Over the last few years hybrid work (the combination of both in-person and remote working) has become increasingly popular, with most of us having been required to adapt to working in this blended mode since the beginning of 2020.
However, despite a lengthy adjustment period, it is clear that tension still exists between management and employees regarding the expectations of how to get the balance just right, with the hybrid model’s lack of a one-size-fits-all approach posing further challenges.
Each industry (and each job) has its own unique mix of requirements and skills that mean that a one-way model for hybrid work isn’t always possible.Some industries (e.g.construction and nursing) have extremely rigid constraints that prevent the successful implementation of any level of hybrid working, whilst some others (e.g., ecommerce) are perfectly geared toward success within the hybrid model.
To help you familiarise with the interacting forces that need to be considered when creating a hybrid model, we’ve taken a closer look at a few industries with different work requirements to see what sort of approach is best suited.
One important and consistent feature of each model to note is the need for specificity in what is expected of workers. Making logistical requirements more resolute will help your team work cohesively no matter what form the work model takes.
Hybrid a No-Go: remote work is realistically impossible
Example industry: Quality control
Position description: Tong works in quality control at the port in Melbourne. He samples grain coming into the country to make sure it is of high quality and free from diseases and pests. This work requires manual sampling and laboratory tests that must be done on site. There is little digital work, and all training is done in person to show new recruits how to use the laboratory equipment and perform tests.
Work model: Despite the flexibility that hybrid work provides, there is no opportunity for it in Tong’s work. To perform his job optimally he needs to be on site at all times. A fully in-person job suits Tong as he is in his early career, has minimal family obligations and likes to socialise with his colleagues.
Work model expectations:
- Tong is expected to be on site for all rostered days.
Hybrid Lite: minimal remote work
Example industry: Teaching
Position description: Kim works as a highschool teacher at a private school. Although teaching has been conducted virtually for much of the last two years, experts agree that in-person teaching is the most effective. There are also a number of professional obligations that Kim has to adhere to in her job as a teacher. For example, each year she must
attend a number of professional development workshops which help her keep up to date with best practice research and guidelines. Additionally, she has a reasonable amount of administrative activity, including writing student reports four times a year.
Work model overview: Kim’s school has decided to implement a light hybrid-work model. Student interactions must be performed in person, to provide the best education to the young people in her care, but other activities (e.g. administration) will be done virtually/remotely as they are an individual focused activity. from now on. Other tasks, such as professional development workshops, will be done either remotely or in-person depending on the nature of the learning. Importantly, management has rejected the option to hold hybrid events as this is too disruptive to smooth delivery. This hybrid lite approach to work is beneficial for Kim as she is a mother of two and the flexibility gives her time to schedule appointments and care for her children.
Work model expectations:
- Kim is expected to teach all her classes in person.
- As a full-time teacher, she is also expected to remain at school for the entire school day at least three days a week. Being present for the entire day means she is available to take other people’s classes in the event that a teacher is sick.
- The other two days of the week Kim may work from home or leave school early.
- Each professional development class that Kim must attend will be either virtual or in-person at the discretion of leadership.
True Hybrid: near equal remote and in-person work
Example industry: Architecture
Position Description: Abdul is an architect who works at a small firm whose physical location is in the CBD. As part of a team, he helps create designs for high-rise residential buildings. This means that he needs to collaborate with his colleagues via three 2 hour meetings a week. In addition to this collaboration he must also work on specific isolated design elements by himself as well as completing his own administrative activities.
Work model overview: The type of work that Abdul does is best served by a true hybrid working model. The collaborative aspects of his job flourish under direct in-person interaction and hallway discussions. However, when he needs to focus on meeting his specific project deadlines and admin, he prefers the quiet of home.
Work model expectations:
- Abdul must attend three meetings a week which are used for collaborating on projects. These meetings are often very visual, with people drawing or building models. For this reason his leadership team has made attending on-site work mandatory three days a week. The meetings are all held between 10 am -12 pm to accommodate school drop-off times.
- The two days a week that Abdul does not have a meeting he can work wherever and whenever he likes.
Remote Only: very little in-person interaction
Example industry: Social media consulting
Position Description: Chae-won consults for a social media and marketing agency. Her job involves developing social media strategies and content creation for clients. Some of this work is collaborative, working with graphic designers and photographers who create the visual aspects of a campaign. Some of her time is spent meeting with her clients to get an understanding of what type of content they are looking for and feedback on how they feel the work is progressing.
Work model overview: Chae-won’s team has been a remote team since it began, coordinating by virtual interactions and careful document management. Client acquisition is done online (and occasionally in-person) by her leadership team. To create a strong team culture Chae-won’s leaders have created fun-only group chats that are centred on themes such as family pets, as well as having a select number of in-person group activity days throughout the year.
Work model expectations:
- Chae-won is able to do her work at any time and place she needs, however, to facilitate continued interactivity, her leaders have stipulated that direct messages, which are only
- sent through Slack, should be answered within 2 hrs between 10am-5pm every weekday. Additionally, client messages are sent via email and should be answered within a day.
- Virtual meetings are only conducted via Zoom, and employees are expected to have video on unless there is a reason. This rule is not enforced in real time, leadership trusts their people to follow the expectations.
- Document management is streamlined as much as possible. Google suite is used for all files and file management.
With the accelerated trend of implementing hybrid working conditions becoming more necessary, endeavouring to create your ideal hybrid-work environment may seem challenging, however employers with a resistance to this era of transition run the risk of potentially alienating their employees or even losing them entirely.
Even implementing a small degree of flexibility is proving that employee autonomy does not need to come at the cost of efficiency or success, and that it can maintain (and in some cases even increase) efficiency through boosting employee satisfaction.
It has become clear that an employee’s personal productivity usually aligns with their personal preference, and it is for this reason that curiosity around employees’ ideal hybrid work environments is imperative in ensuring the right conditions are set to allow for productivity, collaboration and creation to thrive.
Benefits to granting employees greater liberties regarding hybrid work
- Distinguishes you/your company a coveted employer of choice
- Boosts employee satisfaction and productivity
- Promotes compassionate and progressive leadership
- Fosters greater employee loyalty and trust
- Establishes authentic company integrity
- Prevents common workplace maladies, i.e: lack of engagement, low performance, resentment and burnout
Catering to your company/employee specific ideal hybrid work model also allows management to be more acutely attuned to the health and well being of employees, which subsequently cultivates an improved workplace morale, granting the potential to greatly exceed the efficacy of the company culture that previously existed.