Modern enterprises often don’t have a fully in-person or fully remote workforce. Some employees come to campus every day. Others are distributed across the country—or even the world—and rarely, if ever, come into the office. And plenty of employees work in the office on some days and remotely on others.
This mix of virtual and in-person workforces has given rise to the hybrid workplace, also known as the dynamic workplace, where businesses adapt their physical space to accommodate both types of employees.
Hybrid workplaces are becoming increasingly common, and they’re likely here to stay. COVID-19 forced a lot of businesses to temporarily become hybrid or fully remote, and now employees and executives alike are seeing the appeal on a much larger scale. Many employees now expect this flexibility, and some business leaders are eager to reduce their real estate portfolios.
In this guide to the hybrid workplace, we’ll walk you through:
- The various hybrid workplace models
- The benefits of a hybrid workplace
- How to implement a hybrid workplace
To begin, let’s look at some of the different ways businesses run a hybrid workplace.
While all hybrid workplaces have virtual and in-person workforces, there are many ways to structure them. For example, you may want greater control over how your space gets used to optimize utilization, or you might want maximum flexibility to increase employee satisfaction. Most businesses fall somewhere between a fixed or flexible model, balancing their facility’s capabilities and their employees’ desires.
The trick is to ensure that you always have enough supply of space to keep up with demand, whether that demand is fixed or dynamic. Facilitating a hybrid workplace means you won’t need the same number of dedicated workstations as you would with a completely in-person workforce. Still, you’ll have to decide how much space to allocate for hoteling and where remote employees can reserve areas to work on campus.
And that all depends on whether your hybrid workplace uses a fixed or flexible model, and how you’ve defined your work from home (WFH) policy.
In a fixed hybrid workplace, you decide who works remote and when. Your virtual employees may have a set schedule for when they’re remote and when they have to be on campus, or you may simply have set employees who are always remote and others who are always on campus. This is more common in organizations where some roles can’t be performed remotely, or where your workforce is more distributed.
A flexible hybrid workplace gives employees more control over their work environment. They may have a limited number of days they can work remotely each week or month, or they could have complete freedom to decide which days (if any) they come to campus. Depending on the type of work being performed, employees may also be able to set their own hours as well. Offering this level of flexibility requires a greater percentage of reservable workspaces, as you will have to expect more variance in where and how people want to work each day.
However you run your hybrid workplace, it’s essential that you understand how your space is being used day-to-day and that you manage it accordingly.
Hybrid workplaces have several key advantages that benefit your business and your employees. While many of these benefits come from simply having some remote employees, by continuing to use physical office space, a hybrid model can keep your business flexible in other ways as well.
When employees can control when and how they work, it’s easier to maintain a healthy work-life balance. If your WFH policy doesn’t include a set work schedule each day, employees can plan their workday around childcare, social activities, errands, appointments, and other commitments that are much harder to juggle with a commute to work and a fixed schedule.
Not all employees want to work remotely, either. They may not have an environment at home where they can be productive. You can’t always control interruptions from kids, roommates, pets, and solicitors. And you can only spend so many hours at local coffee shops.
Despite the popularity of working from home, it’s not for everyone. With a hybrid workplace, that’s OK. Employees who want to come into the office, collaborate with colleagues in-person, and access all the equipment and amenities on campus can do so, and people who can be productive at home can do that as well.
An all-or-nothing approach to a virtual workplace will always negatively affect some employees. Hybrid models increase employee satisfaction and wellness by making both environments an option, so employees can work in the ways that are ideal for them.
If a percentage of your workforce is virtual, you don’t need dedicated space for them all. You will likely need some hoteling space so that remote employees can reserve workstations, offices, or collaborative areas as needed, but ultimately, you don’t need as much space as you would with a fully in-person workforce.
Many businesses have found that they can save so much space with a hybrid model that they can actually downsize their offices, sublet floors, or reconfigure their space in a way that allows them to significantly reduce occupancy costs. Real estate is usually one of an enterprise’s top expenses, and even minor changes can have major implications for your budget.
Even if implementing a hybrid model doesn’t allow you to make reductions right now, it will make the space you have last longer. As your company grows and you need to add teams, departments, or types of spaces, you’ll already have some flexibility to reconfigure your current space instead of just being stuck paying for more.
In a traditional workplace, the further you are from large talent pools (such as major cities and large universities), the harder it is to hire the employees you need. Opening the door to remote work means that your business won’t be limited to local talent or people who are willing to relocate to your area when you need to fill positions.
This is extremely valuable whether you have locations in cities with a high cost of living or more remote (and perhaps less desirable) areas. It also helps if you’re in competitive regions where major companies keep scooping up your best prospects or even poaching your employees.
In the past, it was often seen as an inconvenience when a job candidate wanted to work remotely. But with the wealth of remote collaboration tools and the normalization of working from home, your in-person employees are likely already used to working with peers, superiors, and subordinates in virtual formats.
Companies used to compete for talented employees by offering bigger and better amenities, transforming the office into a space people felt like they never had to leave. But for many of the most in-demand people, the most appealing companies to work for aren’t the ones that keep them on campus more—they want to work for businesses that empower them to live the life they want, where they want it.
Some people want to uproot their lives and start over in a new city. Others want to keep their kids in the same school, stay close to friends and family, and continue living in the same community. A hybrid workplace lets your company appeal to both types of people, making your job offers more competitive than fully remote or traditional workplaces.
In-person employees need workstations. By shifting some of these employees to remote work, you need fewer workstations, so you can allocate this space for other purposes. Facilitating a hybrid workplace makes it easier to pivot plans and reconfigure space to accommodate changing goals, spontaneous needs, and increased demand for specific types of spaces (such as conference rooms or “neighborhoods” where teams can collaborate).
Given the scale of real estate costs, many enterprises are beginning to see the value of workspace optimization metrics. If you want to maximize the value of your business’ real estate investments, you need a plan for space management. The more you can keep space occupied and in use, the less you’ll waste this resource.
However, if a space is constantly occupied, that’s a sign that you likely need more of this type of space. It’s being used so frequently that not everyone who needs to use it can. This is especially problematic if you have other spaces with high vacancy rates, indicating there’s not as much demand for it.
Managing a workplace with virtual and in-person employees adds another dimension to the challenge of space utilization: your demand for space tends to fluctuate more. This is particularly true if your hybrid workplace offers employees maximum flexibility, as it’s harder to predict when employees will be in the office or not. This can lead to businesses having far too much or too little space set aside for hoteling.
The more variable your demand for space is, the harder it is to manage your static supply of it. And that’s why having an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS) is more crucial than ever.
IWMS software isn’t new. But as workplaces evolve, so are the tools enterprises use to manage them. And as the way you use your space becomes increasingly complex, you need better ways to organize, analyze, and react to space utilization metrics.
An IWMS can be a combination of modules from different vendors or a single platform, but it gives your organization solutions for things like space management, lease accounting, desk booking , facilities maintenance, and more.
Modern IWMS software like Tango can collate data from any Internet of Things (IoT) sensors you use to monitor how your space is being used, allowing you to predict future demand for space and adapt to potential space issues as they arise.
Hybrid workplaces have presented modern businesses with some unique challenges. Fluctuations in space utilization aren’t the only issue with a workforce that alternates between virtual and in-person work environments. Companies also need to consider the optimal combinations of employees to have together in the office.
Some organizations address this problem by requiring particular departments, teams, or groups to come to campus on the same days. But this inevitably means some people will be in the office or working remotely when they don’t want to be.
A better solution is real-time occupancy management. In addition to using IoT sensors to react to how your space is being used, enterprises can infuse their IWMS software with artificial intelligence and machine learning, allowing it to learn how particular employees prefer to work and who they prefer to work with.
Suppose Craig, Jessica, and Rochelle are on the same team, and they try to work together on campus when they can find a reservable space that works. Tango’s IWMS software includes an office booking module allowing it to analyze booking data for patterns. Tango can identify these employee preferences and recommend which days people come in and which spaces they reserve based on reservations their colleagues have already made. And that can all happen without an administrator trying to coordinate schedules or employees trying to figure it out on their own.
With real-time occupancy management, you can reconfigure and reallocate space based on how it’s currently being used. For example, if your hoteling space is full in your reservation system, but your sensors show some of these spaces are unoccupied, you can coordinate with the employees who reserved them or make the space reservable again if it’s still unoccupied after a set period of time. Missed reservations often go undetected, and by recognizing them, you’ll be better equipped to keep up with the fluctuating demand for space.
You need tools to evaluate and analyze your space and make decisions based on your business’ unique circumstances. And that’s where Tango comes in. We give enterprises the technology to manage, optimize, model, and measure how their real estate portfolio is being used.
Want to see how Tango helps you manage your hybrid workplace?