Until March 2020, working from home was, for most employers, an idea that raised many concerns — especially regarding cybersecurity, employee productivity and accessibility.
As a business owner whose team has operated on a hybrid-work schedule since 2018, I know firsthand that the model demands trust and discipline. But if executed well, it can lead to a happier, healthier workforce.
Even as many companies return to in-office work after a year and a half of remote operations during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that the hybrid model is here to stay. A 2020 study from Growmotely, a company that matches organizations with remote workers, found that 97 percent of employees prefer not to return to the office full-time.
At my company, Powerhouse Communications in Orange County, Calif., we work in the office Monday through Thursday and remotely on Fridays. This fixed hybrid schedule allows employees to plan their remote day however it suits their needs. They can schedule service visits to their homes, for example, or weekly housekeeping, knowing they will be home on Fridays.
Hybrid work improves work-life balance
My employees can also work from the road on Fridays, allowing them to get a jump on their weekend getaways. Setting a remote-work day each week helps alleviate stress from all the responsibilities we have that can’t be managed from the office, helping everyone in my company maintain a work-life balance.
According to research from Owl Labs, a company that makes video-conferencing devices, achieving work-life balance is the main reason why people choose to work remotely. For my team, the hybrid schedule allows their professional work to coexist with laundry, childcare and the never-ending lists of things that we all need to get done.
Working from home on Fridays has given my team greater work-life balance and improved company morale, both in and out of the office. As normal life resumes after the pandemic, how employers support the mental health of their employees will be paramount.
Hybrid models demonstrate trust
Trust is essential in any relationship. For employers, showing that they trust employees to exercise discipline while working from home pays dividends.
In a 2017 study published in Harvard Business Review, people who worked in high-trust companies reported 74 percent less stress, 50 percent higher productivity and 40 percent less burnout than those at low-trust companies.
Everyone wants to feel trusted. The flexibility of a hybrid-work schedule shows employees they’re valued and accentuates employer confidence.
Tech tools make hybrid work easier
With many employees having worked remotely for the past 18 months, they possess (and have embraced) the technology and equipment to do their jobs successfully from home.
When we began working from home on Fridays three years ago, we used Microsoft Teams and similar platforms to collaborate remotely, just as we would collaborate in-person while in the office. Although some organizations still worry that remote or hybrid work will hinder communication and collaboration (as research from Owl Labs suggests), the hybrid workforce at large is well equipped to communicate and collaborate using digital tools.
Tips for successful hybrid work
When opting for a hybrid-work model, it’s important for employers to frequently communicate and reinforce their expectations. For example, while we try to avoid in-person client meetings on our remote-work day, we regularly acknowledge that there may be times when such meetings are necessary. Moreover, the hybrid model must always include the expectation that team members remain productive and accessible when working remotely.
Open communication promotes understanding and acceptance of hybrid work and recognizes that everyone’s situation is different. Employers should be willing to deploy adaptable hybrid-work models.
Employees and teams must feel comfortable with one another, or they may not work productively in remote settings. Consider hosting team-building events, offsite team lunches, bonding excursions, etc. Cohesive teams collaborate well from anywhere.
Kristin Daher is founder and chief storyteller of Powerhouse Communications in Orange County, Calif. The agency specializes in media and influencer relations for clients across a variety of consumer industries. She has been an active member of PRSA for 10 years, holding both board and chair positions with the Orange County Chapter.[Illustration credit: piscine]