Structuring the best hybrid working policy for a business and its employees
Hybrid workplace

Structuring the best hybrid working policy for a business and its employees

When it comes to hybrid working arrangements, there is no one-size-fits all. We explore ways companies can approach hybrid working policy making and how to adopt a nuanced approach that upholds the needs of the business and its employees.

September 14, 2023

In the current landscape, employers are grappling with the challenge of bringing employees back to the office. It seems that while a fully flexible approach may not always be sustainable, a rigid mandated approach can face resistance, as illustrated when Zoom suddenly called Sydney staff back to the office.

Companies are seeking to use hybrid working to their advantage and reduce the number of empty desks. A recent Knight Frank survey of 350 companies found that over half of the large companies surveyed plan to downsize their office space by 10-20% by 2026. Most of those companies are implementing hybrid strategies, with over 30% adopting an "office-first" approach.

However, a recent study of 119 workplaces by AWA found that 70% of offices surveyed had less than 40% average attendance, leading to a need for office space consolidation. Alarmingly, 46% of offices lack a dedicated hybrid working policy.

The challenges of return-to-office (RTO) mandates are evident, with reports of employee backlash and minimal gains in attendance. This highlights the need for a nuanced approach and thoughtful workplace designs that entice voluntary office attendance by offering a superior workspace to the home office. Learn more about RTO strategies and workplace design.

This transformation of the office space should be complemented by a carefully constructed hybrid policy best that best balances employee expectations and business needs strengthened by the right blend of physical and digital resources.

Questions to ask when devising a hybrid working policy

Begin by understanding your company, its employees, and its culture. Consider factors like office structure, resources, amenities, and desk-sharing arrangements, which all play a crucial role in shaping an effective hybrid work policy. Conversely, assess the impact of larger office spaces, which can feel empty with low attendance.

  • Does your company culture rely on in-person camaraderie?
  • Would a rigid, mandated approach erode trust between management and staff?
  • What is the demographic of your workforce, and what perks do they value?
  • Which tasks are best suited for remote work, and which require in-office presence?
  • How far do most employees commute on average?
  • Does your company need to optimise space and resources through desk sharing and team rotations?
  • Can your office space accommodate all employees on any given day?

These questions may require input from employees and line managers to gain a comprehensive understanding of needs and values. Once clarified, they provide a solid foundation for adopting a nuanced hybrid work policy.

Hybrid workplace strategies

We are actively engaging with companies refining their hybrid strategies, and here's a comprehensive breakdown of various approaches and their considerations:

Office-first with some remote work

In an office-first approach, the office remains central to fostering face-to-face interactions and cultivating a strong company culture. Remote work is an option for special circumstances or on a limited basis. This approach combines the benefits of office collaboration with the advantages of remote work, such as increased autonomy and reduced commuting time. Offices are adapting to feature more collaborative spaces, lounges, and adaptable meeting areas, catering to diverse work styles and collaborative needs.

Remote-first with in-office collaboration

For companies emphasizing work-life balance and flexibility, a remote-first model may be appealing. In this approach, the office serves as a destination for occasional, purpose-driven gatherings rather than a daily workspace. The focus shifts from routine presence to meaningful interactions, prompting investments in technologies facilitating virtual collaborations and seamless integration of remote employees into the organisation.

Implementing a mutually beneficial hybrid working policy

As office designs evolve to entice employees back, it's crucial to find a balance that works for both employees and the company. Depending on employee demographics, the appeal of working from home may override office attendance. Achieving a cohesive momentum for collaboration, optimal office space utilisation, and alignment with employee teams requires a tailored policy based on company culture and the right tools.

Flexible hybrid policy

Allowing employees and teams to manage their schedules flexibly can work well for small to medium businesses with the right mindset and tools in place.

However, without workplace management software,  flexible hybrid policies rely on consistent coordination between team members to ensure their days are aligned which can be challenging if this is a manual process. Moreover, in the adsence of tech, the inability to measure attendance means there is little visibility of resource utilisation (ROI) and team collaboration at a company level.

Bear in mind that millennials - who are taking up the majority of the workforce - demand flexibility and adequate technology. As do their up and coming counterparts, Gen-Z. Read more about what makes these generational cohorts tick.

The Nura Space workplace management platform protects flexible hybrid workplaces from falling over by allowing teams to effortlessly coordinate in-office days with one another. Individuals can view a calendar of upcoming team bookings and book a desk in close proximity to their co-workers to maximise face-toface collaboration and minimise overcrowding.

Individual pre-determined WFH or WFO days

Offering set WFH days based on employee needs or business requirements strikes a balance between flexibility and structure. This could be employee led i.e. to accommodate caring commitments, or business-led i.e.  in-person team meetings or desk rotation schedules.

However, a rigid approach may be at odds with dynamic workplace needs. Forexample, if employees are complying with enforced mandates, are they coming in because it makes sense on that day or to meet their obligations? If its the latter, does this impede or enhance their productivity and job satisfaction levels? For instance if an employee has an individual focussed task to complete on a day where they are mandated to work from the office, is this commute the best use of their time and energy or could it lead to frustration?

Zoom and other tech giants who recently mandated RTO to three days per week experienced backlash from employees who had become accustomed to the flexibility and were not consulted in the policy development process.

By implementing an intuitive workplace management software like Nura Space, employees can book fixed recurring days while allowing some flexibility. If they need to cancel, add or swap days, they can easily do so on the web or mobile app and free up their workpoint for others or choose the most suitable day to come in based on team member bookings and workpoint availability.

Rotating team days

Implementing a rotation system for teams helps maintain collaboration flow, especially in optimised offices with more employees than desks.

For instance, the marketing team may claim a space - or zone made up of workpoints, meeting rooms and collaborative areas - on certain days, while HR gain unfettered access to the same zone on other days.

This can extend to 'neighbourhoods' for cross functional teams. Perhaps the product development teams who work with the marketing team on certain projects would benefit from aligning their in-office days.

Zones and neighbourhoods can be established in the Nura Space workplace management software with admins given permission to block out an entire zone or neighbourhood for their team or department on an ad-hoc or recurring basis.

Setting attendance targets

Regardless of the policy, setting attendance targets fosters in-person collaboration, company culture, and ensures ROI on office space.

Staying on top of attendance levels need not be a manual process. Nura Space allows teams to view historic and planned attendance and adjust their bookings accordingly. Layering in trigger based alerts eleviates the need for human input required to address attendance issues.

The Nura Space MyTeam feature allows teams to set attendance targets and measure progress or address flailing attendance as an ongoing process. At an enterprise level, policies can be reviewed or improved upon based on real attendance data and resources can be optimised based on utilisation data.

Continuous improvement through workplace data

Monitoring employee behavior and resource demand is crucial for evolving hybrid policies based evidence. It starts with understanding how the office is used and adapting it the design to suit employees’ needs and working styles.

The intuitive Nura Space workplace management platform offers insightful analytics to aid with data-driven decisions with an ever-evolving dashboard and reporting feature, managers can assess how the space is being utilised, employee attendance figures, and more data that is important to their policies.

Tips for ongoing appeal and policy compliance

  • Listen to employee feedback: Regularly seek input from employees to adapt the office environment to their evolving needs.
  • Empower employees: Provide tools and flexibility for employees to structure their work schedules.
  • Measure employee behaviour: Understand employee needs and behaviours before enforcing mandates.
  • Adapt and evolve hybrid models: Offer experiences unique to the office to balance in-person and remote work benefits.

In essence, crafting an effective hybrid work policy requires a deep understanding of your company, employees, and culture. It's about striking the right balance between office and remote work to create a workplace that employees willingly embrace, now and in the future.

Formulating a hybrid working strategy? Let's talk!

A hybrid workplace is only as robust as the policies that define it and these are only as seamless as the technology that supports the policy. And as an effective strategy needs to be adaptable, you're going to need a complete picture of employee behaviour and resource analytics on which to base decisions. Companies who have engaged us early on in the hybrid strategy development have benefited from our insights and experience. Chat to us or request a demo to gain a full picture of the possibilities for hybrid workplaces.


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