What is a hybrid work model and how it can benefit your company

Hybrid work is a flexible work model that supports in-office and remote workers. There are five common types of hybrid work models.


Hybrid work definition

It is safe to say that the future of work is hybrid, but what does hybrid really mean? A hybrid work model focuses on employees and mixes in-office and remote work capacity. This working model provides an increased flexibility for workers, giving them the possibility to enjoy more autonomy and better work-life balance, as they can choose to work from home, at the office, or anywhere else they feel productive.

With hybrid work, the workplace is no longer contained within four walls, but is rather an ecosystem of employees working in the office, from home, or anywhere else. Transitioning from the physical limitations of traditional offices towards work with no boundaries, companies can focus more capital and energy into expanding and developing further than they could hope for.

Team members can migrate between different locations depending on specific work requirements. They can still participate at important physical meetings and then enjoy the benefits of working from home when their presence is not required. Ideally, this transition from in-office to remote work should happen perpetually.

The hybrid work model can be implemented in different forms, depending on the company’s goals and the type of work required.

Types of hybrid work models

Not all hybrids are created equal. Under the term “hybrid work”, companies practise models with different degrees of flexibility in terms of place and time. We can distinguish 5 major types of hybrid work models that range from mostly office-bound to mostly remote.

  1. Office-first hybrid model. This hybrid work model requires employees to come to the office most of the working hours, allowing them to work remotely a fraction of the time. Employees are usually given a day or two per week for remote work.
  2. Partly remote hybrid model. In this hybrid work model some teams are full remote (e.g. marketing team), while others are office bound. In some companies that utilise this model, office employees are also allowed some remote flexibility.
  3. Flexible hybrid model. Companies that use this hybrid model give their employees the flexibility to choose when they want to work in-office and when they want to work from anywhere else.
  4. Choose-your-own-adventure model. While this model might sound like a flexible hybrid model, the main distinction is that this model asks the employees to choose one of the offered work model options and stick with it. The “menu” of options to choose from usually include a remote option, a flexible work option, and an in-office option.
  5. Remote-first hybrid model. In contract with the previous options, remote work is the default in this hybrid work model. Employees work by default from home or from anywhere they want. They can occasionally go to the office, but all the policies and operations are in line with remote work needs.

The challenges of hybrid work are complex and range from leadership topics to legal issues (company agreements, data protection, etc.) to core HR topics such as employer branding and recruiting. Each of the hybrid work models above requires specific approaches in the mentioned management areas and with respect to technological support.

The bad news is: there's no one-size-fits-all off-the-shelf solution an organisation can implement. The good news is that the idea of hybrid work can be adapted to almost any business context. A crucial aspect of hybrid work models concerns the way employees communicate and exchange in professional collaboration situations as well as informally.

The benefits of a hybrid workplace

The transition to hybrid work will bring considerable benefits for businesses and employees as well. Employers will receive increased flexibility, productivity, and job satisfaction. Businesses will see an increase in bottom line and an expanded talent pool.

Hybrid work isn't only win-win, it's triple win:

  • People: The benefit in terms of flexibility is an important advantage and employees have started to appreciate not only the opportunities to reconcile career and family but also less commuting, less stressful travelling etc. Having remote options has become imperative for workers when it comes to selecting a company to work for.
  • Planet: With ESG reporting driven by the popularity of the UN's SDG's environmental and social impact moves into focus, the move to hybrid work can result in significant carbon footprint reductions as well as progress in the field of social participation, inclusion and diversity.
  • Profit: Estimates about savings potential from moving to hybrid are huge. Less office space, less business travel for (at least internal) meetings as well as less commuting-related cost (e.g. vehicle fleet) provide a significant competitive business advantage.

There is plenty of research done to support the implementation of a hybrid work model.

Accenture found that 83% of employees want a hybrid work model.
9 out of 10 companies will combine remote work with in-office presence, according to a survey of CEO's conducted by McKinsey.
74% of CEOs from large organisations expect to reduce their office space, according to Fortune.
According to Kate Lister of Global Workplace Analytics, "...a typical employer can save about $11,000/year for each person who works "remotely" half the time.

It’s clear the new work model is here to stay, and the discussion has shifted from “if” to “how”.

How to maintain a sense of community in a hybrid work model

One of the biggest concerns of managers is losing the sense of community and company culture that existed in the physical office. If you have disconnected employees, that means the creativity and productivity will diminish.

The so-called “watercooler moments'' are important for workers to stay connected one to another and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Microinteractions play an important role in creativity because great work takes place in spontaneous interactions.

Managers in the hybrid office have the task of maintaining the sense of community and the company culture in the virtual office. Virtual watercooler activities began to emerge as a replacement for the physical situation when employers share moments together.

A virtual watercooler can be any virtual activity that helps the team bond. Some companies choose to play games together, share fun facts about themselves, or simply hang out in virtual break rooms. The idea is to encourage these moments to take place and to offer an easy way to do it.

The important aspect in maintaining a sense of community is to facilitate a way for teams to have these spontaneous moments with one another. Scheduled “watercooler moments” defeat the purpose of having spontaneous interactions, and this is why standard videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom fall short when they are used for hybrid work.

Best collaboration tool for hybrid work

Hybrid work is inconceivable without a certain level of technological support. In addition to the actual equipment for employees with technology suitable for home offices, the different models of hybrid work differ primarily with regard to the collaborative aspects:

  • Asynchronous collaboration can work well with kanban boards (e.g. Asana, Trello);
  • Synchronous collaboration can be realised through so-called virtual offices with permanent, shared presence (e.g. ivCAMPUS, Sococo, Teemyco).

In office-first hybrid models the technology requirement is lower and can be covered by video conferencing apps (e.g. Webex, Zoom).

However, if value is placed on social interaction and "team spirit", using a virtual office such as ivCAMPUS is the right choice because it combines the benefits of a virtual office to a physical one.

A successful hybrid work model requires an adequate technical platform. Current tools, especially video-conferencing solutions fall short of implementing sustainable hybrid work models.  ivCAMPUS combines the benefits of physical offices with those of remote collaboration. We digitalized office interactions to allow people to intuitively work together, socialise, and be part of the company culture just as they would in a real office. And all of this in an immersive platform that they can access from anywhere they want.