How to Optimize the Hybrid Work Schedule

Hybrid work is here to stay, but that doesn‘t make it any less complicated. These steps will help you improve the experience.

Written by Liz Simon
Published on Apr. 10, 2024
How to Optimize the Hybrid Work Schedule
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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While remote work went mainstream during the peak of the pandemic, it had a lasting impact. Today, an all-time high 52 percent of remote-capable employees now work a hybrid schedule, according to a Gallup survey

During this shift, the key question everyone is asking is: “What is the optimal hybrid work schedule?” This debate reflects our collective search for a balance that allows work to integrate more seamlessly into our lifestyle. 

3 Tips to Improve the Hybrid Work Experience

  1. Establish a dedicated day for employees to come into the office.
  2. Create programming for in-office events and activities during those dedicated days.
  3. Embrace a flexible office set up that accommodates different work styles and preferences. 

At Industrious, our business relies on people coming into an office. The usage patterns we see with our members generally fall into three categories:

  1. Mandated schedules: Employers dictate how many days employees should spend in the office, ranging from one to four days a week.
  2. On-the-go access: Office usage is characterized as sporadic and highly flexible for those who travel frequently or have unpredictable schedules.
  3. Lifestyle-driven choices: Individuals decide their office days based on personal preferences, including commute times, work type and where colleagues are based.

This third category is the most complex, but also the most relevant to understanding how to make hybrid schedules work for your organization. What we’ve learned is that the optimal hybrid schedule is not one-size-fits-all. Instead, it’s a personal choice influenced by an array of factors from social interaction to job nature to family obligations. 

More on Remote WorkHow Hybrid Work Is Changing Expectations

 

Anchor the Work Week With Connection

Many of our members are making lifestyle-driven choices about how and when to use the office. But a question we often get asked by those responsible for designing or managing their team’s workplace experience is: how do we keep the flexibility we know our people want while preserving some sense of belonging and connection among the team? 

There are two key factors that help us answer this question: 

  1. How often are employees in the office together? 
  2. What does the experience of being in the office actually feel like?

To answer the first part, over the last few months, we ran over 100 workplace experiments across five national locations to find out what motivated people to come into the office. What we found is that if teams can manage to coordinate at least one structured day of gathering a week, they’ll have stronger engagement and approximately 20 percent higher office utilization the rest of the week. We call this approach Hub Day.

This is a specific day during the week when the entire team is encouraged to work from the office. It’s not just about face time; it’s about creating opportunities for spontaneous collaboration, team building and reinforcing company culture

By dedicating a day to communal activities, such as team lunches or learning sessions, employees have a reason to come into a central or hub workspace and employers can foster a sense of belonging and connection. This solves one of the core problems that many companies face when their hybrid work schedules are driven primarily by lifestyle choices — a lack of clarity about who is working where and when. 

We originally developed this model with our own team at Industrious. We meet as a team on Wednesdays at our Hub office. These days can include a wide range of programming, from lunch-and-learns to social activities to surprise-and-delight moments. 

Our national teammates then have the choice of where they want to work outside of Hub days, whether at another Industrious location closer to their home, at home or with a smaller group of their teammates. The result is that people typically come into one of our workspaces 2-3 days a week, and work from home the other few days. This model is effective because it acknowledges that work is an activity, not a location, and that productivity can thrive in various settings.  

More on Remote WorkReturn to Office: Is It a Good Idea for Companies

 

Embrace Flexibility Beyond the Hub

Beyond designated office days, an effective hybrid model requires an office environment and experience that accommodates a range of needs and preferences. The goal is to support a balance between collaborative, in-office work and the autonomy of remote work.

Take Google’s latest New York office at St. John’s Terminal. A key feature of the new office campus is that rather than assigning a specific desk to each employee, each team receives a designated area to serve as its central hub. These “neighborhoods” are designed to accommodate various work styles, featuring a mix of desks, meeting rooms, phone booths, and shared tables tailored to the diverse tasks Googlers undertake daily.

In our own office, while we have some dedicated desks in a traditional “office” for our team, we encourage people to utilize common areas when they aren’t doing focused work. When we have Hub Days, we encourage scheduling in-person one-on-one meetings and discourage virtual meetings as much as possible so people can limit time sitting in phone booths on Zoom calls

So, back to the question we get asked by our members. While there’s no magic formula for the perfect hybrid work schedule, we recommend having a reason for people to connect in the office on at least a weekly basis and providing an office environment that allows for people to work individually, collaboratively and any which way in between. 

We know employees want to be able to make choices about the office that align with their work style and life demands.The future of work is not just about where we work, but how we create environments that are inclusive, flexible and conducive to our collective success.

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