How to Choose the Right Hybrid Work Schedule
Remember the avalanche of articles about how to deal with millennials in the workplace a few years back?
Pondering whether or not to do hybrid working is about to go the same way as those articles.
Millennials are the majority of the workplace. Hybrid work is how the majority of people work.
Nine times out of ten, workplace leaders aren’t wondering if they should implement hybrid working, but how.
The thing is, hybrid work is far more nuanced than two days in the office and three days remote. Without taking the time to nail down the goal of your hybrid work type, the result will be chaos.
Not just for your employee experience, but for your workplaces as well.
“So, are you ok with coming into the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays?” is more than just a pertinent job interview question. The hybrid work schedule you choose has to match up with your employees, your leadership’s vision, company culture and last but definitely not least – the office space you have available.
This decision is also a critical step of any successful workplace strategy. (Check out this guide for all the steps you need to create an epic workplace strategy)
Choosing the right hybrid work schedule goes a lot deeper than simply choosing one schedule for everyone to follow and then giving it a cool name. There’s no standard way everyone uses the office, so it’s more than likely you’ll have multiple hybrid working schedules tailored around employee work habits and preferences.
It might sound complex, but taking the time to thoroughly scope out an employee-first hybrid work schedule will pay off, and have everyone energized to come into the office instead of covertly rolling their eyes and leaving anonymous, venomous comments in the Q&A box during company all-hands meetings.
That being said, reading the news and chatting to unimpressed friends who have been mandated back into the office surfaces these three examples of hybrid work models that most companies fall into:
Employees have full autonomy to decide what days they come into the office and when they work remotely.
Pros: Autonomy boosts employee morale and engagement. Productivity may increase since employees can work in the most convenient ways for their situations.
Cons: It’s impossible to manage office occupancy, the results of which could be a terrible workplace experience from overcrowding and/or being the only one in, as well as wasted costs on energy, facilities management and rent.
Read more: 6 Ways to Improve Your Workplace Experience in 2023
Employees have a minimum amount of time they must be in the office (e.g. two days per week or 12 days per month), but can decide which days those are.
Pros: Employees still have autonomy to decide how they work while maintaining use of the office. It’s easier for teams to collaborate and build a company culture when everyone will be in the office regularly.
Cons: Employees may resent being mandated into the office if the reasons behind it aren’t communicated well. It’s still difficult to manage occupancy if everyone decides to come in on the same days, resulting in the same issues as trust-based hybrid.
Employees have allocated days to be in the office (e.g. Tuesdays through Thursdays, alternating weeks).
Pros: Collaboration and connection may be easier when the same people are in the same spaces on the same days. Occupancy is predictable and therefore more manageable.
Cons: Lack of autonomy, choice and convenience around when they come into the office will increase resentment and decrease engagement if the reasons behind this choice of hybrid work schedule don’t add up to employees.
What we’ve seen so far is that for the most part, choice of hybrid work schedule is rooted in the CEO’s personal convictions and vision for what work should look like, á la Elon Musk and Tim Cook.
One thing that’s abundantly clear, however, is that whatever hybrid work schedule you choose, a heavy-handed mandate based on subjective reasoning like “better collaboration” and “more spontaneity” will set off a flurry of employee activism and CV-polishing. Chances are that a negative employee response to a hybrid work mandate will trigger a change in stance a few months down the line, which diminishes leadership’s credibility.
Instead, acknowledging that there could be a multitude of the “right” hybrid work schedules within a company and working these into a policy might be an iterative process with lots of testing and learning – but it’s one that will boost connection and productivity in the long run.
The right hybrid work schedule for your organization encompasses the needs of every employee – the ones who moved to the suburbs in 2021, the ones who live down the street from the office and even the ones who want their own desk with pictures of their spouse and kids every day of the week.
Here are the seven steps you can take to figure out which hybrid work schedule, or schedules, are the right fit for your company.
Step 1: Find your why
The objective behind choosing a hybrid work schedule will ultimately determine your choice. Yours could be to streamline occupancy in the workplace, get ROI from the new downtown office, improve your employee experience or just make your CEO happy.
If you have a workplace strategy, the end results you’re looking to achieve through hybrid working should be reflected there.
Step 2: Understand employee work habits and preferences
Gather data on two things: how employees are working now and how they want to be working.
Surveys are an excellent way to do this as long as you’re asking the right questions.
Asking employees if they’re at their most productive in a sound-proofed phone booth or brainstorming with their team on comfy sofas will inform both hybrid work schedules and office design.
Survey responses aren’t always an accurate indicator of what people do in the office and what they want, however. Measuring how people use workspaces – through space utilization data – provides a huge amount of visibility into employee work patterns and what types of spaces are most popular.
Read more: 5 Space Utilization Metrics for a Better Workplace in 2023
Step 3: Create employee occupancy profiles
An employee occupancy profile is a research-based representation of different employee groups in your organization, based on how they use (or don’t use) the office space.
An occupancy profile should include:
- How often employees come into the office
- Why they come into the office
- The offices spaces they occupy on an average day
- Needs and wants the workplace currently doesn’t fulfil
For example, Gen Z Genna lives 30 minutes away from the office and usually comes in on Wednesdays and Thursdays. She comes in because it’s easier to have brainstorms in-person. Because she’s a few years into her career and eager to progress, she’s also looking for exposure to senior management. She moves between the sofas and hot desking areas most of the time. She wishes she had a way to know when the head of her department would be in before she decides to skip her morning gym class to make it into the office for 9 AM.
Step 4: Take stock of the space you have
Gather up-to-date floor plans, including what each building, floor and neighbourhood is being used for, from your space planning team.
An in-depth knowledge of the space you have available – down to the square inch – is the foundation for making a hybrid work schedule happen. Without the right space, a hybrid work schedule is just wishful thinking.
Step 5: Assign occupancy profiles to spaces
Match up each space with the occupancy profiles you identified in step 3. This is when you might discover that spaces need to be repurposed to support what employees actually want out of them. For example, you might find out that you have far too many desks and not enough small conference rooms and lounge areas for collaboration.
Depending on your goals, leadership vision and culture, you might assign profiles to buildings to give more flexibility, or to neighbourhoods for more structure. This is when you ensure that there’s a workspace to suit every occupancy profile.
Step 6: Configure scheduling to make your hybrid work schedule happen
Configuring scheduling does two important things – it makes sure each of your occupancy profiles are getting the experience they want, and provides visibility into what each profile is using their assigned space for.
Use intelligent scheduling to take desk and meeting room booking from an annoying extra step into something that makes people excited to come into the office, because they know they’ll have the space they need to do their best work.
Configuring scheduling also gives certainty that hybrid work schedules are working.
Let’s say you’ve assigned your marketing managers to mostly collaborative spaces on two days per week, but you notice they’re booking hot desks more frequently. It’s probably time to tweak their schedule.
And speaking of tweaking…this brings us to our last, but not final, step.
Step 7: Iterate
The right hybrid work schedule isn’t permanent. Creating a hybrid work policy is cyclical – it won’t work unless you test, learn and improve.
This is the part where we turn this whole thing into an infinity symbol and jump back to steps one and two. Tune into changing business objectives and use space utililization data to determine if your occupancy profiles are aligned to the schedules you’ve chosen, and make changes if they’re not.
If space utilization data tells you that the neighborhood you assigned to the marketing team is only seeing 5% utilization, the solution could be to create a new hybrid schedule and reallocate the unused space to another team, for example.
Agile space planning is ammunition to be as nimble as possible when reconfiguring spaces with short notice.
Read more: 5 Steps to Effective Space Planning
Make hybrid work scheduling easy with Smartway2
Smartway2’s intelligent scheduling software makes desk and room booking easy and intuitive. This helps you manage multiple hybrid work schedules without sacrificing workplace experience.
Want to find out more? Request a demo!