For small businesses facing challenges in recruiting and retaining a talented workforce, a hybrid workplace may be a solution. Offering a mix of in-office and remote work provides employees greater flexibility and can benefit employers in several ways.
Many small businesses have embraced the option of a flexible workplace, according to an American Express online survey of small businesses from September 2022, which found that 49% of respondents were offering hybrid and remote work options. Of that group, 77% reported that doing so helped them attract new employees.
“The hybrid-remote model can work for any industry, but how you implement that may differ between each industry,” says Kaleem Clarkson, chief operating officer of Blend Me Inc., a consulting firm specializing in remote work.
Why you may want to consider a hybrid workplace
Recruitment and retention
Because many employees have become accustomed to working remotely, offering a hybrid workplace can help a business in its efforts to recruit employees who want to work remotely and retain employees who value the opportunity of a flexible workplace.
Having a smaller workforce on-site can allow businesses to reduce office space requirements. This would generally result in savings on overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, furniture and fixtures, parking, security and other costs associated with maintaining an office space.
Potential for increased productivity
Flexibility in the workplace may translate into increased productivity. According to the 2022 State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs, 62% of workers feel more productive when they work from home. When employees are given flexibility in their work location, they’re also typically happier, which studies have shown can also translate into greater productivity.
What to consider when setting up a hybrid workplace
A hybrid workplace can be achieved in several ways. When considering whether to implement a hybrid workplace model and how it might work best for your business and employees, think about the following:
Employee preferences and roles
Understanding what your employees want can help you determine what type of hybrid workplace will work best for your business, according to Sharlyn Lauby, president of ITM Group Inc., a consulting firm that offers training programs for businesses. “While we’re talking about employees who desire a hybrid work option, it’s important to keep in mind that some employees don’t want hybrid work. I know several people who tried out remote work during the pandemic and said ‘no, thank you’ to doing it regularly,” Lauby said via email. In that case, you might opt for a hybrid workplace that allows employees to choose whether to work in the office or remotely.
Your industry and the roles of your employees are also factors to consider. For instance, if you have a retail business, your sales staff may need to work on-site, while other teams, like finance, may be able to work remotely.
Communication and technology software
In a hybrid workplace, human resources software can help with recruiting, onboarding, training and performance management, while communication apps such as Slack, Zoom, Google Workplace, Microsoft Teams and Zapier can facilitate communication between in-office and remote employees.
Upgrades in hardware may also be required when a business changes to a hybrid workplace. For example, desktop computers may need to be swapped out for laptops, and conference rooms may need to be fitted with video conferencing equipment to allow for in-office and remote individuals to attend meetings.
Policies that apply to the entire workforce
Businesses may need to revise policies and procedures so they can be applied fairly to all employees regardless of whether they work on-site or remotely. Consulting human resource and legal experts can help them learn how to ensure on-site and remote employees are treated equally when it comes to work assignments, schedules, pay, promotions and more. This may also involve additional training for employees and managers.
Regular evaluations and adjustments
Employee preferences and the needs of your business will likely change over time, and most businesses will experience some degree of growing pains when first adopting a hybrid workplace. Keeping everyone satisfied comes down to a business’s “commitment to evaluate and adjust along the way,” Lauby said.
“The success of hybrid work comes from organizations listening to employees, being open to trying new things, communicating transparently and adjusting along the way,” Lauby said.