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Making hybrid work: How workplace leaders are taking action

Many workplaces are moving forward with staged reopenings. So it’s not a surprise that workplace leaders find themselves balancing the desires of employees who are eager to return to the office and continuing health and safety concerns. 

Earlier this summer, Envoy asked more than 800 workplace leaders from around the world how they planned to bring employees back to the office. We wanted to understand how forward-thinking companies were making the shift. One thing is clear from the survey findings. In order to succeed, leaders need to rethink how to design and operate work spaces. The transition is inevitable. What’s still up for debate is how to re-establish that sense of workplace belonging and keep employees engaged. 

According to the survey results, here’s where leaders are putting their efforts: 

Hybrid work models

We asked workplace leaders if they planned for employees to return full-time to the office, continue remote work, or adopt something in between. As of June, 40% say that their teams were already engaged in hybrid work, spending some of the workweek on-site and some remotely. And nearly 70% expect their teams to take advantage of some hybrid work option by the end of the year. For companies where the majority of employees can do their work from home, the percentage jumps to 81%.

When asked what the driving force was behind the move to a hybrid work model, 69% of leaders point to their employees and their preference for flexible work options.  

This shift has spurred us all to consider how to provide every employee with opportunities and the flexibility to succeed. Whether you’re working remotely with three children to care for or you’re in your twenties and this is your first job out of school, exceptional workplace leaders are rethinking how to give more opportunities to everyone. It’s not just good for productivity and creativity. It’s the right thing to do. 

Safety and community-building

What’s top of mind for leaders as they plan for their reopening? Overwhelmingly, they say keeping employees safe from virus transmission, which involves complying with CDC and local guidelines. And beyond maintaining safety? They want to strengthen company culture and ensure that the workplace is equitable and inclusive. 

Helping employees regain a sense of community starts with making sure each person, whether remote or on-site, is seen and their good work is celebrated. Workplace leaders need to understand which part of the experience is working for employees and which needs improvement. To do this successfully requires continual employee feedback and iteration. It’ll be crucial to lean into and continue to build a strong feedback-oriented culture.

To help bridge the gap between remote workers and those on-site, Envoy uses Donut’s Slack integration to spark engagement. It encourages people to connect for virtual coffee chats and helps those who are remote feel more connected to what’s going on in the workplace.  

Hybrid work supported by hot desking

How will this new workplace function? How will leaders ensure there is adequate space for everyone that wants to come into the office while maintaining health and safety? 

Most are turning to hot desking. 45% of workplace leaders say they’re transitioning to a mixed seating model with both permanently assigned desks and hot desks. 14% have decided on a full hot desking model, without any permanently assigned seating. 

The shift to hybrid work has allowed leaders to reflect on how they can tune operations so that employees have time for heads down work as well as a better experience when gathering to collaborate. Hot desking helps balance capacity and ensures everyone has a space to work. And the right desk booking software gives employees the power to coordinate with each other. Schedule days in the office with co-workers and reserve seats together or a book space specifically designed for collaboration. 

Envoy’s internal data supports the upsurge in hot desking. Envoy Desks bookings grew 60% from June to July 2021, with more than 228,000 bookings in July alone. Employees are eager to reserve their spot, with 51% of desks claimed at least a day in advance, and 12% of desks booked more than two weeks in advance. 

There’s a real opportunity to make the work space a place where people want to be. Leaders need to be intentional about creating better experiences rather than relying on former processes. Flexibility, hot desking technology, and safety precautions are a good start. The next step: Survey your own employees to understand their specific needs. They (and your workplace) will be better for it.