When you think of the word ‘hybrid’ you’re likely thinking cars – Prius, Tesla, the pint-sized Smart car. In the motoring world, a hybrid uses both an electric motor and a gas engine. That’s pretty easy to understand. But since this (sadly) isn’t an episode of Top Gear, let’s chat about what hybrid means in the context of offices. What is a hybrid office and what are the pros and cons?

In the world of work, especially now, hybrid has come to define our new reality and essentially means “working with employees who are co-located in the same physical space as well as employees working remotely” according to professors Mark Mortensen and Martine Haas. This seems simple enough; some of you go into the office and others work from home, a co-working space, locked in the bathroom hiding from the kids (we hope this isn’t your reality).

But hybridity comes with a few challenges – and of course there’s good stuff too. We explore both sides in detail.

What does a hybrid office demand from employees?

Before we talk good and bad, you need to know what a hybrid office needs from you. The main (not-so-easy) demand is being able to balance. Mortensen and Haas believe hybrid offices “require employees to be ambidextrous – able to balance between and navigate across both worlds – in a way that fully co-located or fully remote working [doesn’t].”

There’s a greater need for effective communication (you may be sitting next to a colleague one day, and not the next) and time management (can you complete the report your at-office boss needs while still fetching kids from school as a remote worker).

Another demand is needing to be pretty good at switching gears. (Maybe this is an episode of Top Gear?). A prime example is being comfortable with both virtual and in-person presentations. Employers expect the same stellar performance when you’re on-screen as when you’re face to face with a prospect. Being hybrid means you need to be adaptable and ensure consistent quality even when the environment changes.

If your entire office has been working remotely and there’s a transition to going hybrid, you may need to get used to reduced flexibility. Virtual meetings don’t usually drag for the simple reason that collaboration and ideation is trickier – someone isn’t popping out of the boardroom to grab a cup of coffee and then rushing back with the big idea that struck while they were boiling the kettle. So, this means your in-office colleagues may meet longer, brainstorm longer, sticky note all over the wall longer. And you? You’ll be there too, virtually, in your car, on your cell, collecting your dog from the vet while simultaneously trying to muffle her barks and contribute constructively to discussions.

The challenges of the hybrid office

When your team is split across remote and office-based work, those not at the office may feel it puts them at a professional disadvantage says lecturer Rebecca Knight. This also ties into visibility. If they aren’t seen, heard, felt contributing in meetings or collaborating with colleagues will they be considered to lead the next big project? Will they be in the running for that upcoming promotion? This is where managers and CEOs need to overtly outline how being hybrid will work – how will employees be recognised, how will their work quality be monitored so everyone gets the recognition and support they deserve.

Another challenge in a hybrid work environment is access to resources. Weaker technological setup and infrastructure can make it more difficult for remote employees to demonstrate their competence which has a knock-on effect when it comes to recognition and consideration for tasks. Office-based employees don’t only not have these challenges but the spontaneous collaboration that happens in the corridors (which is pretty significant) and the social cohesion of teams having informal chats is also absent.

If employees themselves are hybrid, working some days remote and some days in the office, they are also faced with the challenge of a “continuous process of locating, dislocating and relocating work” according to P.J. van Baalen from the University of Amsterdam. This doesn’t only potentially disrupt solid workflow and add a layer of basic frustration (packing your laptop, packing lunch, arranging babysitters and more) but also means work is always there. In situations like this, the need for effective boundaries cannot be understated.

So those are all the challenges, but what about the good stuff?

Hybrid office spaces definitely have their advantages (despite what we’ve said), and one big one – according to the book Learning and Innovation in Hybrid Organizations – is the ability to ‘work alone together’. This sounds like a contradiction in terms but actually makes a lot of sense.

You get the advantage of in-person collaboration and feedback when it’s needed in an office environment, but can also enjoy the quiet and focus that comes with working alone remotely. We requote one of our favourite authors Cal Newport where he says, “freedom from a constant background hum of interaction will increase the intensity of concentration achievable when people need to work deeply.” Remote work affords you the opportunity to block out time and work with greater intention and focus.

The key to a hybrid office space working is a common organisational identity that outlines the norms, values and boundaries for all employees. If you’re going hybrid this is a great opportunity to decide what parts of your company culture you want to maintain and emphasise and what parts you want to toss. You can get employee feedback (a cherry on top to improve employee engagement and iron out any grievances) and craft an identity where everyone feels invested and heard. From there it’s about communicating and upholding your new hybrid ID, easing into first gear and, over time, going full throttle. It felt only right to end with a bit of Top Gear lingo.

Now is the time to get the best of both worlds. Whether you’re a team looking for an office home base or an individual who’s remote working as part of a hybrid organisation, Office & Co. has what you need. Enjoy our functional, affordable and good looking workspaces in Cape Town and Joburg and kick your productivity into high gear. We’re also fully COVID compliant.

Gather your team and come to Office & Co.

A lot of us have been lone rangering for a while. We just made up the word ‘rangering’ but you get what we mean. We haven’t had the normal over-the-shoulder nods of approval from colleagues or bosses in months, and sometimes that simple gesture is all we need to feel like we’re on the right track. So why not come to Office & Co.

Our boardrooms are sleek, our coffee strong and the opportunities for collaboration and head nodding abound. Explore our functional, affordable office spaces in Cape Town and Joburg today.

Contact us for a free consultation on your office space needs.

Please complete the form below and we will get back to you soonest. We look forward to discussing your office space requirements.

    Johannesburg

    Tel: +27 11 267 0500

    Email: info@officeandco.co.za

    Cape Town

    Tel: +27 21 140 0700

    Email: info@officeandco.co.za

    Johannesburg

    Tel: +27 11 267 0500

    Email: info@officeandco.co.za

    Cape Town

    Tel: +27 21 140 0700

    Email: info@officeandco.co.za

    Please complete the form below and we will get back to you soonest. We look forward to discussing your office space requirements.