Exploring Hybrid Remote Work Models for SMBs

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Tracy Givens

September 2, 2021

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Human Resources

If you're looking to build your team, hybrid remote work models can be an excellent perk for prospective employees. But before you can offer it, you need to understand what it is. Here's what you need to know about some of the most popular hybrid and remote work models.

Hybrid Remote Work Models Defined‍

These models work by incorporating work-from-home programs with traditional in-office scheduling. Sometimes, employees can choose when they'd like to come into the office and when they would prefer to work remotely; other times, the company dictates the decision.

Man working from home, woman working at the office

It's important to understand that hybrid remote work models are not the same as all remote businesses. The latter has no headquarters, no main offices. Everyone, including the chief executive officer, works remotely. By contrast, with a hybrid model, you have the option of choosing between remote or in-office work.

As you'll learn, there's no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to hybrid models. Most businesses will adopt several at once, according to the needs of the company and the employees themselves.

Here are a few well-known companies that have made the shift to hybrid remote:

  1. Amazon
  2. Lockheed Martin
  3. Citigroup
  4. Microsoft
  5. Target

If you think you'd like to follow their lead, read about the different hybrid models you can employ.

Examples of Hybrid Remote Work Models

1. Fully Flexible Hybrid‍

As the name suggests, this hybrid work model essentially gives the employee’s carte blanche when setting their schedule. Workers may choose when to come to the office and when to work from home or another location. In early 2021, Ford Motor Company decided to adopt the fully flexible hybrid remote model, hoping that the effort would increase job satisfaction for their office employees.

This option isn't for everyone, particularly if your company relies mainly on production shifts. Factory workers and other laborers seldom have the option of working from home, creating bad blood between them and the white-collar workers. The model can also make it hard to tell if there will be sufficient support staff in other departments on any given day. Considering how many things can go wrong, it's easier to rely on one of the other hybrid remote work models.

2. Office-Centric Hybrid‍

Team working at the office

Companies that include office-centric hybrid models ask their workers to show up in the office for most of the regular workweek. However, they allow certain employees to work from a different location for one or two days a week. Working from other places is an appealing option for businesses spread across more than one branch. It allows team members to connect with co-workers they might not otherwise see regularly.

Other companies might offer an office-centric work environment but allow employees to work from home one day a week. Often, the remote workers are more refreshed and productive upon returning to the office. It also helps to break up the monotony of a regular workweek.

3. Remote-Friendly Hybrid‍

Sometimes called "remote-ish," this model is more restrictive than the fully flexible hybrid. It still allows employees to work remotely, but it sets more rules regarding when they're allowed to do so.

One example might be to offer employees the option of working from home but only on certain days. For example, you might provide work-from-home days on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays but require the "all hands on deck" approach on Mondays and Fridays. That's an excellent way to ensure that remote employees are working and not just trying to finagle a three-day weekend.

Speaking of which: You can help avoid this potential hazard by enlisting a time tracking app. Here are the best time tracking apps for small business owners.

Another remote-friendly hybrid involves allowing a certain number of employees to work from home—perhaps 10 to 30 percent, depending on the nature of the business. The remote teams would come into the office only sporadically, while the bulk of the staff would provide in-person support regularly.

If you're hoping to attract talent that doesn't live in the area, these remote-friendly work models could be the answer. On the other hand, in-office employees have certain advantages that remote workers don't—including face time with the executives, leading to promotion opportunities.

4. Hybrid Remote-Office‍

Team Schedule

Companies will often turn to the hybrid remote-office option when the remote-ish work models aren't working out. Employees are encouraged to choose their work model from an authorized list. Choices usually include the in-office approach, a flexible option that allows a two- or three-day work-from-home schedule, or a fully remote option.

The hybrid remote-office model looks good on paper, so it can be a handy recruiting tool. It's also more structured than the fully flexible model, making it appealing from a scheduling standpoint. Again, though, you run the risk of employees feeling left out if they're not in the office for important events.

5. Remote-First‍

If you work for a company that uses the remote-first strategy, you probably work from home—or any location you choose. This model isn't just remote-friendly; it encourages employees to think of the remote experience as the future of work as we know it.

Companies who use this model tend to build the business around the work-from-home mentality, leading to a noticeable difference in operations and employee experiences. It can be challenging for workers to build a strong rapport when they only see each other on the occasional video call—or perhaps not at all. Communication issues may arise, too, primarily if team members are operating from different time zones.

On the plus side, the remote-first model doesn't lead to the same sense of inequity as some of the alternatives. Since everyone is taking the same approach, there's no worry that the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence.

Difference Between Remote and Distributed Work‍

Woman working from home in a virtual meeting

While some leaders use these terms interchangeably, they're not the same thing. Remote work is a specific arrangement between the supervisors and the workers. Distributed work, meanwhile, refers to the coordination of efforts across various locations.

If that doesn't make sense, think of it this way: Remote work can involve distributed work, as employees work together on a project from a distance. However, distributed work doesn't always mean remote work since teams may be working on the same project from different offices.

In short, distributed work focuses more on how the project gets done, with minimal focus on real estate. It's about effective team coordination, whether the members are oceans apart or just across town from one another.

Overcoming Potential Hazards‍

If you've read this far, you understand that hybrid remote work models have their pitfalls. Here are a few tips on how you might overcome these issues and ensure that your chosen model will work for both you and your employees.

1. Understand the Leadership Role‍

Leader and his team working together

Before you decide on the hybrid approach, think about whether your leaders are willing and able to work remotely. When the team leaders can be found in the office regularly, that's likely where the other team members will want to be. It's easier for leaders to field questions that way, fostering a strong sense of community.

If you're hoping to switch to a remote-first or fully flexible hybrid, encourage your leaders to work remotely. It's the only way to get the rest of the workers on board with the remote work culture. Otherwise, you'll create an imbalance between the remote and in-office workers, which could lead to hurt feelings down the road.

2. Keep An Eye On Advancement‍

Similarly, the hybrid approach can create disparate employee experiences. These experiences could have adverse effects on performance, job satisfaction, and even career advancement.

While research shows that in-office employees are likelier to get promoted than their work-from-home counterparts, data also shows that people who work from home are often more productive. Therefore, leaders and upper management should reward those who work the hardest without showing any bias on either side.

3. Be Consistent‍

Remote workers often feel left out, especially if the majority of their co-workers are in-office employees. By encouraging both parties to communicate online, you can lessen the dichotomy between the two experiences.

Don't leave remote employees out of the conversation when planning meetings and company events. Instead, host virtual meetings, where everyone joins in via their computer or laptop. That way, the work-from-home crowd will be on the same page as everyone else.

In Conclusion‍

It's possible to employ more than one of these hybrid remote work models at once. Often, you'll need a combination of several if you want to keep your business running smoothly. Once you have a good handle on the terminology, you're more likely to succeed in your endeavors.

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