Designing a hybrid workplace: 101 guide for team leaders

Understanding how to adapt to hybrid work sets high-performance companies apart from those who struggle to recover from pandemic-induced stress. Statistically, 63% of rapidly growing organizations are committed to a work-from-anywhere hybrid workplace model that allows employees to flexibly alternate between offices and working from home. 

Since switching to hybrid work gives companies a competitive advantage in hiring and employee retention boosts productivity, and introduces cost-cutting opportunities, enabling a flexible workplace seems a no-brainer for team leaders. 

At the same time, there’s resistance to making working from home a permanent commitment – mainly due to the infrastructure, security, and communication challenge the switch will bring. 

At oVice, we have been helping team leaders recover from the pandemic and embrace the hybrid work reality. On top of that, we are a hybrid organization by design. In today’s post, we condense the insights accumulated during all the journeys we witnessed into an actionable hybrid workplace checklist for team leaders. 

Hybrid Workplace Meaning 

A hybrid workplace is an environment that mixes the traditional in-office model with the remote-first approach popularized by the pandemic. 

It successfully addresses the challenges of both in-person and telecommuting, creating a middle ground for team leaders and team members. 

Here is a brief rundown of hybrid workplace benefits for employers and employees: 

Employer-focused benefits Employee-focused benefits
Operational cost-cutting Ability to choose a preferred work style
Access to a broader talent pool Productivity and time savings associated with commuting
Higher employee satisfaction and retentionImproved work-life balance
Resilience in the face of new pandemic surgesHigher mobility
Ability to seamlessly incorporate effective management practices adopted during the pandemicCost-cutting savings associated with saving on gas prices or buying cheaper property

4 Key Components of a Successful Hybrid Workplace 

While the benefits of hybrid work are backed by data, the widespread adoption of hybrid workplaces also exposes the challenges of the model. According to Zoho, the lack of workplace relationships, burnout, misalignment, and the dilution of the company culture, teams have to face as they test the waters of the arrangement. 

In our experience, managers can address the challenges mentioned above through intentionally designing a hybrid workplace model. At oVice, we have defined 4 key success factors that help align teams, preserve the culture, and boost engagement. 

1. Employee-centric schedule 

The hybrid work schedule is one of the key challenges of the new arrangement. On their path to transition, Google and Apple both faced employee backlash for rigid, inflexible policies. 

On the other hand, leaders who committed to work-from-anywhere models (allowing employees to move between branch offices worldwide and have full control over working hours) improved engagement and loyalty in their teams. 

Putting the team at the center of hybrid work policies is key to seamless post-pandemic recovery. 

For deeper on building hybrid work schedules, take a look at our post with actionable recommendations on structuring your team’s work hours. 

2. Technology 

Hybrid work challenges – miscommunication, misalignment, and others – often stem from the lack of tools designed to support the workplace of the future. 

A Digital Employee Experience survey among hybrid teams indicates an uphill battle with chat and collaboration software malfunctions, poor video conferencing experience, or having no tools that would help connect teams and solve problems quickly. 

On the flip side, there are plenty of cases showing how technology helps streamline and organize workplaces. Virtual offices, for example, help create a common space for aligning office and remote teams – these platforms mitigate communication challenges and help restore corporate culture. 

3. Communication

In a hybrid workplace, the sense of unity that would bring teams together is missing. In terms of processes, interaction types, and tools, hybrid work is more diverse than any model that came before. 

If team leaders don’t have a clear-cut communication plan, they are putting themselves at risk of leaving people out of the decision-making process or having important ideas slip through the cracks and never picked up. 

In our experience, consistency and intention are key to effective hybrid communication. Here’s how our team ensures inclusion and keeps track of all interactions within teams: 

  • Balancing synchronous and asynchronous communication
  • Setting agendas and planning for meetings to make sure no one is sidetracked 
  • Schedule important conversations in advance and spread the word so that remote and in-office teammates can participate 
  • Have a single hub where both teams can come together – in-person and remote teammates can reach each other in at our virtual office. 

4. Leadership and responsibility 

To migrate from in-person or remote work to a hybrid model successfully, team leaders should appoint someone to be responsible for the transition. If no one is ready to lead the process, there won’t be anyone committed to gathering feedback, looking back on the company’s migration journey and critically assessing it, or addressing the team’s immediate concerns. 

In our experience, managers shouldn’t fully shoulder the responsibility for hybrid work transition – it is overwhelming and doesn’t give an opportunity to get a second opinion on the process. 

After you appointed someone to oversee the hybrid work transition, be sure to: 

  • Notify the rest of the team so that all the concerns can be addressed in one direction 
  • Give the designated teammate decision-making tools and budget
  • Set up a reporting system to stay in the loop on hybrid work transition 
  • Set benchmarks that would define successes and improvement points for the position. 

4 Teams Who Successfully Created a Hybrid Workplace 

Hybrid work transition is not a journey your organization should be making in isolation. Learning from the market frontrunners and adopting their best practices will save you time, and resources, and spare the entire team growing pains. 

Thousands of companies across all industries are adopting hybrid work – we identified five poster cases for the success of the model and identified the determinants of their success. 

1. Airbnb 

Airbnb’s hybrid work plan is hailed to be one of the best out there – mainly due to its flexibility and trust-based approach. The company managed to not only avoid backlash and employee protests but get a lot of positive media attention for the way they organizied their workplace. 

Here are the factors behind the company’s successful transition: 

  • No in-office-only roles: the company accepted remote work as an equally valid alternative to coming to the office and doesn’t limit its policy. 
  • Work-from-anywhere arrangement: Airbnb employees can move across the world without putting their work on hold. 
  • No location-based salary deduction: a lot of companies adjust their team’s paychecks depending on their locations – in the world of hypermobility, that puts additional stress on finance and accounting and reduces employee satisfaction. Airbnb didn’t opt for this model and allows employees to keep their starting salaries regardless of where they moved. 

2. Spotify

Spotify is another company that lures employees in with the flexibility of their hybrid work arrangement. 

The robust network of offices around the US and the world makes supporting the Work From Anywhere program easier – teams can find a local Spotify office to work at as they travel the world. 

Here are the determinants of Spotify’s success in the hybrid environment: 

  • Focus on employee wellness and engagement is the centerpiece of the company’s hybrid model. 
  • Full commitment to a leveled playing field – the company moved all learning resources and events online to make sure remote teammates don’t miss out on growth opportunities. 
  • Inclusion and representation come first – there’s no dominant culture in Spotify – instead, employees feel accepted and enabled to celebrate their culture’s important moments in the workplace. 

3. LinkedIn

LinkedIn – a leader in the employment space and a powerhouse for facilitating all-things-career – also does an excellent job in advocating for and accommodating hybrid teams. 

The platform recently redesigned its office space to meet the needs of the workplace of the future – here, communication beats individual work, and transparency trumps secrecy. 

The X-factor behind LinkedIn’s success is in understanding the importance of redesigning the office space so that people want to come to work even when given an option not to. As the company’s VP of Workplace put it: “All it’s going to take is two bad experiences for somebody – and they won’t come back”. 

4. Twitter 

Aside from all the controversy Twitter is generating with Musk’s planned and failed acquisition, the company deserves recognition for being among the first major players allowing employees to work remotely forever. In its bold decision, Twitter made a strong case for hybrid work – in some ways, it set in motion a domino of transformation for other major tech players. 

The company’s foresight and readiness to bet on hybrid work back in May 2020 gave Twitter more time to prepare for the hybrid work transition. While the rest of the market is still learning the rope, Twitter has a competitive advantage in having the infrastructure set up in advance. 

Step-by-step guide to setting up a hybrid workplace

A hybrid workplace is an umbrella term comprising policies, tools, and team management practices team leaders should be mindful of as they expand autonomy within organizations. To get the most out of every step of the process, leaders need to have a clear, actionable plan for an inclusive, scalable, growth-oriented workplace. 

At oVice, we passionately advocate for hybrid work and try to be intentional when designing our own policies. Here are the steps our team took at the foundation of the startup to ensure a high-performance hybrid workplace model. 

Understand your team’s needs and goals

The specifics of your hybrid work transition plan should be a decision involving the entire team. Otherwise, employees feel excluded and important well-being issues (flexible work hours, mobility, connectivity between remote and in-office colleagues) stay unaddressed. 

Here are the steps we take to include the entire team in designing the hybrid workplace: model 

  • Share our goals, plans, and organizational vision at weekly town hall meetings. 
  • Set up clear feedback mechanisms that make it easy for employees (both remote and in-office) to voice their concerns. For example, each team leader has a Calendly link – employees can book meetings if they have questions, worries, or comments on the company’s hybrid work strategy. 
  • Sharing market signals and industry news with the entire team. We make it easy for teammates to keep tabs on the hybrid work transition by sharing the latest news via an oVice newsletter, the corporate blog, and designated Slack channels. 

Build an organizational structure

Having many moving parts makes organizing day-to-day operations more complex and demanding than ever. In our opinion, hybrid teams should be highly mindful of creating a single source of information where on-site and remote teams consolidate data and get a clear-cut view of all processes across different teams. 

Technology heavily assists us in structuring hybrid processes. Here are the tools we use for improved transparency and alignment: 

  • Job roles and responsibilities – Miro 
  • Internal documentation – Notion 
  • Asynchronous communication – Slack 
  • Synchronous communication – oVice 

Aside from company-wide tools, each department is committed to using a small but feature-rich toolset (ex. HubSpot for sales and marketing, Zendesk for ticket management, Figma for design). By trimming our stacks and eliminating redundant platforms, we eliminate chaos and make the process of documenting processes as seamless as possible. 

Commit to flexibility 

Echoing Spotify’s motto, we accepted the idea of controlled chaos. Considering the fast pace of change in the modern world, we are cautious about planning and want to have a degree of flexibility in far-fetched decision. 

The same notion applies to team management – our experience shows that flexibility and freedom are the key benefit drivers for the hybrid work models, so executives should make the most out of them. At oVice, we focus on removing all constraints and implementing micromanagement only when absolutely necessary – other than that, employees are free to choose when, where, and how they work. 

Foster inclusivity and diversity

One of the benefits of the post-pandemic return to normal is the ability to travel freely. We want to give the team the freedom to explore growth opportunities across the world, stay open to new cultures, and find new channels for personal growth through travel. 

In our experience, encouraging the fusion of different cultures has also been highly beneficial, as teammates tend to channel their diverse backgrounds in their projects and create universally appealing experiences, messages, and products. 

We believe that accepting the borderless nature of a digital-first workplace allows teams to be more flexible, and seize new connections and growth opportunities. That’s why diversity, not uniformity, should be celebrated in a hybrid workplace. 

Always collect feedback and improve

To an extent, the final destination hybrid teams are trying to reach is clear – a change-resistant, resilient, productive, and unified team. 

At the same time, team leaders should stay mindful of the journey they are making with the team and take the time to reflect on their progress rather than be led by a tunnel vision. Here’s how our team takes the time for mindful reflection on our hybrid workplace model strategy: 

  • Sharing regular feedback surveys 
  • Celebrating milestones at regular “Teatime meetings” 
  • Tracking our decisions and reflecting on the rationale behind them
  • Creating and regularly reiterating the list of improvements that help us become united and aligned. 

If you are a hybrid team leader struggling to connect the dots within your organization, it may be time to look for technology that would assist in meeting these goals. oVice helps remote and hybrid teams reach alignment through a shared digital space that connects employees without restricting them. Find out how we helped set up high-performing systems at over 2,200 organizations worldwide and explore the solutions that will help boost the productivity of your team. On top of that, feel free to come to our virtual office – here, our teammates will hybrid work transition tips personalized to your organization. 

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