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As vaccination rates increase and infection rates decline, companies are exploring what a return to the office will look like. Both companies and employees agree: The future of the office is likely to be a “hybrid” model that could require many employees to split time between working from home and working in the office.
A recent joint study by WeWork and Workplace Intelligence defined the hybrid model as a combination of working at home, the company headquarters, satellite offices, co-working spaces and public “third spaces,” like a library or café. In some cases, employees may even split workdays between different locations.
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The survey found that some employees are actually willing to give up benefits and perks to have more flexibility about where they work. Ninety-five percent want some level of control over how, where and when they work, and three in four would be willing to sacrifice at least one benefit or perk — including health insurance, cash bonuses and paid time off — to be able to choose their work environment. Many employers are onboard, too. The survey found that nearly all companies (96 percent) would be willing to give their team members at least some measure of flexibility.
But hybrid workplaces come with challenges, too, says career-advice expert Lisette Sutherland, coauthor of Work Together Anywhere: A Handbook on Working Remotely — Successfully — for Individuals, Teams & Managers. When you have staggered scheduling and team members working remotely or in the office at different times, scheduling meetings and collaboration sessions can be a challenge. “I would not go into the hybrid workforce unplanned — that's for sure,” she says. “That's just asking for disaster.”
If you're getting ready to navigate a hybrid workplace, here are five ways to set yourself up for success.
1. Understand expectations
For employees, one of the first priorities should be to understand what your employer's policies are with regard to remote work vs. in-office days, says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Workplace Intelligence and author of Promote Yourself & Me 2.0. “What it comes down to is you have to understand the rules of the game in order to play,” he says. “Workers should be talking to their managers right now to see what can give them confidence and set expectations of what their schedules are going to look like going forward."
To create your list of questions and requests, think about how your workweek is structured. Which days are typically more meeting-heavy or require access to files and other resources that would make being in the office better? And which days or times could make working from home preferable? For example, it might make sense to be in the office on the day your team has staff meetings, so you can catch up in person. On the other hand, you might want to schedule days at home for when you do work that requires high focus. Consider your personal life, too, evaluating how commuting on certain days would affect your caregiving roles or other responsibilities.