4 hybrid work initiatives to keep your business on track

Since the beginning of the pandemic, studies have consistently shown that remote work does not affect productivity. But we know there’s something irreplaceable about seeing our colleagues in person—especially when it comes to intangibles like culture, collaboration, and purpose.

Before the pandemic, the standard was all personal work. In the midst of the pandemic, the standard was to work completely remotely.

We have tried the extremes. Now it’s time to find a happy medium: Hybrid.

Isolating the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls of working from home (WFH) takes some trial and error. Experimentation can be intimidating for some companies who don’t want to take unnecessary risks, especially in a challenging market environment.

Good news: you can take my company Thirdlove as an example.

Over the past five months, I’ve been experimenting with hybrid work initiatives and have identified a number of best practices along the way.

Work from home professionals

  • No commuting = more time for everyone. A Bureau of Labor Statistics report released last year found that Americans spent more time commuting in 2019 than ever before. The average round-trip commute time was about one hour, and more than 15 million Americans commuted more than two hours a day (up from 12.6 million in 2006). The average round trip of one hour means five hours of lost time per week. More than two hours of commuting and you lose more than 10 hours in the car every week. That’s a lot of hours. WFH has no commute and gives all that time back.

  • WFH teammates become more independent and imaginative. With fewer resources at your disposal, WFH encourages a do-it-yourself attitude. I’ve seen many members of our team become more self-reliant during the pandemic.

  • WFH minimizes distractions. Especially now that schools are personal again, WFH is putting people in control of their surroundings. People who work well with music on don’t have to worry about distracting people who work well quietly. You don’t have to be constantly slapped on the back by your teammates, which is positive in some cases.

Work from home pain points

  • communication inefficiencies. One of the most obvious downsides to WFH is that you lose those in-between moments — walking into someone’s office to ask a quick question, walking past someone’s desk to check in. The WFH surrogate for these in-between moments is asynchronous communication – Slack, email, SMS, etc. I’ve found that in some cases these threads take much longer than necessary, especially on small issues. This means WFH teammates spend more time on easily solvable problems than they do in the office, which can lead to communication overload and misalignment.

  • It’s harder to build relationships remotely. The downside of strengthening your relationship with your own space is that you don’t spend time strengthening relationships with your peers. We’ve all done enough Zoom happy hours to know that they’re significantly less happy than the in-person versions.

  • Isolation can hamper collaboration and creativity. Working in person always has an advantage over working remotely. Looking at a pixel representation of someone just isn’t like hashing things in the same physical space. It’s also very hard to get the creative juices flowing without feeling the energy that comes from having everyone in a room together.

The 4 initiatives

Some of them may stay and some may not, but our focus is on finding ways to make our hybrid model work harder.

1 day per week personally

Our entire Bay Area based team comes to our SF hub/headquarters one day a week – Wednesday. We all strive to hold only meetings that can be conducted entirely in person that day. It allows for building relationships, collaboration and connections. We do cultural events and happy hours for different moments and events. As we have expanded our hubs, we are looking at ways to replicate this in Denver and LA as well. Our fully remote teammates (we have quite a few!) come to San Francisco on a regular basis, at least quarterly, and when they’re in town we have their teams come in to encourage team building and alignment.

Work from Anywhere experiment

In July, we gave our team the ability to work anywhere throughout the month. Come to the office when it makes sense and work from home (or your parents’ house or a charming Airbnb) when you need to. We encourage travel and adventure to fuel creativity and renewal. This also leads to people being very conscious of when they come into the office and what they do when they are there. People who need to work together plan to come on the same days and then attend to their individual work on the days they are away.

No meeting on Friday

We tried No Meeting Fridays for the first time in June and people loved it. The idea was to devote one day a month to intensive individual work without a break. This has helped with some of the Zoom meeting congestion we all experience.

workout working from home

We have started designing training courses on how to make the most of WFH resources – communication media, meetings and time. The training also covers the activities that work better in the office and encourages employees to plan their personal time carefully.

Setting new standards always involves an experimentation phase, which is accompanied by some growing pains. Labor regulations should not be universal. You should be driven by what you do, how you do it, whose input you need, and when.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own and not those of Inc.com.

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