Workplaces are evolving. A new generation of employees is clamoring to work in hybrid culture settings and companies are scrambling to create, maintain, and sustain productive work environments. Some entities have taken this change as an opportunity to rethink how they hire, train, compensate and promote talent to keep up with the changing demands of their workforce. Businesses are realizing that they can achieve organizational success while meeting employees’ needs for flexibility without sacrificing productivity or quality.
Hybrid Work offers employees the flexibility to choose where (and when) they work, balancing time between the office and home. Teams once gathered in an office now form hybrid teams, connected via technology rather than being in the same physical space. The notion of a flexible schedule allows individuals to work when they feel motivated or creative, whenever, wherever. A successful hybrid work model, however, is more than just allowing your employees to telecommute once a week and asking them to come into the office the other days.
In order to extract the maximum benefit, your company needs to carefully plan how employees will collaborate as well as be able to function efficiently without compromising productivity or morale in either location. There are a number of ways to go about making the transition between traditional ways of doing business and a hybrid workplace, but the most effective is to address it from the ground up. 2021 is a moment of huge transition, providing an opportunity to rethink your company’s culture. A new operating model that works for both your business and the people employed in it will help establish a hybrid culture that benefits everyone associated with it.
There are three core components required to build and maintain smart hybrid workplace culture. When implemented on a fundamental basis—as part of the company’s operating principles and day-to-day business—they can prove transformative.
- Flexibility. Employees are happier and more productive adhering to work schedules that fit their needs and lives. Businesses can facilitate this by shifting to deadline-driven work models rather than hourly or daily work models.
- Safety. A hybrid culture must reflect enhanced health and safety requirements, including space capacity and rotating workspaces. Employee safety should extend well beyond just meeting minimum safety requirements though. It should be about the comfort, experience, well-being, and productivity of your workforce.
- Connection/Collaboration. The modern world is interconnected as never before, enabling remote workers to check-in, participate in meetings, and exchange information as readily as if they were sitting at the next desk.
With these principles serving as the framework, it’s important to develop a hybrid work policy that fits with your company culture and aligns with your mission and purpose. Each company is singular, with its own people, purpose, values, and ways of doing things. A hybrid work policy needs to function within that unique state. Before making any sweeping changes to company policy, it’s imperative to consult your employees. The more readily they can convey their wishes and needs to you, the better your hybrid workspace will function.
Foster a Culture of Flexibility
The central benefit of a hybrid model is flexibility, and for employees, that means a model that works for them. Everyone has their own personal commitments, and the more each worker can shift their schedule to meet those commitments—letting them pick their kids up from school, for instance, or attend to household chores—the more effectively they can meet their work commitments as well.
Meeting that goal can be challenging. On the one hand, work schedules have to be established, and employees are still expected to accomplish their professional goals in a timely fashion. On the other hand, allowing HR managers or similar department managers to set employee schedules can slight the specific needs of the individual in favor of the company’s needs, which largely defeats the purpose of a hybrid workforce in the first place. It’s a more difficult challenge than it may sound.
How does a business respond when most of its workers want to work from home on Mondays or Fridays, for instance? How can managers work around such issues while retaining the flexibility required to reap the benefits?
The answer lies with technology. Proper analytics can identify employee work trends and suggest optimum schedules for productivity: ensuring that each work schedule best suits the employee in question without affecting their overall efficiency on the job.
Smarten Spaces can do that for you in a manner that is both comprehensive and easy to use. It includes a wide array of features designed to help you maximize flexibility across your organization, including:
- Hybrid Scheduler: Allows both managers and/or employees to develop schedules. Managers can set schedules for entire departments or employees can be given access to set their own individual work schedules. Working together with the Hybrid Scheduler ensures everyone on the team can collaborate effectively. It also easily handles updates and change requests as schedules will no doubt shift and change.
- Desk Management: When the Hybrid Scheduler is synced Desk Management, the app can make desk booking recommendations and release workstations if/when they’re not needed. It can even tell employees where fellow team members are on a given day and draw a map from the app user’s location to the desk location. It also provides management complete visibility into where people are sitting and who’s working together.
- Space Reservation: Specific spaces like conference rooms and favorite desks can be reserved by team members in advance, giving them a say in their working conditions and helping them book desks across multiple days. The app further provides the ability to view work-from-home and work-from-office occupancy percentages of individuals, teams, and departments.
- Powerful Analytics: Even more important than the ability to organize your space and schedule for hybrid office work, analytics let you track space occupancy and match it with work schedules to fit supply and demand. Ensuring optimal space utilization helps you make informed cost decisions and budget planning when assessing your space expenses and other inventory.
Prioritize Employee Safety
Some hybrid models may allow employees to choose how many days they come into the office and on how many days they continue to work remotely; other models may involve employers determining which days are designated for “remote work” and which are the “in-office” days.
However “hybrid” is interpreted by each organization, employee safety must become a company priority. No workplace culture can thrive if employees don’t feel their personal safety is valued. Addressing health concerns adequately provides workers with the assurance they need. The same kind of technology that ensures flexible scheduling in your hybrid culture can ensure the physical safety of your space, and make it an automatic priority in your hybrid workplace culture.
Each office space is unique, and that applies to physical locations and local mandates, as well as size and layout. Safety considerations must address new guidelines for masks, social distancing, and cleaning schedules, as well as factors like the ventilation system and frequently touched surfaces like doors and elevator buttons.
Logistically, keeping track of all of those details can be a huge challenge, especially with rotating schedules and other aspects of hybrid office spaces.
- Desk social distancing: Social distancing norms can change based on who is scheduled to come into the office on a given day. That often means adjusting seat planning and assigning desk space with greater social distancing between occupants. Smarten Space’s algorithms enable error-free and scalable seat planning, as well as monitor room occupancy, environmental controls, and other building systems.
- Employee screening with health checks: Smarten Spaces lets you confirm health declaration and/or vaccination status, as well as to conduct daily temperature checks and track the health trends of your workforce.
- Control the occupancy of your workplace: A configurable limit can be set to prevent overcrowding in the workplace, no matter who is scheduled on any given day. You can limit occupancy based on regulatory and/or company policy via several criteria: desk bookings, manager preferences or building specifics. This helps protect your employees and visitors from potential exposure, as well as regulating work-from-home schedules to make sure safety protocols are met.
- Contact tracing: The Smarten Spaces app allows for real-time transmission tracking with minimal intrusion. Contact tracing can spot potential points of transmission and identify on-site workers who may be at risk. In addition, visitors and regular employees alike can be kept safe with touch-free and secure ways to verify and record entries.
- Sanitization services: Managers and employees can automatically generate Work Orders to schedule sanitization of used space. Smarten Spaces can also organize and prioritize cleaning orders, allowing employees to check on their status via a dashboard.
- Smart meeting room booking: Meeting rooms play an important role in hybrid culture, allowing workmates to gather whether they’re remote or on-site. Smarten Spaces allows your team to coordinate hybrid meeting schedules, book meeting rooms, plan for necessary tech, and even send directions to meeting participants so they know where to go. Check-in and check out using digital signage, tablets, or QR codes, to reduce physical touchpoints. Smarten Spaces also provides real-time confirmations and tracks no-shows—freeing up space in the event it is needed—and allows you to sync air quality, lighting, and temperature controls with each room’s schedule.
- Visitor management system: Smarten Spaces can configure and collect special visitor health declarations that include recent travel as well as vaccination status for all visitors prior to entry. Contactless access is managed via a smart pass for visitor validation and entry. This can also be integrated into the building’s access control system and geo-fenced for specific office floors to ensure visitor interactions are limited to designated hosts only.
Encouraged Employee Connection and Collaboration
It’s perhaps the most important of the three keys to a hybrid culture: connection and collaboration enable you to essentially erase distances between your offices and remote workers. If team members get the information they need when they need it and can contact other team members reliably when required, they can perform their jobs from anywhere on the planet.
It permits work-from-home employees to better attend to personal matters without losing productivity at work, and team members in the office to stay in ready contact with fellow employees who might be working off-site.
In a hybrid culture, that leaves four “modes” of work, each of which has its own means of connection and collaboration.
- Working together, together: This is the “traditional” work model when teams occupy a shared space and can speak more or less directly.
- Working together, apart: This is where members of the same team are in different locations, staying in touch via virtual meetings and similar types of communication.
- Working alone, together: This is where teams are working in shared spaces but may be working on staggered schedules and thus not occupying the space at the same time.
- Working alone, apart: This is where teams are distributed, and individuals are conducting deep focus work on their own.
By democratizing access to all four work modes, not just co-located ones, you allow your employees to do their jobs without running into connectivity issues. In fact, research shows that such methods can empower teams to collaborate intentionally, forming organic connections that meet their needs. Productivity and innovation increase as a result.
Smarten Spaces has the features to handle this too, allowing accessibility and connectivity for all of your employees:
- Compare Schedules With Colleagues: Hybrid Scheduler allows your employees to compare schedules with colleagues, teams, and neighborhoods, allowing them to synchronize meetings while providing flexible spaces to exchange information.
- Sync with Desk Management: The Desk Management feature allows automatic desk allocation once a schedule has been created while freeing up desks for team members who won’t be in the office. It also allows employees to see and reserve desks next to colleagues and team members, improving their ability to collaborate effectively. AI can automatically book desks based on learned preferences.
- Hybrid Meeting Room Management: Smart Meeting Room booking lets workers plan hybrid meeting schedules in advance, as well as determine who will participate and whether any of them are remote. Schedules can be integrated with common office tools such as Gmail and Outlook while virtual collaboration is enabled via integrated tools like Zoom, Teams, Webex, Google Meet, and Skype.
- Employee Engagement: Community Feed options let you share updates and posts securely with team members, as well as conduct surveys to monitor employee health and experience and allow for employee feedback openly and transparently.
Hybrid is Real Embrace It
A hybrid work environment—with the right combination of safety, flexibility, and connectivity—can save time and money for workers and employers alike. The result is an office culture that benefits both sides: getting more done faster and allowing for lowered stress levels and a healthier work-life balance.
Getting to the finish line means employers must signal to employees that they hope to make their workforce partners in designing the future of work. Leaders must embrace this defining opportunity and work with their people—transparently, with respect, with empathy, and with a willingness to learn together instead of dictating—to discover a new and better way to work.
Hybrid work models are here to stay and the smart approach will be to prepare for this reality. Smarten Spaces will help you get there faster.
Schedule an Interactive Workplace Demo today, and let us embark on this momentous and exciting journey together.