Many companies started experimenting with remote work arrangements years ago — even before the global COVID-19 pandemic.
It makes sense. Remote work offers numerous advantages to organizations in a wide variety of industries. But there are drawbacks, too.
If you've decided that a fully-remote working environment isn't feasible for your company, you may consider implementing a hybrid-remote setup instead.
Keep reading to learn what a hybrid-remote setup is, the benefits and challenges it presents to businesses, and how to implement an effective hybrid-remote setup for your company.
Let's dive in and get started!
Remote work is growing at a rapid pace, but it's not yet a universal working arrangement. Because of this, it's important that you understand the three most common work environments used by modern companies of all shapes and sizes:
Co-Located: A work arrangement in which all employees operate out of a traditional office environment and interact with each other in person.
Fully-Remote: A work arrangement in which all employees operate from a location of their own choosing and interact with colleagues via email, video conferencing, or CloudApp screen recorder videos etc.
Hybrid-Remote: A work arrangement in which some employees operate out of a traditional office environment, while others work remotely.
Think of hybrid-remote as the middle ground between co-located and fully-remote work arrangements. This form of work has a few benefits, which we'll discuss in the next section.
Note: sometimes hybrid-remote refers to employees who are required to work a certain number of days in a company office, while operating remotely the rest of the time. This hybrid work schedule is a great way to test your company's ability to offer remote work. If you've ever wondered "what is a hybrid work schedule?", now you know!
So what's the big deal? Does your company really need to implement a hybrid-remote setup to achieve success? Of course not, but the arrangement can definitely help. Here are three benefits of hybrid-remote that prove it:
1. Access to More Talent
If at least some of your employees can accomplish their jobs from remote locations, you'll have access to more talent. Instead of searching for experienced customer support reps in Austin, TX, for example, you can hire talent from anywhere in the world.
Since your employees are the backbone of your organization, having access to the best the world has to offer at key positions within your company could prove very beneficial.
2. More Cost Savings
Fewer on-site employees could also lead to cost savings for your organization. Think about it, when a portion of your team works from a location of their own choosing, you can rent a smaller office space, cut back on utilities, and purchase smaller catered lunches.
Each of these things will allow you to keep more money in your company's bank account, which you can then spend on important business-building initiatives.
3. Improved Team Morale
A recent study by Owl Labs found that remote workers say they're happy in their jobs 22% more than co-located workers. This is because remote work allows for greater work-life balance and additional freedom for employees.
Research also suggests that happy employees work more productively, are more creative, more open to collaboration, and more loyal than their in-office counterparts.
By allowing a portion of your team to work from home (or wherever else they want) you'll be able to tap into the power of happy employees and reap the benefits.
There are many advantages to a hybrid-remote setup, but there are also a couple of challenges you'll need to be aware of before implementing this work arrangement.
1. Less Access to Information
When some employees work in an office environment and others work remotely, it can be difficult to ensure proper communication and equal access to important company information.
Here's an example: you host a successful virtual conference with both your in-office team and remote employees. By the end of the meeting, everyone knows exactly what you want them to do. But during lunch, Mark, an in-office worker, has a brilliant idea that he shares with fellow in-office compatriots, Greg and Clint.
When you hear about the idea, you agree it's a winner and want to implement it immediately, but before you can, you need to update your entire remote workforce.
It's these kinds of communication challenges that could make hybrid-remote working arrangements cumbersome for some companies. Fortunately, there are plenty of technology tools to help in this area, which we'll discuss in the next section of this article.
2. Inherent Inequalities
Hybrid-remote setups are also rife with inherent inequalities. After all, remote workers don't have to worry about long and tedious commutes, generally have more freedom in their day, and can usually spend more time with their families.
Conversely, co-located workers typically have better access to company information, may have an easier time securing promotions, and usually enjoy stronger work relationships as a result of being physically present with their colleagues on a daily basis.
These inequalities can definitely be overcome, but they will require management professionals to work harder to ensure all employees are happy and thriving in their roles.
If you've decided that a hybrid-remote setup is right for you and your company — or are at least interested in learning more about it — you'll be curious to know how to implement this kind of working arrangement. The following four steps will show you how:
1. Train Your Remote Employees
Successful remote work requires a specific approach and skill set. For employees who've spent most of their working life in traditional office environments, remote arrangements can be difficult to adapt to — at least at first. Because of this, it's important to train your remote team members so that they can contribute effectively.
For example, remote workers may need to learn how to use new technology tools. We'll talk more about technology in Step-2, but for now, know that some level of training is inevitable.
You'll also need to get your entire team comfortable with asynchronous communication.
If you're unfamiliar with asynchronous communication, it's a form of communication that doesn't require immediate responses. Emails, Slack messages, and comments inside project management apps like Asana are all potential forms of asynchronous communication.
The opposite of asynchronous communication is synchronous communication, which is communication that happens in real time, such as in-person chats and video conferences.
You'll want your team to be able to communicate asynchronously so that remote workers are always "in the know". Instead of having to immediately run every decision by them, you can simply send a detailed message that they can review at the time of their choosing.
2. Invest in the Right Technology
Anytime you have employees working outside the office, remote work tools will be required. When adopting a hybrid-remote setup, we suggest investing in the following types of technology to make sure that your workflows are smooth and productive:
Video Conferencing: Tools like Zoom, Skype, Highfive, and others will allow you to easily speak in real time to your remote team members and host meetings that feel similar to in-person gatherings. This is important since in-person gatherings can really help promote a positive team culture. Choose a video conferencing solution that's simple to operate and fits your budget. Then use it on a regular basis.
Project Management Tools: Project management tools like Asana and Trello make it easy for teams to stay on the same page — even if some of their members work from different locations around the world. Specific features to look for in a PM solution include in-app commenting, due dates, and the ability to assign tasks to specific team members. Try a few PM tools to see which fits your needs and preferred workflow.
Messaging Apps: The most popular messaging app is Slack, but other options include Microsoft Teams, Glip, and Hangouts Chat. No matter which tool you use, a messaging app will make it easy for your team to quickly communicate with each other, find previous messages without having to search through long email threads, and leave conversations when they're no longer required to participate.
Document Distribution: When working with remote team members, you can't simply walk down the hall and deliver important documents. That's why tools like Dropbox and Google Drive are vital to both a fully remote and hybrid-remote setup. Like every technology category listed here, there are plenty of document distribution tools available. Try a few and then choose the one that suits your company best.
CloudApp: Lastly, we have CloudApp, a visual communication tool that makes it incredibly easy for teams with a hybrid-remote setup to stay in touch. CloudApp features screen recorder and webcam recording, GIF creation, screenshot ability, and image annotation features that you can use to quickly get your points across in asynchronous and personalized ways. Get started with CloudApp for free today!
If you invest in the right technology, you'll be able to make your hybrid-remote setup work for your company instead of the other way around.
3. Work to Create Positive Team Culture
Positive team culture happens when employees are happy in their roles and feel united with their colleagues. This type of atmosphere can be difficult to cultivate when some employees work out of a company office and others work from a remote location. But it's not impossible!
To ensure your hybrid-remote setup doesn't harm company culture, we encourage you to commit to communication, foster collaboration, and regularly affirm company values:
Commit to Communication: It's hard to build team culture if your team doesn't actually talk to each other. Make sure that you invest in technology that connects in-office and remote workers. We also suggest leaving time before regularly scheduled team meetings for employees to "shoot the breeze".
Foster Collaboration: Improve team culture by pairing in-office workers with remote employees for certain projects. By forcing them to collaborate, you'll help them build relationships that they might not otherwise build. You also might discover productive partnerships that you can use to your company's advantage in the future.
Affirm Company Values: Your team might work from different locations, but they should all understand and strive to uphold company values. These values will unite them and help them work towards common goals. State the things your company stands for on a regular basis so that your hybrid-remote team doesn't forget.
It may require more effort to build positive team culture if you manage a hybrid team. But the benefits of a hybrid-remote setup will almost always outweigh the sacrifice!
4. Evaluate and Assess Your Work Setup
Finally, make sure that you constantly evaluate and assess your work setup. Are you closer to your goals now that you've implemented a hybrid working arrangement? If not, what can you do to help your team achieve greater success?
It's possible that a hybrid-remote setup isn't right for your company. Perhaps you'd be better off with a fully-remote environment instead. You won't know unless you study your efforts.
Take the time to check in with your team on a regular basis to get their feedback. Analyze your team's output to determine where it excels and where it falls short. Then make educated decisions about the effectiveness of your working arrangement and what to do next.
A hybrid-remote setup is a great option for companies looking to access top talent, enjoy cost savings, and improve team morale without taking the plunge into a fully remote working environment. If you're planning to implement a hybrid-remote setup, keep these 4 tips in mind:
Train Your Remote Employees
Invest in the Right Technology
Work to Create Positive Team Culture
Evaluate and Assess Your Work Setup
To help you make the transition to a hybrid-remote setup, give CloudApp a try. Our visual communication solution will give you all the tools you need to effectively converse with your team in fun, personal, and productive ways.
Joe is VP of Corporate and Demand Marketing at Scorpion. He is also the CMO of Stockchain Global and Advisory Board Member at Ylixr. He has over 12 years experience managing various areas of marketing including research, media buying, social, and overall strategy. His analyses have been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Associated Press, and Forbes. Joe holds a BSc in Finance and MBA in Strategy & Marketing from the University of Utah. He also has an Executive Degree in Entrepreneurship and Innovation from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.