Employees are looking for more flexibility in how, when, and where they work—with the majority preferring to split their time between working from home and working in the office. According to The Future of Work: Productive Anywhere report from Accenture, 83 percent of employees favor a hybrid work model.
But for companies making the shift towards hybrid work, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right balance between remote and in-office work. What’s the best way to split their employees’ time between working remotely and working in the office?
We asked Jamie Jacobs, HR expert, co-founder of consultant-focused talent platform Gig Talent and co-author of Designing Exceptional Organizational Cultures: How to Develop Companies Where Employees Thrive for her insights—and according to her, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
“The answer to this isn’t black and white,” says Jacobs. The “right” balance between in-office and remote work will depend on your organization, your team, and “should be driven by the work itself,” says Jacobs.
There may not be a one-size-fits-all answer to how to split your employees’ time in a hybrid work environment. But there are steps you can take to find the right balance between remote work and in-office work for your company.
Create a clear organization-wide hybrid work strategy…
As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. And rolling out a hybrid work model without planning can lead to the model ultimately causing more issues than benefits to your organization—for example, team members not knowing when their coworkers are going to be in the office to collaborate on a project, leading to setbacks and productivity issues.
So, if you want to find the most effective way to split your team’s time between remote and in-office work, you need a clear plan for how your organization is going to approach hybrid work.
“A decision should be made at the corporate level regarding the company’s approach to flex or hybrid work,” says Jacobs.
Before you adopt a hybrid work model, create an organization-wide strategy that outlines how that model is going to work within your organization. For example, how many days are employees expected to work in the office? Will employees have “set” days they work from home (for example, Tuesdays and Thursdays)—or will remote work happen on a rotating schedule?
The clearer you are with your policy, the better; otherwise, you could find yourself running into unexpected (and unnecessary) challenges. For example, “we have seen many organizations adopt a hybrid model stating 2 days in the office [are required] without providing clear guidance on those 2 days,” says Jacobs. “In these instances, employees are not going to the office on Mondays or Fridays, creating office space concerns mid-week.”
If you want hybrid work to be effective within your organization—and to find the right balance between employees working from home and employees working in the office—it starts with a plan. And the more detailed the plan, the more effective hybrid work will be within your organization in the long term.
…but allow teams to build off that strategy to fit their needs
It’s important to determine how you’re going to approach hybrid work at an organizational level. But it’s also “important to keep in mind that different departments have different ways of working,” says Jacobs. “What works for customer service may not work for marketing—and vice versa.”
That’s why, instead of holding all teams and employees to the same strict hybrid work policy, Jacobs recommends developing the strategy at the organizational level—but then giving individual teams and departments the opportunity to adapt that strategy in a way that best suits their needs and work.
So, what might that look like in action?
“The overarching company policy or practice should include some standard guidelines, such as how many days employees on average need to be in the office,” says Jacobs. “This direction will support leaders and managers as they work through the details within their teams and set an expectation across the board. [From there], leaders then should work with their teams to decide which days make the most sense.”
Also read: Hybrid Work: Management Best Practices
For example, let’s say, at an organizational level, you decide you want your team to be in the office at least two days per week. Your customer service manager might decide that having the entire customer service team in the office on Mondays and Fridays makes the most sense, since those are the days that see the highest volume of customer service tickets—while marketing might take a different approach, scheduling team members’ in-office days based on meetings, the projects they’re working on, and who they collaborate with most.
The point is, different teams have different needs and workflows—so it’s important to give your teams the opportunity to adapt your hybrid work strategy in a way that best suits those needs and workflows. (Just make sure departmental leadership is keeping you in the loop as to when their employees will be in office and when they’ll be working from home. That way, you can allocate space and resources accordingly.)
Talk to your employees about what balance works for them
As mentioned, there’s no universal definition for the “right” split between in-office and remote work in a hybrid work environment. Some employees thrive working in the office while others are more productive working from home. Some employees will have no problem coming to the office three days a week while others might have commitments or challenges that make it harder to put in that much time at the office (like a longer commute or childcare concerns).
So, if you want to find the right balance between remote and in-office for your employees, why not ask them?
Sit down with your employees and have a discussion about what the ideal hybrid work situation looks like for them. Get to know more about what kind of balance they want between remote and in-office work, how they want to split their time, and when it works best for them to be in the office. While you may not be able to accommodate every request, understanding your employees’ needs around hybrid work can help develop a strategy that works best for your team.
“When leaders and managers take the time to assess the needs of each individual, it helps create a better roadmap to plan how employees may need to split their time between remote and in-office work from the very beginning,” says Jacobs.
Adapt your strategy as necessary
Figuring out your hybrid work strategy—and how your employees are going to split their time between remote and in-office work—isn’t a one-time task. So, while it’s important to develop a clear strategy around how employees will split their time, it’s also important not to get too attached to that strategy—and to pivot, adjust, and adapt as necessary.
“Treat this time as a collective experiment where…you try things and iterate based on what works and what you learn,” says Jacobs.
There are always things to iron out when adopting a new work model—including finding the ideal balance between remote and in-person work when you make the shift to hybrid. But while there is no single “right” split between in-office and remote time, with these steps, you can find the best split for your employees—and set your team and organization up for long-term hybrid success.
Do you want to know more about the challenges and best practices of hybrid work? Read our ebook on this topic:
Access White Paper
In our white paper “Future of Work: Make Way for Hybrid Work!” you’ll discover the eight main challenges of hybrid work; best practices managers, HR, internal communication, IT and employees all can adopt; and the tools for facilitating hybrid work.
Author: Deanna deBara