote workers.
“One of the biggest challenges is making sure that remote employees do not become second-class citizens,” says Goldberg. “It can not be that employees who are in the office get the cool and interesting assignments and those not in the office get passed over.”
For example, let’s say you have two direct reports—one that works primarily in the office and the other that works entirely remotely. If you grab lunch once a week with your in-office colleague, you also need to carve out time for a weekly virtual lunch with your remote employee. If you discuss a new project or promotion with your in-office direct report, you also need to loop in your remote employee. If you see your in-office employee getting recognition from leadership, make sure to call some of your remote employee’s accomplishments to their attention—so they can get the recognition they deserve as well.
The point is, opportunities often flow more freely for people that work in the office—so it’s important to make sure you’re providing access to those same opportunities for your remote employees.
Ask Your Team For Feedback
Successfully transitioning to hybrid work requires a lot of time, energy, and effort. But once you’ve made the transition, your work isn’t done. If you want the transition to stay successful, you need to check in with your team, see how things are going, and adjust your hybrid strategy accordingly.
“It’s important to check in and see if the hybrid plan is still working and meeting the needs of both employees and the organization,” says Crockett. “Ask employees for input. While you don’t always have to do what employees want, asking them questions to better understand their…work experience can be beneficial in creating the hybrid work plan moving forward.”
Use These Tips To Successfully Transition To A Hybrid Work Model
In many ways, hybrid work (literally!) offers employees the best of both worlds—but only if it’s implemented in a way that sets them up for success. And now that you know how to successfully transition to hybrid work—and support your team’s best work in the process—all that’s left to do? Get out there, make the transition, and go hybrid!