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.

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.  

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

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