Embracing the hybrid model for small businesses

In the past year, Canadian employees have proved that their work performance remains unhindered when switching from the conference table to the comforts of home. Some say their productivity performance has improved while working remotely or within a hybrid model. 

In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that 90 per cent of white-collar employee participants’ productivity remained unchanged while working from home. 58 per cent reported that they accomplished around the same amount of work as they would in the office.  Meanwhile, 32 per cent reported completing more work from home. 

The hybrid model has gained popularity this year. Angus Reid Institute and the CBC conducted a survey. Through it, more than 50 per cent of employees shared that they would look for work elsewhere if they were required to work in the office full time.

In a global survey by Cisco, 28,000 full-time employees with different career fields, ages and genders reported similar results. Overall, there was improvement in quality of well-being, relationships, work-life balance and personal confidence when working within a hybrid structure. 

A preference for hybrid workspaces is emerging. But one in four businesses still aren’t confident about a future favouring hybrid models.

What is a hybrid workspace?

A hybrid workspace is a work structure that takes place half within a traditional office setting and half remotely. However, it can take on different forms that best suit the business’ demands. Some models are more flexible, allowing employees to come to the office on their own time. Others, however, enforce set office hours.

This may be difficult for small businesses that cannot afford the right technology or time to accommodate their employees. But with the right structure and tools, small businesses can greatly benefit. Some advantages include cost savings on travel expenses and operating space and flexible work-life balance. It also allows the inclusion of diverse employees from those who live with disabilities to those outside the local area. 

Remote-friendly model

This model is the most flexible, allowing employees to choose their schedules based on their personal needs. Employees may also have an open option to return to the office when convenient. The easy access to a comfortable space at home tends to increase satisfaction and mental health. This can motivate workers to build close interpersonal relationships within the company. 

Since 2021, Amazon has embraced the remote model and allowed corporate employees to use this structure indefinitely. Their options include  working in-office or at home, based on a team’s needs. 

In an interview with Yahoo finance, CEO Andy Jassy said working remotely has proved beneficial for both employees and leaders. He added that it encourages businesses and companies of all sizes to adjust and “change how we operate” as technology continues to embrace a hybrid world.

Office-centred model

This model requires employees to work in-office most days but enables them to work remotely once or twice a week. Having face-to-face interaction often increases relationship-building and collaboration. Sharing a physical space can also lead to fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Google has implemented “collaboration days,” which involve three days at the office and two remote. The purpose is to keep a sense of flexibility while encouraging employees to build social capital. Google is the first to try creating a new hybrid structure based on executive Sundar Pichai’s hypothesis that “a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration and well-being.” 

Combination model

The combination model facilitates a balance between remote and office work, either through fixed timing or the employee’s choice. 

Some companies split up office return days by department to save office space. A few large rooms can be used for important meetings and other informal activities take place online. Managers can still stay in touch with team members face-to-face while saving money on transportation and office costs.

Sean Woodroffe is a chief human resources officer at the investment organization TIAA. In an interview with CNBC, Woodroffe said switching between remote and onsite work are completely different interactions. Both can bring on different sets of issues but also, as he said, “bring on different types of opportunities.” 

Woodroffe has already witnessed more engagement across various businesses resulting from employees gaining control over their schedules. He expects that combination hybrid models are here to stay.

As technology develops to fit remote work, hybrid models seem promising. However, it is difficult to assess performance with fewer people at the office. This is only possible if the team feels a high sense of trust, equality and collaboration. That should be the case even while working from home. Without the right communication and tools to facilitate connection, small to large businesses alike put themselves at risk.

Though still experimental, a long-term hybrid model for small businesses is not impossible. Formalizing clear goals and rules unique to the business and workers’ needs should have priority. 

In addition, check-ins, support, helpful resources and events, both virtual and onsite, can build trust to improve productivity. 

Taking on these challenges and embracing modes of engagement make for flexible businesses that can easily adapt to rapidly changing times.

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