2020 radically changed how we do business globally. Unable to stay in the offices, companies of all shapes and sizes moved to remote working, forcing them to figure out how to communicate and collaborate effectively without being physically together. By now, though, lockdowns have been significantly lessened, and most people can once again work in shared office spaces. But is that the right way to go?
There are positives and negatives to each approach. Working from an office prompts discussions, boosts team spirit, and makes life easier for people who lack the space to work effectively from home. Remote working, of course, cuts out commuting costs, allows more free time, and gives people the freedom to choose their working conditions.
Why choose one or the other? Companies are increasingly accepting that the right path is hybrid working: allowing employees to work from home on some days and from office space on others. Embracing this path could be just what you need to take your business to the next level — but you have to get the transition right. Here are three tips for doing just that:
This is a thorny issue that requires a lot of thought because the wrong amount of office space can cause many problems. If you get too little, you can end up running out of desks and asking your employees to work in crowded and uncomfortable conditions. If you get too much, desks will go unused, and the cost of the office space will massively exceed what you get from it.
To work out how much you need, you should discuss the situation with your employees reasonably [being a good listener is a skill worth cultivating]. Get an idea of what they want: who will work from the office, and how often will they need a space? Can you rearrange the scheduling to be near capacity each day? Fight the instinct to get the biggest office space you can afford. It lacks sufficient value to be worth it.
You also need to determine the best location for the office space. Ideally, it will be convenient for most of your staff to reach. It bears noting that many companies providing coworking spaces offer services that allow users to visit any of a range of working locations, but having a team scattered across multiple coworking spaces is far from ideal.
The idea of the hybrid model is to merge the two approaches as much as possible, not simply to rapidly alternate between them [even if that is technically what it involves]. To that end, you should aim to minimize the differences between working from the office and working remotely.
How can you bring the former closer to the latter? Give your workers more freedom to decide how and when they work. Instead of requiring them to be at their desks for particular amounts of time, let them schedule things as they prefer. You need to prioritize productivity over time, moving past the outdated notion that simply being present for many hours is a good thing.
You can also bring the latter closer to the former by embracing technology, with one example being using spatial video chat for collaboration in a virtual office that allows ad-hoc discussions to form. Set up a big screen on the office wall so you can have company meetings with everyone in attendance [whether physically or virtually]. Everyone should use the same apps, the same equipment, and the same processes.
Staggering office visits to ensure the optimal use of space is obviously advisable, but it can cause issues if particular people [or even departments] never get to collaborate in person. If nothing else, it can be bad for morale: teams need to spend meaningful time together to establish comfort and help them to work together effectively. Great teams interact intentionally.
For this reason, you should contrive reasons to bring everyone in, though not to your office space. There are spaces you can hire for company social events. Invite everyone in for a ping-pong tournament, or a boat ride, or simply a good meal. Even time spent talking in a social setting will be helpful for your business because your employees will come away from it with great insight into one another’s thoughts, attitudes, and preferences.
If you follow these three essential tips you can achieve a smooth transition into a hybrid working model that offers the benefits of both preceding working standards while avoiding many of the downsides. Put in the effort to make it happen.