Is Your Company Ready to Become a Hybrid Workplace? 7 Questions to Ask

By
Max Shepherd-Cross
·
October 26, 2021

After over a year of working in your PJs, almost forgetting when your workday ends, and kids (or pets) interrupting your Zoom calls, you’re probably yearning to get out of the house and possibly, back to the office. But the flexibility of working from home is hard to give up too. You know what you—and most of your employees—want. Hybrid work: the freedom to enjoy the perks of both the office and remote work.

But “going hybrid” isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. The decision is loaded with opportunities, consequences, and a long list of requirements—especially if you want to facilitate a smooth transition.

Before you decide to become a hybrid workplace, take the time to assess and alleviate employee concerns around hybrid work, consider policies and regulations you’ll need, and think of the role your office will play.

In this article, we’ll give you seven questions to guide your thinking about whether your company is ready to go hybrid. We’ll bring up a handful of concerns and logistics you may have yet to consider and also give suggestions about the best ways to deal with these considerations.

1. Do your employees support hybrid work?

While employees in most surveys (like the surveys run by Accenture, McKinsey, Gartner, and Robert Half) agree hybrid work is the future, that doesn’t mean all of your employees will agree. Avoid taking this general consensus as permission to move your team to a hybrid model because unaddressed employee resistance may cause your hybrid workplace to fail.  

Some of the most common employee concerns include feeling like outcasts when working remotely, receiving fewer opportunities if they spend too much time working remotely, and getting micro-managed when working from home. Some employees may also be concerned about not being able to unplug when working from home, and employees with small, crowded homes may prefer to work in the office at all times.

To alleviate employee anxiety around hybrid work, first, talk to them openly about proposed changes to policies, guidelines, and schedules (more on these below). Let employees share their concerns and the kind of hybrid work schedule they’d prefer most. Asking employees to share their views before imposing hybrid work on them will help rally employee support for a significant change like this.


2. Are your company’s executives willing to work from home part of the week?

If your company is officially a hybrid workplace, but executives continue working from the office every day, employees may feel the office is still the center of power and decision-making. This dynamic could undermine your hybrid model by suggesting employees must be in the office to get face-time with leaders and better access to opportunities.

To reinforce that you truly support hybrid work, get your executives to work remotely for part of the week. As  Julien Dollon, Director of Engineering at Oracle, says, “When the chief is remote, all of a sudden everybody is remote...”

Apart from working from home frequently, leaders also need to move all important communications to a place where everyone can see them: online. Create video announcements on Loom and share on Slack rather than in-office, record all conversations for visibility, and open new opportunities to everyone, rather than whoever’s present in the office at the moment.

See how Hubspot CEO Brian Halligan leads by example by dialing in remotely for meetings instead of a conference room full of in-office team members.  


3. Have you considered the legal aspects of transitioning to a hybrid workplace?

While it’s difficult to find a comprehensive list of laws that govern hybrid work, employers still need to look at existing employment laws to understand legal requirements around hybrid work.

Here are some questions to ask your legal team:

  • Do I need to reimburse employees for both on-site and home office equipment, even if work from home is optional?  In some states like California, employers must reimburse expenses like office equipment (laptops, monitors, desks, keyboards), cell phones, and internet, but it’s not a requirement if work from home is an optional arrangement.
  • Are commutes to the office reimbursable? Commutes to and from work are not typically reimbursable. However, if workers work primarily from home, they may make claims each time they travel to the office. You’ll need to check if such claims are valid in your state or country.
  • Do I need to pay overtime to employees? Overtime rules in some states require employers to pay overtime when workers work for more than eight hours a day. If that’s the case, you’ll need to consider how you’ll track and manage overtime in a hybrid work environment.

For more information on labor laws, take a look at this list of remote work laws in the U.S. that may also apply to partial work from home.  


4. Have you considered hybrid work policies you’ll need to implement (reimbursements, wellness and health, code of conduct, equality)?

You likely created some policies for remote work during COVID-19. You’ll need to revisit those if you shift to hybrid work to account for its unique challenges.

Consider adding these policies to your hybrid work handbook:

Reimbursements

We’ve covered the legal considerations around equipment reimbursement, but you’ll want to make sure your reimbursement policy is comprehensive for employees, not just compliant. Also, consider which employees are eligible for reimbursements. For instance, some companies like Microsoft only reimburse home office expenses for employees working from home more than 50% of the week.

As for typical reimbursement amounts, managers in our Slack group, Hybrid Heroes, report providing a one-time stipend of $250-$300 for employees to set up their home office.

Wellness and health

Most health and wellness benefits (like a gym membership) may look the same for all employees, but you may need to provide additional credit to at-home employees for benefits exclusively available on-premises, like lunch, childcare, and yoga centers.

Code of conduct

Your company likely has a set of rules around acceptable employee behavior. Consider how these translate to online interactions—language, actions, and dress code acceptable during work meetings and communications—as you draft your hybrid work policies.

Equal opportunities

State the measures you’ll take to ensure equal opportunities for employees, regardless of work preferences or how many in-office days they spend. For example, Hubspot plans to track employee promotions alongside their work preference to check if there are adequate opportunities for all employees.

COVID-19 protocols

Depending on your city, state’s or countries’ regulations regarding COVID-19, outline the need to wear masks, stay at home until one is free of COVID symptoms, and wash hands. If you’re mandating vaccines for all employees (like McDonald’s and Goldman Sachs), mention that too. Also, state if you’ll conduct temperature checks on-site or use methods of contact tracing like asking employees to log in to an app each time they check in to work.


5. What will your company’s hybrid work schedule look like? How do you plan to avoid chaos?

Hybrid work means various different arrangements, like partially remote, all-remote plus in-office, and varying levels of allowance to work from home. Before you ‘go hybrid,’ consider how often you want employees to come to the office and when.  

First, think about how many days a week your employees can work from home. Many companies like Hubspot, Etsy, and Salesforce, allow employees to choose whether they want to split their time evenly or work the majority remote or in-office. Certain roles like front-desk management, security, and IT may require on-premises work at all times.

Next, think about whether you want employees to come in on specific days if they choose partial work from home. There are a number of ways to schedule this, including:

  • Fixed hybrid work schedules, where the whole company works from the office on specific days.
  • Manager-led hybrid work schedules, where managers or team leaders decide the days their teams will work in the office.
  • Employee-led hybrid work schedules, where employees choose the days they want to work in the office based on their needs.

Additionally, you may also need to assign fixed working hours for roles like customer support.

To avoid too many or too few employees checking in to the office, consider using desk booking software like Officely to track the days employees will work from office/home.

To ensure the highest productivity for employees, we recommend employee-led hybrid work schedules. Your employees know best when they need to do deep, focused work and when they need to collaborate with others, so it’s ideal to let them choose their in-office days.

6. How will you manage communication in a hybrid workplace?

You may have figured out communication in an all-remote or in-office environment, but things get trickier when half your team is on-site and the other half is at home. There’s a greater chance of information slipping through the cracks, at-home employees missing out on watercooler chats, and meetings turning chaotic.

Consider how you’ll manage the following types of communication in a hybrid environment:

Company-wide communication: How will you manage public announcements and updates, company-wide and across different teams?

You may have moved all such communication to online channels like Slack and email as you worked remotely during the pandemic—let communication stay online when you move to hybrid work, too, to keep everyone on the same page.

Culture-building conversations: How will you ensure everyone participates equally in culture-building conversations and activities?

When teams meet in-office, spare some time for culture-building activities like games and happy hours.

With fewer opportunities to meet over coffee breaks, organize team outings to allow employees to get to know each other. Apps like Donut for Hybrid Work also facilitate employee interactions by pairing random employees together for watercooler chats.

Collaborative conversations: How will you ensure at-home employees aren’t left out of collaborative conversations?

Consider making hybrid meetings the norm, so remote employees can participate too. For less chaotic hybrid meetings, let all employees dial in remotely, even if they’re in the office. Alternatively, install large displays in a conference room so all in-office and remote employees can see each other better. Set rules around speaking—when to speak and for how long—and choose the right hardware and software for both on-site and at-home participants. [Here are some more tips on running hybrid meetings successfully.]

Record all conversations—agendas, meetings, office hours, and even informal chats, so all employees can view material on their own time. Use tools like Slack, Trello, and Notion to document and share information publicly. Here are some more tips on running hybrid meetings successfully.

7. Is your office space suitable for hybrid work?

Once you move to hybrid work, the role of your office will change too. It will go from a place where employees regularly check in to work to an avenue for real-time collaboration as well as deep, focused work for employees who can’t work successfully at home.

Instead of an open space plan, consider a limited number of desks and allow employees to sit at different desks each day (also known as hot desking) for better use of office space. Build more collaborative spaces for real-time and hybrid meetings. You might also offer lockers where employees can store personal belongings and equipment to use when they’re in the office.

Take a cue from Reddit’s revamped hybrid office space with casual seating like coffee shops, no fixed desks, and bookable spaces for real-time collaboration.

A hybrid workplace isn’t one-size-fits-all  

Hybrid work doesn’t mean the same to each company—you can always tweak hybrid work to fit your business requirements.

For instance, McKinsey provides four models for hybrid work: partially remote work with a large HQ, partially remote work with multiple locations, multiple micro hubs across geographies, and partially remote work with flex space. Choose a hybrid work model based on your employee needs, company size, industry, and location.

To manage desk booking and scheduling, check out Officely—the only desk booking tool that lives in Slack.  

State
Mandate or Prohibition Information
For More State-by-State COVID-19 Information
Alabama

State and local governments in Alabama are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Alaska

State and local governments in Alaska are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Arizona

State and local governments in Arizona are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Arkansas

State and local governments in Arkansas are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Private employers may require a vaccine as a condition for employment, as long as they provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are unable to get the vaccine due to medical or religious reasons. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

California

Vaccine mandates in California currently allow employers to require employees to submit proof of COVID-19 vaccination. Additionally, California employers can dictate whether masks are required by employees or not.

Colorado

Colorado vaccine mandates allow private employers to require their employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to go to work. Colorado has a mask mandate for state-owned institutions, but private employees are not required to wear one.

Connecticut

Private employers in Connecticut can decide whether they will require proof of vaccination as a condition for employment. Vaccinated individuals are exempt from wearing a mask.

Delaware

Private employers in Delaware can decide whether they will require proof of vaccination as a condition for employment. Masks are not required by employers, but unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear them.

District of Columbia

Private employers in the District of Columbia can decide whether they want to mandate vaccines among their employees. Masks are required unless you are in a private office where the public cannot enter.

Florida

State and local governments in Florida are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Georgia

State and local governments in Georgia are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required to be worn by employees.

Hawaii

Private employers in Hawaii can make an independent decision about requiring proof of vaccination or weekly testing as a condition for employment. Hawaii encourages all employees to wear masks whenever they are in a common area with other employees.

Idaho

State and local governments in Idaho are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Illinois

Private employers in Illinois can make an independent decision about requiring proof of vaccination or weekly testing as a condition for employment. All employees must wear a mask while indoors.

Indiana

Private employers in Indiana can mandate employee COVID-19 vaccines, with the exception of the state government and some local entities. Employees are not required to wear a mask.

Iowa

A private employer in Iowa may require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. However, employees in Iowa have medical exemptions beyond the federal and state requirements. Masks are not required for employees.

Kansas

Private employers in Kansas may require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, but exemption requests must be reviewed and considered. Masks are not required.

Kentucky

Private employers in Kentucky can decide whether to require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Louisiana

Private employers in Louisiana can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Private employers also have the discretion to require masks.

Maine

Private employers in Maine can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Maryland

Private employers in Maryland may require a COVID-19 vaccination with some conditions; mandates are dependent on internal policies, procedures, and the status of each person's employment. Private employers are able to mandate wearing masks.

Massachusetts

Private employers in Massachusetts can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Michigan

Private employers in Michigan can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers consider accommodations for employees who are medically or religiously exempt from getting the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Minnesota

Private employers in Minnesota can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Private employers are able to mandate wearing masks.

Mississippi

Currently, private employers can mandate COVID-19 vaccines for employees at their own discretion. However, a recently filed bill would prohibit this if it gets passed. Masks are not required.

Missouri

Private employers in Missouri can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Montana

State and local governments are prohibited from requiring a person to be vaccinated. Additionally, private businesses cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. Masks are not required.

Nebraska

Private employers in Nebraska can decide whether to require an employee to undergo testing or prove receipt of COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

Nevada

Private employers in Nevada can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Mask mandates are currently in place by county.

New Hampshire

State and local governments in New Hampshire are prohibited from mandating vaccines. Private employers can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as the mandate is job-related and employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

New Jersey

Private employers in New Jersey can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

New Mexico

Private employers in New Mexico can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are required in New Mexico for individuals in any public, indoor setting.

New York

Private employers in New York can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. NYC vaccine mandates specifically state that an employer can require a vaccine for employees who regularly work face-to-face with other employees or those who work with the public. If your office does not require proof of vaccination as a condition of entry, every employee must wear masks at all times.

North Carolina

Private employers in North Carolina can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are not required.

North Dakota

Private employers in North Dakota can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Ohio

Vaccine mandates in Ohio state that private employers can require employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19, as long as employers allow exemptions for employees who are medically or religiously unable to get the vaccine. Masks are not required.

Oklahoma

Private employers in Oklahoma can make COVID-19 vaccines a condition of employment provided the employer offers reasonable accommodations for employees. Masks are not required.

Oregon

Private employers in Oregon can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Masks are required in all indoor settings.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania vaccine mandates state that a private employer may require employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 in order to go to work. Masks are not required.

Rhode Island

Private employers in Rhode Island can mandate COVID-19 vaccines as a condition of employment. Rhode Island also states that masking is required of all employees who are not vaccinated.

COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Australia

The Australian Government’s vaccination policy says, in general, receiving a vaccination is free and voluntary, though it aims to have as many Australians vaccinated as possible. Furthermore, each Australian state and territory can implement its own vaccine and mask mandates. Currently, both Victoria and New South Wales require employees to be vaccinated before entering an office.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Germany

In Germany, employees can only reenter the workforce if they show their “3G certification” that says they are vaccinated against COVID-19, have recently tested negative for COVID-19, or have recovered from the virus. Unvaccinated employees must take a test every workday and provide proof of a negative result for each test they take.

Additionally, employers must offer a work-from-home option for all employees, as long as the nature of the employee’s work allows for it. German employers may require employees to wear masks.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Italy

Vaccines are not mandatory in Italy, and employers cannot require a vaccine as a condition for employment. However, they can require employees to wear masks while on the job.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Spain

Employers in Spain cannot require employees to submit to a COVID-19 vaccination. There are currently no indoor mask mandates.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Switzerland

Employers in Switzerland cannot require employees to submit to a COVID-19 vaccination, but it is encouraged. Encouragement includes resources on where to get the vaccine, how to protect yourself against COVID-19, and where you can get tested. Mask mandates in Switzerland state that you must wear a mask while indoors.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in Russia

Vaccine mandates are not legal in Russia, but employers can encourage vaccination with information like locations for vaccines and COVID-19 testing. Russia does require masks to be worn in crowded public spaces.


COVID-19 Regulations and Vaccine Mandates in the UK

Currently, only employees of health care facilities are required to show proof of vaccination as a condition for employment in the United Kingdom, which encompasses England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.

There are no prohibitions for private employers, which allows them to each make their own decision about whether to mandate vaccines and masks for employees.


Help Your Employees Stay Informed on the Latest COVID-19 Regulations

With so many different regulations and mandates, the best thing you can do for your employees is to help them stay informed about COVID-19. Use the CDC’s distancing and masking guidelines, encourage people to stay home when they’re sick, and provide them with helpful COVID-19 related resources. Consider offering your employees the option to work from home or on a hybrid schedule if their job allows for it.

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Max Shepherd-Cross
Max is one of the cofounders and CEO of Officely.

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