Hybrid WFH Work Model: Here’s How to Make it Work

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Find out why businesses are turning to a hybrid WFH model, compare the pros and cons of doing so, and learn our best tips to make it work for your company.
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What is a hybrid WFH model, and why are so many companies now considering it for their teams?

Stats show work-from-home (WFH) initiatives skyrocketed during the COVID-19 pandemic and haven’t slowed down. Employees and businesses alike are enjoying all the cost-effective and productivity-enhancing perks of remote work. 

However, some companies still see the benefit of having an on-premises crew. As long as managers can guarantee adequate safety measures, these teams could feel comfortable returning to the office. 

So should your team work in-house, continue working remotely, or adopt a hybrid WFH model?

If you’re not sure what a hybrid WFH model actually is, this guide will break it down and cover all the pros and cons. Then you can decide which option is best for your business.

Let’s start with the basics so we’re all on the same page:

What is a Hybrid WFH Model?

A hybrid WFH model allows some employees to work remotely while others work on-premises

Within this structure, you may have teams or departments split between working remotely and working in-house. Your marketing team may be off-site, for example, while your sales crew shows up at the office every morning.

You may even designate certain positions or leadership roles as fully-remote or in-house across all departments.

One important thing to note here: a hybrid WFH model doesn’t mean employees split their time working remotely and at the office during the week. That’s more of a flexible work style. 

Once an employee gets classified as WFH, they’ll spend most workdays remote (with the potential for occasional office visits). On-premises teams will do just the opposite.

There are several benefits for companies turning to this work style, which we’ll get into next. But this model comes with its own set of challenges to consider too. 

Becoming a Hybrid Company: Pros and Cons

A hybrid company has both remote and in-house team members. Since we discussed the pros and cons of becoming a remote-friendly company in this guide, we’ll only offer a brief summary here to save time.

Advantages of a Hybrid WFH Model

Business can take advantage of these perks when they become a hybrid company:
  1. Hire incredible talent locally and across the globe. When you open positions to global candidates, you’ll build a team with exceptional skills. They may even work in different timezones to provide ‘round-the-clock coverage or extra brainpower during peak productive hours.

  2. Employees work to their strengths and raise productivity. You’ll be able to allow team members who need to focus quietly at home and those who thrive better in a community office setting the ability to work where and when they’re most productive.

  3. Better accommodate team members with disabilities. Working from home gives people with disabilities or medical conditions the chance to work comfortably while staying connected.

  4. Lower overhead. Fewer people in the office means businesses have fewer costly office expenses. You may be able to downsize to a smaller office with less money spent on rent and electricity, for example.

  5. Decrease health exposure risks. Fewer in-house employees means your company may be able to lower the chances of colds, the flu, or COVID spreading around the team, which may result in fewer sick days.

Despite these pros, there are some drawbacks to consider… 

Downsides of a Hybrid WFH Model

A hybrid WFH model isn’t without downsides, such as:
  1. Remote employees may feel isolated, left out, and disconnected from the in-house team. They can’t stop by each other’s desks to chat or joke around the water cooler. Plus, WFH employees may miss out on perks like catered lunches, birthday parties, and company happy hours.

  2. Time differences can become a challenge. Your in-house team members may need to wait hours (or a whole day!) for a simple reply or answer to a question if a remote employee works in a faraway timezone.

  3. Communication requires extra effort. All contact with WFH team members occurs virtually via messenger apps like Slack, video calls, emails, etc. This requires stellar communication skills on both ends and a commitment to check-in, which is more challenging than building rapport in-house. 

  4. On-prem employees may receive preferential treatment or faster promotions simply because managers can interact with them and see what they’re up to all day. Remote workers may not get enough facetime with higher-ups and key decision-makers to prove they deserve the chance to climb the ladder. 

Luckily, there are fewer downsides to becoming a hybrid company than upsides. And they’re all reasonably easy to overcome with the right planning and preparation.

How to Make a WFH Hybrid Model Work for Your Business

It’s crucial to spend time thinking about ways your business can adjust to a new WFH model. 

First, you must create policies that benefit both WFH employees and in-house team members alike, even if they look slightly different. Employees should feel like they’re equals and not second-class citizens, which sometimes happens with remote teams.

To do that, it helps to put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Consider what you would value most if you were working remotely versus on-prem. Think about how you could create a positive work environment where employees feel appreciated, no matter where they clock-in. 

You may even decide to ask your team members this directly.

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If you need a little guidance, start with these best practices to make a WFH hybrid model suit your business:

1. Create Separate but Equal Benefits for Employees

One of the biggest drawbacks this style of work may create is a feeling that certain employees are treated better than others. That’s why your business needs to reconfigure the benefits it offers. The goal is to create separate but equal employee perks to show your team that they’re appreciated no matter where they work.

To do this

Consider sending WFH employees special goodie bags. If your in-house team gets catered lunches, free snacks in the break room, or birthday parties, give your remote crew a similar experience. Add a monthly lunch budget to their pay, send gift cards for popular lunch destinations, mail over the occasional happy hour gift basket or birthday treat, etc. These can help your team feel like they’re getting access to the same company perks on-prem teams receive.

Hold virtual happy hours and company mixers. Encourage in-house and WFH teams to engage virtually, and everyone will feel like they’re part of a bigger, more connected community.

Give each team member weekly one-on-one time with their managers. This ensures each employee feels like their career is moving forward rather than staying stagnant, whether they’re down the hall or across the globe. 

Make time and room in your budget for these benefits, and your employees will grow in their careers and thrive within your company.

2. Build a Virtual Community that Works for Everyone

Nowadays, teams can use virtual project management and communication tools to stay in touch. This makes checking-in easy and efficient. But instead of only relying on these tools to track work tasks, you can and should use them to build a digital community within your workforce.

This virtual community will help you bridge the gap between in-house team members and remote workers. Your remote crew won’t feel so isolated and will feel just as much a part of the team as your on-prem employees. Plus, your in-house employees won’t feel as if their remote counterparts are getting special treatment.

All of this equates to happier employees, less turnover, and more productivity, which is a win/win for everyone.

To do this: Use separate Slack or group chats to promote non-work related topics that people have in common. This could be sharing hobbies or catching up on a favorite shared show. You may need to reignite the conversation with prompts to encourage people to take part every so often. But you’ll create that water cooler atmosphere to connect teams no matter where they are.

3. Switch to an Asynchronous Communication Style

You can also use technology to your advantage in a WFH hybrid model by switching to an asynchronous form of communication, which we touched on in this guide

Essentially, asynchronous communication means you’ll communicate with your team without expecting them to respond right away. You’ll leave team members with all the information they need to complete a task, and they’ll run with it on their own time. 

Employees can then send questions back or provide status updates later on without everyone having to be connected 24/7. You can also encourage your team to send over daily updates when they finish their day. 

This is a helpful adjustment for both remote workers and in-house team members because it allows people to work uninterrupted without the stress/anxiety of having to stay connected all the time. People can go about their business instead of being stuck in limbo.

Managers then score higher employee output and fewer surprises/hiccups along the way. And they don’t have to micromanage to stay on top of project milestones. 

To do this: Use your project management tools wisely by adding notes, resources, and other supporting pieces of information to assignments. Team members should have everything they need to get started and finish projects without waiting for someone to get back to them. 

This will help your team work independently and efficiently no matter where they are. They may even feel like they’re all working in one centralized location despite it not being that way.

4. Adjust How You Conduct Meetings

When you switch to the asynchronous communication style mentioned earlier, you won’t have to hold meetings every day to discuss project updates or touch base with your team, saving everyone time. These tasks can all be accomplished using project management software.

But when you need everyone together for a brainstorming or pivot meeting, you’ll need to schedule these in advance so everyone can be on the call together. This may take some finagling if team members are in different time zones. Still, it’s much better to have everyone on one call than holding separate meetings for in-house and remote teams. 

To do this:

Only hold scheduled, focused meetings with a specific agenda. Try to only hold meetings for kickoffs, mid-project check-ins, project post-mortems, and other crucial times when everyone needs to be present to discuss issues as a team.

Keep your meetings on-track so employees don’t feel like their time was wasted. Send out an agenda ahead of time so WFH and in-house employees can prepare thoughtful responses and questions to bring up. And document meetings meticulously, so those who can’t participate are still in the loop.

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Have everyone meet from their individual computers. WFH employees can feel left out if they join a meeting solo only to see all their in-house counterparts gathered around a conference table together. If everyone meets from their own screens, it will unite the team and feel like everyone’s on the same page despite working in different locations.

Give employees the option to stay off-camera. Some WFH employees prefer this work style because they’re introverted and struggle with being in the limelight. So you may want to create a policy where employees can show up on camera for the first few minutes to say hello before hopping off video. 

Team members will still be present for the meeting, but they’ll be more focused on what’s being discussed and less worried about how insecure they feel on camera. 

You may also want to take a page out of Microsoft’s book since they’re one of the leading companies switching to a hybrid model of work.

How Microsoft is Making a WFH Hybrid Model Work

With COVID-19 still in full swing, Microsoft has decided to switch to a WFH hybrid model for the foreseeable future. These are the steps they’re taking to make it work:

  1. Employees can work from home permanently but will have to give up their dedicated office space. If they want to work in-house occasionally, they can do so using a designated “touchdown” space.

  2. Employees can move anywhere they like. But their pay will be adjusted to where they live.

  3. Microsoft will cover office expenses for those choosing to work from home.

  4. Team members can work flexible hours without needing manager approval of their schedule.

If you have the resources, you may want to consider adding a few of these ideas to your company’s new hybrid WFH policies.

Final Thoughts On The WFH Hybrid Model

With a bit of planning and preparation, it’s totally possible to make a WFH hybrid model work for your employees and help your business run more profitably and efficiently while doing so. The suggestions in this guide will help you foster a community of employees who feel connected and motivated despite working miles apart.

So save this guide, share it with a colleague, or send it to your team for their input. Let us know how it goes!

And if you want to hire more remote team members, think about posting your job on We Work Remotely. With over 2.5 million monthly visitors, you’ll build a solid WFH team in a fraction of the time it would take with a traditional job board.

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