The hybrid workplace is here to stay—how can FMs plan for it?
Companies are embracing the new hybrid workplace like never before.
A year into the pandemic, both employers and employees see the benefits of working from home, especially when facility managers (FMs) have the tools they need to keep workflow intact. We now understand that the workplace of the future must be very safe and very flexible.
Many companies have adopted a variety of different working styles throughout the pandemic. This includes both fully remote work as well as the hybrid workplace model. Given the success of these new styles, we can expect many companies will choose to keep them in place in the “new normal”.
When managed properly, a post-COVID-19 hybrid workplace can be just as productive and fulfilling as a traditional workplace. In this article, we explore why the hybrid workplace is here to stay. We also look at tools that FMs can use to manage these new hybrid workplaces effectively.
The hybrid workplace and why it works
Like the name suggests, a hybrid workplace is a blended workplace—in this case, a blend of remote and in-office working. Depending on company size, industry and other factors, it will look different for different companies.
Hybrid offices will often employ a staggered schedule, where all employees rotate between in-office and remote work. Or a hybrid workplace can also be a mix of strictly remote and strictly in-office workers. In these cases, maintaining team cohesion can be more challenging. This makes it critical for FMs and team leaders to have the management tools they need to keep everyone on the same page.
Regardless of how it’s structured, the hybrid model offers many benefits for companies. Benefits include increased productivity, decreased costs, and greater employee satisfaction. Employees tend to enjoy the work-life balance that some remote working allows, while also craving some in-person synergy, too. Hybrid workplaces allow them to have both.
Workplace survey results related to the hybrid workplace
In its 2021 Work Trend Index, Microsoft predicts that the flexible office is here to stay, noting that “extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”
The study of more than 30,000 people in 31 countries found that 73% of workers want to stay flexible, with their remote work options remaining in place. But an almost equally high number of employees—67 percent—also want more in-person collaboration, once it is safe to do so.
The same is true for Americans. Another recent study found that 71% of American workers are eager to return to the workplace in some capacity, providing it can be done safely.
These numbers are signaling that workers want the best of both worlds. They want the benefits and flexibility of working from home, along with the collaboration and community of working in an office. And company leaders agree, with 66% of them now considering redesigning the office space for hybrid work.
Hybrid workplace productivity and planning
While there’s no doubt that the hybrid workplace can offer an attractive model for companies, it took the pandemic to propel many companies into using it. Previously, a stigma against remote work persisted, with many assuming people working from home would be less productive. But the productivity of remote workers in the past year has smashed this assumption.
In fact, one survey of workers forced into remote work due to the pandemic found that 95% reported being as productive or even more productive working from home as in the office. Fewer interruptions, more focused time, and a quieter work environment were all cited as reasons for increased productivity. That said, with many people now working from home for such a prolonged period of time, this level of productivity is dwindling.
The same survey found that only 4% of respondents wanted to return to the traditional office full-time. This further bolsters the argument for a post-pandemic hybrid workforce.
Remember that FMs had little or no time to prepare for this sudden pivot to working from home. Yet even though these new hybrid offices were hurriedly planned, most workers are enjoying their new dynamic workplaces and want them to continue.
With more proper planning and software, hybrid workplaces can lead to even happier, safer and more efficient work.
The pandemic took everyone by surprise, but equally surprising was how well and quickly workers and companies were able to adapt. Tools like Zoom and Slack made the sudden transition to working from home much easier than it would have been even a decade ago.
Still, FMs with flexible systems already in place had a leg up for remedying the challenges of managing far-flung teams. Integrated workplace management software (IWMS) makes it much easier to optimize workplace resources for all types of workers.
Tools to manage the hybrid workplace
Going forward, FMs will need solid tools to manage the hybrid workplace safely. If a company is offering flexible seating, then FMs must make it simple for employees to find, book and check into desks. User-friendly desk booking software can make this much easier for everyone involved.
In a flexible office, it can also be more challenging to know which resources and people are available when. Hybrid workplaces demand enhanced wayfinding and an easy set up for managing room and desk bookings. Tools like in-office sensors and a Visual Directory® can help everyone navigate the new office seamlessly.
And all workplaces, including those that don’t implement hybrid practices, will need to manage social distancing and safety into the foreseeable future. Even with the vaccine rollout, companies will be expected to provide easy social distancing and safe environments for their workers. Distancing Planner is a game changer in this space, allowing FMs to instantly generate distanced seating plans and know how many seats they can offer their employees.
“Hand sanitizer, masks, and social distancing are table stakes. Companies that embrace technology to help them prepare for the new dynamic workplace will find they have happier and more engaged employees who feel safe and comfortable in the workplace.”David, Cocchiara, CEO, OfficeSpace Software
Ultimately, hybrid workplaces are more efficient when FMs can ensure employees have all the tools they need to do their jobs comfortably, safely and well, whether they’re at work, at home, on the road or in the coffee shop.
Pros and cons of different workplace models
As we’ve covered, implementing a hybrid workplace offers many benefits. Of course, there are benefits to other models as well. For example, in a traditional, all-in-the-office workspace, communication and work culture come naturally. Whether it’s the fabled water cooler chat, small talk in the elevator, or impromptu staff meetings, being together in one space makes collaboration and team building much easier. In fact, a recent survey from OfficeSpace found that 80% of workers miss in-person collaboration with their colleagues.
Collaboration and connections
And collaboration really matters, because less collaboration can lead to less creativity. “When you lose connections, you stop innovating,” says Dr. Nancy Baym, Senior Principal Researcher at Microsoft. “It’s harder for new ideas to get in and groupthink becomes a serious possibility.”
Both hybrid and traditional offices can foster increased collaboration and productivity by embracing Activity Based Working (ABW). WIth ABW, employees aren’t tethered to one desk. Instead, companies use modern technology to create modern workspaces, allowing the type of work to determine where and how that work is performed.
As vaccination rates continue to rise and more people return to the office, chances will be needed. Meeting rooms might have to be more open, collaboration spaces might have to get bigger, and shared workspaces will likely have to be cleaned more often. But by staying flexible and embracing available technology, FMs can create an active, synergistic space for all types of employees.
Flexibility and coordination
On the opposite side of the spectrum, some companies may opt for completely remote workplaces. These allow companies to hire from a much wider talent base, which can save money. And many workers will appreciate the ability to travel or live anywhere, while still keeping their jobs. But for many companies, like those in retail and manufacturing, all-remote just isn’t an option.
Ideally, when managed properly, hybrid offices can replicate many of the benefits of both types of workplaces, while avoiding the pitfalls. Communication and work culture can still be strong in the post-COVID hybrid office, as long as FMs support employees properly. Regular hybrid meetings allow all workers to stay connected, no matter where they are. And using tools like Slack and establishing a dedicated wiki can also help improve company-wide communications.
Coordination in hybrid workplaces can also be challenging, which is why FMs will need to ensure all office technology is integrated and easily accessible.
Information security and best practices
Finally, one of the biggest benefits of a traditional office versus one that utilizes remote workers is information security. It is much easier to keep data safe when it is all contained in one space, on one network.
Companies can reduce the risk posed by remote workers by implementing best practices like secure passwords, encrypted backups, and ensuring all employees have access to a secure internet connection.
But the stats paint the picture—most workers and companies still prefer a dynamic, hybrid workplace despite any drawbacks. This is why going forward, most facility management will have to include managing hybrid workers.
The future of work is hybrid
Because of the pandemic, we have been propelled into the future, and the future of work is hybrid. The hybrid workplace can benefit employers and employees alike. With the right planning and tools, a hybrid workplace can lead to increased productivity, cost savings, and a happier and healthier employee experience.