Upwork is estimating 36.2 million Americans will still working remotely in 2025, meaning it’s critical your organization understands how your team can best work in a hybrid environment regardless of your industry. And while your business may not work the same as another in the same industry just down the road, our advice here is applicable to anyone looking to up their productivity in any kind of hybrid environment.
Hybrid work isn’t for everyone. No, forklift drivers and hairstylists and all of the no-way-around-it, in-person-only jobs are bound by the universe to show up, in person, to perform their duties as expected. No Zoom call or hybrid solution in the world could solve the problem of how to get your hair cut from across the country. (At least not on a mass scale…)
In the modern working world, y’know pre-Covid, the ability to work from home was very often linked to status within the office, meaning managers and high-ranking workers were more likely than others to be assigned types of tasks that could be performed remotely. Additionally, jobs with a very direct measurable output were also often marked as easily performed remotely because managers could easily measure success without much oversight.
As obvious of a solution as it may seem, some companies are still balking at working remotely or going with a hybrid environment, even when the solutions they offer can be provided from anywhere in the world.
Understanding & Organizing Your Environment For Success
Taking factors out of the equation like your role and industry, you’re probably looking for more freedom to do your work at your own pace. It’s quite literally why you’ve read the entire introduction and are now embarking on a journey toward digital freedom, right? Well, the good news is unless you’re cooking up a delicious meal, those emails and meetings you’ve got on your calendar can probably be taken from your home.
Pre-pandemic research on how working from home benefits and harms teams have provided some incredibly insightful research businesses should be drawing from. Of note, Microsoft found spending about half your total work time in the office can maximize the benefits of hybrid work while negating the downsides of all-remote work. In fact, one psychological survey found the job satisfaction benefits of working from home start to diminish after around 15 hours of work.
Additionally, focusing your time in the office on strengthening your real peer-to-peer relationships with colleagues and accomplishing all tasks that benefit from in-person collaboration, such as brainstorming and starting new projects.
While some research has suggested co-worker relationships aren’t hindered by low-intensity remote work, the same employees reported negative productivity when that same work was extended remotely over 2.5 days a week.
While not all workers are negatively affected by remote work, especially those who work independently like this pajama-clad author, it’s clear across the market that too much time working remotely can undermine the flow of information and sharing of knowledge within teams. Whatever your teams’ goals, understanding your environment and deciding on hybrid solutions is the first key step in being productive.
What types of work should we be doing...
- Accomplish tasks with low dependence on teams or direct collaboration
- Execute clearly defined goals
- Projects and tasks that require extended, uninterrupted focus
In the Office?
- Teamwork and brainstorming conversations with instant feedback
- Anything with high dependence and direct collaboration
- New project development and initial phases that link new team members
- Tasks that require specific office-related hardware too expensive to furnish at home
While working from both the office and from home, managers may assume sharing workspaces is the name of the game when it comes to populating the office a couple of days a week. That strategy may work for employees that come into the office for group projects, but for those who do their intensive day-to-day tasks in the office, a dedicated space is incredibly important.
This “hot-desking” (employees sharing their desk or not having an assigned desk at all) can lead to increased distractions and new demands, a rise in negative behaviors between coworkers, increase levels of overall distrust and sew perception of less supervisor support.
Not only is hot-desking a negative to those more hybrid employees, but research has also additionally proven the importance of having dual monitors and other specialized ergonomic equipment, which is almost impossible to coordinate without providing each person their own tools for the job.
And if you want to know what it's like when two people disagree on sharing space, look no further than the dozens and dozens of examples from tv and movies. (My favorite is the Drake & Josh version but you may remember it from The Brady Bunch or Full House or I Love Lucy or M*A*S*H* or…)
Does anyone have some tape?
But these preparations shouldn’t stop at the individual level either. When organizing your space as a whole, research suggests properly designed open office plans with dedicated individual desks promote positive productivity in hybrid work environments. At the same time, offices around the globe are adding more “activity-based” workspaces dedicated to brainstorming and idea generation, team integration activities, and informal interactions.
The most common of these dedicated spaces are video conferencing rooms where advanced solutions such as shared digital whiteboards and virtual meeting rooms integrate directly with smart cameras and sound solutions that keep everyone in the room connected. No matter where your team members find themselves, whether it’s their home office in Berlin or the conference room in Auckland (those two cities are almost antipodes!) they can be a part of the team.
Constructing a Productive Schedule
If you’re still concerned about productivity while working from home, you’re not alone. Pew Research found 42% of workers 18-49 said they feel under-motivated to do their work remotely. The percentage is even higher for 18-29 year-olds, with 53% saying it’s been difficult to be motivated to do their work when they’re not on-site, in sharp contrast to only 20% of workers 50 and older feeling the same.
But still, the age-old question with hybrid schedules is: How often should everyone come in?
First and foremost, we should again say that every single business is different, and you should work with your team to uncover what works best for your team. Listen to their needs and form a plan that benefits everyone.
With that said, research from Stanford suggests the best schedules allow team members to come into the office around three days a week, depending on their exact roles and responsibilities. Most workers need time in the office to stay motivated and creative, to connect with others, and to dial in projects. But we also need quiet time at home to concentrate on big picture thinking and to catch up on paperwork. Scheduling the same regular days in the office means it’s easier to schedule meetings and plan less integrated work during our two days at home.
Creating a hybrid schedule means accounting for increased flexibility according to each member’s responsibilities around the office. To create each schedule, members of your team should be asking when others need them – whether that means in meetings or for any other purpose – to be present in the office and when can they disappear without concern.
For those with more introverted tendencies, it could be easier for you to space your days in the office out, coming in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday instead of Monday through Wednesday. By interspersing your days at home with your days in the office, introverts can allow themselves to recharge before taking on another slate of meetings.
On the other hand, those with more extroverted tendencies may want to visit the office three or four days in a row, energized by attending meetings in person and in the video conference room. When working remotely, these kinds of employees tend to work better when they book meetings at the start of their workday and then again in the afternoon when their energy starts to subside.
Whatever your reason, motivation, or purpose for adopting a hybrid work environment, the pros and cons of going partially or wholly remote seem to weigh equal. Only after some deep introspective digging will you find the balance for your team where you can begin to understand and organize your environment for success. This journey inward will also reveal, for each of your employees, what the right balance of home and office life is, allowing your team to construct a useful schedule that promotes productivity in your hybrid work environment.