Remote work has been a hot topic for many business owners, leaving some wondering: what is hybrid remote work, and is it a good model for businesses? Traditionally work has always been done on-site and in-office. The reason for that is twofold. Many jobs, such as food service, transportation, construction, healthcare, hospitality, and agriculture, are mostly done in person. Secondly, remote IT infrastructure was limited until the advent of broadband internet in the 2000s and later cloud computing in the 2010s.
Many businesses are hesitant to embrace technological changes, and what worked well 20 years ago may not be what’s best 20 years from now. COVID-19 hastened the development of infrastructure that many did not already have. Some organizations are shifting staff back to the office again. However, many are trying a hybrid remote work model since they’re already remote-capable. For the average worker, 28% of days are worked from home, up from 5% pre-COVID. That number has been similar over the past six months and may create a new standard for hybrid work environments.
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What Is Hybrid Remote Work?
Hybrid remote work is a flexible arrangement that allows employees to combine remote and on-site work in their schedules. Using this approach, workers may come into the office on specific days of the week and work remotely from home or another location for the remaining days. The distribution of time can depend on business needs and personal preferences.
If a company needs at least a few on-site staff each day, while the job can otherwise be done remotely, the schedule may distribute office days across their workforce. In other situations, specific projects may require people to collaborate in person. That means one month might see staff coming in most days, while the next might be primarily remote work.
What Types of Hybrid Work Models Are There?
There are several different hybrid work models that businesses are currently using. Some are also experimenting with other approaches, but those have yet to become standardized. Here are a few common hybrid models:
Flexible Schedule Model
The flexible schedule model outlines a specific number of days employees are expected to be in the office while allowing the rest of the days to be remote. There aren’t specific day requirements, and it’s up to the staff to decide to pick and choose which ones are done telecommuting. People who prefer working entirely on-site may be allowed to do so.
Set Schedule Model
The set schedule model defines specific days of the week that workers must work on-site, and which can be spent remotely. While it’s more rigid than some hybrid work models, it still allows staff to plan for workdays from home and the extra flexibility that allows. One of the main benefits of this approach is it ensures there’s always enough staff on-site every day of the week.
A role-based model factors in each person’s duties. Most businesses aren’t all or nothing regarding jobs that can be done from home. Some types of work require being on-site daily, while others are more flexible. It’s important to be careful when communicating this approach, as some may feel shorted if they don’t get the same remote opportunities.
The team-based model shifts more of the decision-making to team managers. Some teams may work on-site for specific projects or choose one week a month for everyone to be in the office. This hybrid work model is designed to leverage the advantage of in-person cooperation while still providing the flexibility of telecommuting.
The hub-and-spoke model involves maintaining a central major “hub” office and having smaller “spoke” offices in other locations. Employees can choose which nearby location they want to work at. While this approach doesn’t always allow working from home, it creates a compromise by making commutes much shorter, saving time and money.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Remote Work?
Remote work has a variety of benefits and challenges. When done right, it can benefit both the employee and the employer. When mismanaged, it can create extra headaches for businesses and leave staff disgruntled.
Pros of Remote Work
Flexibility: One of the most discussed pros of remote work is flexibility. Mornings are less rushed, lunch breaks are more relaxed, and people have more time off the clock. For those with children, it also means having time to pick them up from school and not needing daycare for younger ones.
No commuting: Another main benefit of remote work is it removes the commute. That means less gas and car maintenance costs and removing potential hours of driving time depending on the office distance.
Cost savings: Besides the cost savings for workers by cutting commuting, it saves businesses money too. Less office space is required, utility costs decrease, and fewer resources are used as people maintain their home office spaces.
Attracts top talent: Allowing remote employees gives businesses access to talent globally instead of just locally. That can mean fewer compromises when hiring, ensuring a company can find someone that’s the best fit for a position.
Improved productivity: With COVID-19 being a significant test run of remote work, 67% of workers reported being more productive while working at home. While that won’t be the case for everyone, a setting with less co-worker distractions allow some to do better remotely.
Technology utilization: People can be hesitant to try new things, especially if what they have is usable. For people interested in remote work, it makes it easier to embrace new technology, which can also result in increased productivity by using more time-saving tools.
Supports health issues: Whether it’s a yearly flu bug or a chronic disability, remote work supports people with health issues. Even if a company embraces a hybrid remote work strategy, businesses can develop remote plans for those who need it temporarily or long-term.
Custom home offices: Home offices allow more freedom for workers to customize as they desire, without judgment from co-workers. For those who wish, it also gives their pets more open access to visiting. Factors like that can increase overall satisfaction with the work environment.
Higher employee retention: Not allowing remote work can be a deal-breaker depending on the industry and individual. That can lead to lower job satisfaction and increase the chance of someone leaving, even if it’s for less pay or early retirement.
Cons of Remote Work
Isolation: Workers that thrive on social interaction and in-person teamwork may feel lonelier and struggle more by working from home. Everyone is different, and when allowing remote work, it’s important to remember that some people dislike it.
Collaboration: Many types of projects can be jointly done while telecommuting. However, some employees are more hands-on than others, and online projects create more opportunities for mistakes.
Miscommunication: Remote workers often communicate through text chat and email. However, language is open-ended and can cause misunderstandings. Something that sounds supportive or helpful when spoken may be viewed as overly critical or passive-aggressive in written form.
Work-life balance: Separating work time and personal life can be more difficult when working from home. That can lead some people to work more during off-hours, even when they would benefit from rest.
Accountability: One of the bigger concerns for businesses is accountability. How can you know anyone is doing anything without seeing them work? Setting realistic expectations and ensuring staff meets certain productivity thresholds can help.
Technical issues: A challenge for in-house staff and IT companies alike is dealing with technology issues. Whether it’s an internet outage or troubleshooting a computer glitch, supporting people on technical issues is more difficult when they’re not in the office.
Time zone differences: Differences in time zones mean people may get support slower than expected. In the US, for example, companies on the east coast close at 2:00 pm for people living on the west coast. That can make coordination, and follow-ups take more time.
Cybersecurity: Safe data handling is a key part of any business. Since remote workers may be logging in from unsecured networks, it requires extra steps to keep connections secure. Even then, not all threats can be prevented without good cybersecurity habits.
Job type: Many jobs are better done in person than remotely. For example, with healthcare, doctors can provide virtual appointments with patients. However, that doesn’t allow them to take vitals or do physical checks for issues, making in-person visits better.
Hybrid Remote Work Can Give Businesses the Best of Both Worlds
While telecommuting has pros and cons, hybrid remote work aims to give businesses the best of both worlds. You can get many of the same benefits while removing some of the downsides by planning for occasional office days. Additionally, 63% of high-growth businesses use a hybrid work model, showing it can effectively support workflow.
Hybrid remote work has a lot of flexibility and broad appeal. Businesses can use it to satisfy both employees who prefer to work remotely and those who need a more social environment to be productive. Many hybrid work models are effective, and companies can even mix and match elements of more than one. If everyone is happy with the work setup, it creates a better company culture and higher staff retention.
A hybrid work approach also balances life, work, and wellness. It creates some separation between the office and home environment, while allowing quieter days when working remotely. Commuting longer distances is often stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. A hybrid remote work setting reduces that wear and tear even if full-time telecommuting isn’t an option.
Hybrid remote work also provides a boost to productivity for most businesses. Extra time spent in a home environment, and less time commuting, leads to less stress. Coordinating with colleagues in-person can be beneficial for projects, while having quieter, focused work times on other days means fewer distractions and more work done.
On the IT side, it also creates fewer cybersecurity risks. We’ve been discussing IT security issues a lot recently, with everything from crypto malware to HTML attachment attacks being a threat. By using hybrid remote work, businesses can set restrictions on what can be accessed outside of the office, which limits risks. People will then have full access on days they’re in the office, under the safety of a secure network and on company-provided computers.
How To Choose the Best Hybrid Work Strategy for Your Business
A successful hybrid remote work model requires careful planning and communication. There are also a lot of IT infrastructure needs, meaning it’s also crucial that your IT team is part of the process. Some things that employees may request or sound like they should be doable may be more difficult or expensive than resources allow.
Understand Your Business Needs
When choosing a hybrid work strategy, you must start with a better understanding of your business needs. That means establishing what roles can be done from home, the impact of shifting the workforce out of the office, and how that can be best leveraged to benefit everyone. The goal is to develop a strategy that makes financial sense, is most likely to improve productivity, and increases overall satisfaction with the work environment.
Look at Technology Costs
Between the growing costs of technology and complex software licensing, there can be a lot of unexpected setup costs involved with creating a hybrid work environment. While it usually leads to cost savings, it’s important to understand the scale of your needs and ensure purchases match that. Overbuying devices or getting locked into unnecessary annual software contracts can make it more expensive than it needs to be.
Communicate With Your Staff
Optimally, managers can work with each employee to determine how they would fit into the hybrid remote work plan. Some may have special circumstances that require a fully remote position, such as living a few hours away or having health limitations. In contrast, someone living within walking distance of an office or thriving in social settings may prefer to come in daily.
Set Clear Expectations and Policies
There should be clear expectations, so people aren’t confused or disappointed if something doesn’t align with what they expected. That means creating written policies that define what hybrid remote work will look like, how that impacts employees, and what the process will look like. Doing so should reduce the chance of issues and ensure that it’s a positive addition to the business rather than an additional source of stress.
Do a Trial Run and Adjust
Even a well-built plan doesn’t always go as expected. The bigger the business and the more moving parts, the harder it is to predict how it’ll go until tested. After the initial infrastructure is implemented, do a trial run first. Be open with staff and gather feedback. They may have input on what works, what doesn’t, and what they’d like to see. The IT team can combine that with other analytics to drive changes and improvements to fine-tune the hybrid work model better.
Make Hybrid Remote Work Easy With ITonDemand
A hybrid remote work model can revolutionize your business through a flexible and inclusive work environment that boosts productivity, attracts top talent, and creates a strong work-life balance. ITonDemand can provide the technical expertise and infrastructure to support you throughout the process. Our expert IT staff is committed to understanding your unique needs and crafting the best IT solutions to integrate hybrid remote work into your business strategy seamlessly. With ITonDemand, you can stay confident that your team will stay connected, secure, and productive wherever they work.