• Aidan Willner

Hybrid: The latest industry buzzword

Cheer Partners has been a fully remote company since its inception in 2017. That means all of our employees have worked from home since they joined our company. That being the case, we have had time to adjust our schedules, work/life balance and at-home office set-ups according to our individual needs. This was not the case for hundreds of thousands of professionals who were thrown into remote work with no warning or guidebook as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

While those who made the shift from in-office to remote work were likely grateful to have kept their jobs, the transition was difficult for many people to say the least. Now that we have collectively been doing this for two years, many professionals have gotten the hang of this work-from-home dynamic. This is crucial, especially considering the recent surge in cases caused by the latest Omicron variant. Now, despite access to effective vaccines and boosters, leaders and companies are unable to realistically commit to a full-time return to the office in the near future. This is where one of the latest industry buzzwords comes in: hybrid. A 2021 survey by Gartner shared that among 258 HR leaders, “regardless of reopening plans, only 1% expected all of their employees to work full-time in the office.” While the remaining 99% of employees may not be in the office full-time, many leaders still feel there is a crucial benefit to colleagues getting some time in the office to interact with their peers face-to-face.

Hybrid work reimagines the typical 9-5 office experience, by breaking it up with days periodically spent working from home. This model is meant to offer benefits such as flexibility, which enables policy to shift in accordance with the latest health and safety guidelines while creating safe opportunities for collaboration when possible. Simultaneously, it requires a fair amount of planning, communication and coordination. The teams that will thrive while embracing this workstyle will develop and share clear guidelines outlining expectations of colleagues as early as possible because, in a sense, this is a new form of onboarding.

There are a few things leaders may want to consider when creating hybrid work guidelines. Fast Company contributor Alanah Mitchell emphasizes the risk of employee burnout. She suggests designating ‘meeting-free days’ to allow employees to build their schedules based on their own priorities. Zoom-fatigue is a very real thing, and it’s vital to make time for employees to be off-camera, doing their work without distractions or interruptions. Leaders will likely find that doing this leads to even more productivity than when all colleagues were in the office full-time.

Mitchell also stresses the importance of transparent communication. This may be the most crucial aspect to building a successful hybrid work structure. Employees and leaders alike need to be operating under a shared understanding of the functionality of hybrid work. Leaders and HR professionals are encouraged to share policies or communications that clearly outline the breakdown of what time should be spent working from home versus what meetings or activities should be saved for their time in the office. This guidance should be shared with and apply to all colleagues to promote consistency of experiences at all levels. After two years of uncertainty, professionals across industries are embracing reliability and consistency like never before.

This is a period of exploration for many companies, an opportunity to redesign the work experience to best fit the evolving needs of teams. There are bound to be mistakes made and friction is to be expected as we collectively work through the growing pains of another new workplace dynamic. The best thing we can all do is be patient and lean into learning. Companies who remain agile and learn from the successes and pitfalls of their peers will surely find themselves achieving in ways that we hadn’t imagined possible pre-pandemic.