It doesn’t need to be said that remote work has never been more popular than it is right now. While it was already rapidly increasing in popularity pre-pandemic, COVID-19 has made it the new normal. Across industries and across the world, companies big and small are rethinking what it means to create work from different time zones and different locations.
But just because it’s popular, doesn’t make it easy. To an outsider, it may seem extremely simple to allow people to work from home without sacrificing work quality—but the reality is, there are several factors that go into creating remote workflows that prioritize employees and ensure optimal communication and productivity. After all, nothing can ever truly be a substitute for in-person connection and communication, both in the workplace and outside of it.
“As convenient as remote work is, some of the most important conversations and ideation sessions can happen during in-person meetings,” says Carrie Shaltz Haslup, Founder and CEO of Tabeeze. “When it comes to high-level strategic decisions, negotiations, tricky conversations, or even energetic brainstorming sessions, being in-person is usually best.”
Thankfully, with intentional strategy and careful planning, hybrid work schedules can still be incredibly effective and even ideal. They offer a happy medium between the synergy and in-person benefits of the office and the comfort, convenience and flexibility of working from home.
With that in mind, here are six tips for ensuring your team’s hybrid work schedule is as effective as possible for all roles.
1. Give People the Flexibility to Call Their Own Shots
Whether you’re converting to a hybrid schedule from a fully-remote or fully in-person situation, it’s important to reassure your team that you want to meet their needs and allow them to have a say in a change that may significantly alter their weekly routines, expenditures or personal workflows.
“When it comes to work, people need to know that they have the autonomy to express their needs and manage their energy effectively,” says Jesse DeBear, Fractional CMO of Renew Anchored Dentures. “For instance, making employees come into an office four days a week after being fully remote may be extremely inconvenient for a parent who now needs to figure out an alternative childcare plan. Work with that person to create a plan that meets their needs and be willing to meet them at a place that allows them to prioritize their family.”
In other situations, people may simply feel that they are more productive, inspired and motivated depending on where they are. Introverts may love being able to brainstorm from the comfort of their own home and set aside quiet time between meetings to allow them to recharge and power through. Extroverts, on the other hand, may thrive being around the creative energy of others all day and prefer to be in the office.
“People who have introverted tendencies may find it hard to work more than two full days in the office,” says Mary Kay Bitton, Head of Product Innovation at Flo Vitamins. “Extroverted employees, on the other hand, may love coming into the office for in-person meetings. Working with, not against, your employees’ personalities sets you up for more success than forcing them to do something they don’t have energy for.”
2. Consider Scheduling in Groups
Allowing employees to have a say in how often they’re coming into the office or working from home is critical, but it can certainly be a little tricky, especially if you’re working for a large company with hundreds of people.
In these cases, experts recommend trying out a “group rotation” hybrid work schedule that allows certain people to come in on certain days based on team needs, meetings and other accommodating factors.
“Scheduling team members in groups as much as possible can help you ensure all cross-collaboration that needs to happen is happening,” says Datha Santomieri, Co-Founder and Vice-President of Steadily Landlord Insurance. “Grouping teammates together can also ensure everyone has the touchpoints and support they need on a daily basis, which ultimately helps build camaraderie.”
In order to implement group hybrid work schedules, you’ll need to ensure a few main things:
- That every team is equally-sized (or at least as close as possible)
- That each group includes interconnected colleagues from the same department as well as at least one C-level leader
- That you consult with your employees and open the floor for feedback or concerns before implementing this group schedule
“Group schedules are an excellent tool if you’d like to limit the number of people in the office or simply implement a hybrid work schedule that makes leadership feel more organized and secure,” says Liza Kirsh, CMO of Dymapak. “While they take a little more diligence and effort to set up, the results can be tremendous.”
3. Check in and Gather Feedback Regularly
Whether it’s your team’s first time working on a hybrid schedule or you’re simply updating your existing schedule, it’s important to ensure your teams feel their needs and concerns are being heard.
“With so much shifting all around us when it comes to workplace culture and career paths, it’s more important than ever to really listen to your employees and prioritize them,” says Rachel Blank, Founder and CEO of Allara Health. “If your employees don’t feel they’re being heard or taken into consideration when big scheduling decisions are being made, they’re less likely to feel satisfied with any work model.”
You can gather this feedback via one-on-one meetings, email surveys, or a combination of both. During these feedback sessions, it’s also important to ensure you’re gathering as much information as possible about what each team member does in order to help you better identify where they’ll thrive and what works best for the team as a whole.
“Look for common threads amongst employees and use those to help you potentially group them in ways that will allow them to receive the best support, inspiration, mentoring, and skill-building opportunities,” says Melissa Rhodes, CEO of Psychics1on1.
4. Start Slow, Then Work Your Way Up
Whether you’re coming from a fully-remote or fully in-person work schedule, transitioning to a hybrid schedule can be a major change for many employees that can require a great deal of planning and adjustment.
“Starting with just one or two days back in the office is my recommendation,” says Asker A Ahmed, Director of iProcess Global Research. “This allows people to re-adjust to their commute and schedule change and re-familiarize themselves with the process and mentality of working in an office space. Internally, it also helps us plan things out more smoothly, since we can often work to ensure all major meetings or important in-person updates are discussed when there are people in the office.”
In addition to starting with a small change, it’s extremely important to give your employees plenty of advance notice before implementing this shift. If possible, give them at least a month’s notice so they can have plenty of time to plan, ask questions and ensure they have everything they’ll need to make the transition work for them.
5. Establish Updated Tools for Accountability
When shifting between in-person and remote work throughout any given week, it’s not entirely uncommon to find that deadlines or tasks may be getting lost in the mix. It can also be more difficult for managers to track employee productivity or progress.
“In order for your hybrid work model to thrive and be truly beneficial, you need to be able to trust your employees to manage themselves independently,” says Drew Sherman, VP of Marketing at Carvaygo. “This can look like sending project updates a few times a week, setting new KPIs, or more diligently tracking their statuses and performance in your project management software.”
If you’re a manager, it’s important to make it very clear what your preferred method of reporting and tracking is and ensure everyone on your team is well-aware of how to implement it to the best of their abilities.
6. Streamline Communications More Than Ever
For many people, communication can be the trickiest part of implementing a hybrid work schedule. On the days where you can’t just pop over to someone’s desk and ask them a quick question or pull them aside to brainstorm a big idea together, how can you ensure you’re reachable and able to reach the people you need?
“No matter how you decide to streamline your internal and external communications, make sure you’re crystal clear on what those expectations are well in advance,” says Neel Shah, Founder of EZ Newswire. “But don’t forget to set communication expectations that are reasonable for everyone. For example, this means understanding that remote employees may not be able to respond the moment you send them a message.”
If you find it necessary to implement new online tools, platforms or workflows in order to streamline communications, be sure to communicate this well in advance and provide proper training.
Managing a team that works on a hybrid schedule doesn’t have to be challenging. In fact, when organized effectively, it can set up your entire company for more success by cultivating a healthier work-life balance, simpler workflows, less overhead costs and happier employees overall.
As with anything else in the professional world, doing this well mainly comes down to patience and communication. Setting expectations and giving notice of updated workflows well in advance will set your employees up for success and help them optimize their new schedule in a way that works for them.