As we pass the one year mark since the COVID-19 pandemic first started, it’s time we reflected on how we’ve adjusted to the new normal – wearing face masks, (almost) obsessively using hand sanitizer, social distancing and remote working.
Companies around the world have had the opportunity to test out different flexible work modes to ensure employees are able to get their jobs done during this trying time. When the virus first came about, most companies started with having their entire workforce work from home and collaborating over the likes of Zoom meetings and online chat platforms. But now that the numbers of COVID-19 cases are going down, employees are slowly returning to the office, often following a roster to maintain social distancing and some semblance of flexibility that enables them to quickly jump back to working from home in case another outbreak occurs. And thus, the hybrid work model became an integral part of our work culture, and it’s not going anywhere soon!
Experts have predicted this hybrid work model of remote and in-person work will likely continue permanently even after the pandemic, particularly in the finance, information technology and professional services sectors where face-to-face interactions are limited.
Needless to say there are some of us out there who are secretly wishing that more companies switch to a fully remote work model. Yet, its impracticality is undeniable – whether it be concerns of employees lacking work incentive or managerial staff having a tough time overseeing their teams.
On the other hand, a hybrid work model allows employees the freedom to work on their assigned tasks at their own pace whilst still maintaining a sense of collaboration and formality. Under a hybrid work model, employees are typically allowed one to three days a week to work remotely, and given designated office days to be set aside for in-person meetings to make it easier for attendees to engage with each other and build relationships they would otherwise lack in a fully-remote work experience. It is literally the best of both worlds!
Here are four main reasons why we’re such big fans of the hybrid work model and a few tips to overcome any potential drawbacks:
To survive the tough economic situation of the past several months, many companies have had to cut costs. With a hybrid work model, companies can downsize their offices to better utilize their spaces more cost-effectively, which in turn also lowers overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, office supplies and more.
If there’s one thing none of us miss from our pre-pandemic work life, it’s the rush hour commute. We all know the suffocating feeling of being crammed onto the MTR or the bus for the good part of an hour, and well, it’s not particularly enjoyable. In fact, a survey by Hubble HQ found that almost 80 per cent of respondents chose the lack of commute as one of the best things about WFH. With a hybrid work model, employees can save on transport expenses and commuting time, and instead use this extra time for personal tasks or work.
Some of you might think a hybrid work model could lead to slacking and an overly-relaxed work culture. But in reality, the hybrid model redefines how we measure work performance by placing more focus on the quality of output over the actual number of hours an employee is present at the office.
In fact, research has shown that productivity actually increases when employees work remotely. This is because of a few reasons. First of all, when you give employees the liberty to arrange their own schedule and plan their daily tasks according to their individual preference, they tend to take more responsibility. By offering the opportunity for employees to make their own decisions, employers show trust and validation. Tendencies for micromanagement (which I think we can all agree is one of the biggest workplace vices out there) can also be minimized. Another reason is that there are less distractions compared to being in an office where you’re constantly surrounded by white noise or in danger of being pulled into a long-winded conversation with a neighbouring colleague.
The original intent for hybrid working was, of course, to protect the physical health of everyone at the office by limiting the number of people in the office at the same time and minimizing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The flexibility of this arrangement also gives employees better peace of mind knowing their health was less likely to be compromised. Furthermore, a hybrid work model can better support employees’ in prioritizing their well-being and create a positive work-life balance. A study by HR company, Bob, looking at work during the pandemic found that a larger percentage of respondents who worked under a hybrid model reported having better mental than those who exclusively worked at home or at the office.
With a hybrid work model, employees tend to spend less time together in-person, which is why one of the main concerns for hybrid working is the potential lack of employee engagement and ability to build bonds between each employee, both of which are major factors when it comes to fostering employee loyalty and satisfaction. To tackle this, company leaders should schedule regular team-building activities through either virtually or through in-person get-togethers to let employees get to know each other and foster a sense of community through a few games and maybe a drink or two!
With some of your co-workers working from home a few days a week, you may not be able to walk to their desks to check in about a task you’re working on. However, the efficacy of workplace communication can still be ensured through digital collaboration and communication tools. There’s no excuse for you not to be using them already! There are loads of fantastic digital platforms that have emerged in recent years: applications such as Slack and Trello were literally created to bridge the gap between remote workers by allowing employees to update and track each other’s progress and facilitating virtual project management.
Rather than solely using a synchronous mode of communication where employees are expected to respond instantly, hybrid working is best paired with an asynchronous approach as well to maintain communication while still allowing employees to focus and work independently. That’s not to say your team should only be using one or the other, rather, a mix of both asynchronous and synchronous communication need to be used in the right circumstances to be effective.
Because employees are able to choose their remote and in-house workdays and won’t be in the office at the same time, an organized team schedule is crucial in hybrid working.
Essential meetings such as project brainstorms, kick-offs, mid-project status updates and post-project analysis meetings should be scheduled unanimously ahead of time. But unlike having a catch up meeting every week without a specific agenda, these mandatory focused meetings should provide a clear structure for team members to come together and spend this time to achieve the meeting agenda before heading off to work on their own individual tasks.
Another concern for employees working remotely is the lack of formality. We’ve all heard that when you’re working from home, you should still set an alarm, get dressed, have clearly defined working hours and keep a dedicated office space. But is this enough?
One option companies can offer employees for their remote workdays is the opportunity to work in third-party spaces such as coworking spaces. These spaces provide a happy middle-ground – they’re more work-focused than your home office, and less stressful than the office. What’s more, switching up your workspace and trying a new environment can be quite refreshing. You never know, a change of scenery could really give you that extra burst of creativity!
That’s where BOOQED comes in. We work with hundreds of workspaces around Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai and Shenzhen so your team can easily book a desk or meeting room on their remote work days. If you want to find out more about what we do or how we can help, simply send us an email!
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