How to transition to the hybrid work model: 5-step guide

The pandemic has taught humanity a valuable lesson: there’s no single preferred way of working. In 2020, most companies were forced to start working remotely — and while some employees were thrilled, others were overwhelmed by distractions, isolation, and lack of work-life balance.

Managers weren’t fully on board either. They lost the opportunity to softly oversee teams in a so-called “management by wandering” and having no in-person connection to the team made room for trust issues and miscommunication.

Two years later, we haven’t put the pandemic behind but we have it under control with vaccines and safety measures. Now we can imagine thinking about the new normal and contemplating the return to offices.

The issue is most people like the flexibility made possible by remote work and want to keep it. That’s why five-day 9-to-5 office working policies seem strict to many employees. Hence, more teams are opting for the middle-ground solution: hybrid work model.

Hybrid work model: a quick introduction

Hybrid work is a set of practices that help teams balance out their preferences for remote and in-office work. There’s no unique standard for how you should set it up: some managers allow employees to work remotely two days a week, others offer full freedom in choosing where you work from.

Regardless of the hybrid work model teams opt for, the transition is hardly a smooth process. At the end of the day, a manager has two teams to lead — a remote one and an in-office one. Making sure they align, communicate, and perform equally well takes extra effort. That’s why, before you switch your organization to hybrid work, a thorough transition plan is a must.

Below, we offer a five-step transition process that will help teams navigate their journey to hybrid work as seamlessly as possible.

Step #1. Set the boundaries

Since hybrid work involves preparing a physical space for in-office employees, managers have to be able to project capacity and avoid overcrowding. On the other hand, maintaining an office would make no sense if no one shows up — so the first step is to check who is planning on coming back.

Before you start taking actionable transition steps, make sure the following pieces are in place:

  • Schedules: on what days and at which times teammates are coming to the office.
  • Spaces: how many designated rooms the organization needs.
  • Security protocols for cleaning public spaces and areas (the pandemic is still a threat).
  • Implementation timeline: if the infrastructure can support welcoming back all employees at once or if there’s a need for a phased transition.
  • Role-specific considerations: determine if there are teams that have to work in person. Be reasonable in this consideration to avoid over-management and risk a rainshower of resignations.

Step #2. Prepare the technology for the hybrid work model

With a transition plan and timeline in place, team leaders should focus on connecting remote employees to the in-office team. There are a lot of tools that help people work seamlessly and eliminate the disconnect, such as:

  • Virtual office platforms: interactive spaces where remote employees can catch up, join meetings, and have discussions with the in-person team. oVice is one of the frontrunners in the market, enabling hybrid work in large-scale companies across Japan (YamahaToyotaRicohAsahi Kasei Pharma) and Korea. Its 2D room mimics a real-life office with spontaneous meetings, as well as the ability to move around and connect seamlessly. Since office layouts are customizable, a virtual space can look exactly like the real one, making the navigation between desks as similar to a physical office as possible.
  • Editing tools that support collaborative editing: platforms like Google Docs and Figma, with support for simultaneous work are fundamental for hybrid teams since they encourage real-time participation and help teams make changes quickly and seamlessly.
  • Documentation platforms like Notion help hybrid companies track meetings, monitor status updates, and share insights. For visually rich charts and graphs, tools like Miro are an excellent addition.
  • Security tools enable a safe data flow between in-office and remote teams. VPNs, firewalls, and antivirus software are key components of a functional security infrastructure.

Step #3. Create opportunities for connection and networking

The casual engagement, inherent to office-only teams, can no longer be taken for granted once you go hybrid. Managers should understand that connecting remote employees with the in-person team will require extra effort, especially if they are not part of the same department.

As you transition to hybrid workplaces, make sure to create room for knowledge sharing and casual chit-chat. There are several ways to enable more interactions:

  • Regular team-building events
  • Cross-team workshops that help employees pick up new skills.
  • Slack channels dedicated to small talk and casual fun.
  • Regular retreats where teammates can meet outside of the work to have fun together and get to know each other.

Step #4. Ensure equality

As a team manager, you should watch out for the “familiarity bias”: the tendency to favor people you see in the office every day over those working remotely.

Giving everyone on the team equal opportunities means ensuring that the remote team is in the loop on the latest meetings and discussions, is included in every decision, and doesn’t have to sacrifice their comfort (for example, by joining conference calls that don’t match working hours in their time zones) to integrate with the office team.

Similarly, team leaders should make sure they don’t spend more 1-on-1 time with the in-person team.

It’s good to grab a coffee together every now and then, as long as you give the same amount of attention to remote employees in 1-on-1s and status updates.

Step #5. Keep reviewing and improving

Before the pandemic, quite a few tech companies were already exploring the hybrid work model. However, it is only now that we are seeing it become standard, with non-tech players and international corporations joining the trend.

As a result, operational inefficiencies, challenges, and shortcomings of hybrid workplaces will likely be exposed in the nearest future.

When that happens, it’s important that team leaders don’t take a black-and-white approach and give up on the new model. Instead, you should commit to collecting feedback from teammates, listening to their concerns, and solving them one issue at a time.

These are the stepping stones for successfully transitioning your team to a hybrid workplace. Adapting to the new way of working will take time and effort, with teams both remote and office teams walking the extra mile to meet each other halfways.

Once everyone has adapted, the gains of the hybrid models will be obvious — freedom, inclusivity, and seamless collaboration.