There are a lot of opinions on hybrid work, and everyone approaches it differently. Management teams are primarily pro-return to the office. Overall, employee opinion varies, but many want to return to the office at least part of the time. Workers under 25 are especially eager. Finding space to work can be challenging when you share a home with several roommates who also need room to work. Perhaps more importantly, younger employees understand the value of in-person time and the risk of proximity bias.
Research shows three-quarters of employees would like to have the option of remote work, while the other quarter says they never want to work remotely again. In one study, a whopping 85% of professionals expect more flexibility to work from home. Nearly half, 42%, would quit if their employer didn't offer remote options long-term. No matter where employees stand on the work from home spectrum, they cite work efficiency as their reasoning for the sentiment. These findings can only suggest that every company and employee will have their own opinion on the matter. Every company has different needs that a hybrid work model has to fulfill.
How do you implement a hybrid work model that allows for flexibility and collaboration while keeping an eye on productivity? Many have turned to tools they have readily on hand, for example, using spreadsheets to compile a list with all employees, their availability, and then scheduling out days, determining who comes into the office when on a set schedule. While technically a hybrid work schedule, that inhibits the flexibility employees need. A better solution would be to empower employees to control their schedules.
Having more people than spaces for them to work makes manual scheduling difficult, if not impossible. This situation is a formula for chaos for everyone and, at the very least, makes the office an undesirable place to work.
You are creating chaos and limiting collaboration with a static day assignment approach
Companies that have grown significantly in the past couple of years are in a different, more complex situation. Having more people than spaces for them to work makes manual scheduling difficult, if not impossible. Scheduling days and desks for your entire office every week is a full-time job that your facilities staff likely does not have time to complete. This situation is a formula for chaos for everyone and, at the very least, makes the office an undesirable place to work. Moreover, a day assignment approach can hinder the most practical reason to come into the office to collaborate face-to-face. While small teams may be able to share daily schedules, it would be nearly impossible for larger or cross-functional teams to do the same. Shifting the schedule manually to accommodate collaboration requires a lot of participation and flexibility. All employees may not be willing, able, or motivated to be flexible in the first place.
A better way to think about this is to empower employees to manage their schedules. Many companies have tried to achieve this through a calendar app, like Outlook or Google Calendar. This approach does benefit employees to see when colleagues are planning to be in the office, but it is challenging to manage. What if Employee A is marked down for an in-office day but can't show up? There's no way of ensuring that employees follow through. Suppose Employee B comes into the office having seen that Employee A has indicated that they'll be there to collaborate on a shared project. If Employee A does not communicate the change of plans, Employee B may plan to come into the office and not be able to accomplish their task. Let's also suppose that Employee A does show up, but Employee B cannot find them; this could be a very frustrating problem without communication. In both cases, communication becomes the employee's responsibility, introducing more friction, making the office less easy to use and a less desirable workspace.
You are not getting the data needed for space planning
For others, the problem is more about space optimization. Changes in the number of people occupying the office at a given time could open up spaces for different use. Do you need more meeting space? A shared lounge? A creative brainstorming space? Leaning into a hot-desking or desk hoteling layout could help you reconfigure your space. Hot desking involves either a first-come, first-served system or a shift system. A first-come, first-served basis can be very chaotic and removes the facilities manager's ability to control office capacity; employees must be confident that they have a usable space when they turn up at the office, and hot-desking can't ensure that.
Implementing hot desking on a shift basis recreates the issue of rigidity and does away with employee control all over again. Furthermore, it is challenging to meet the individual needs of employees or roles. Employee A may be a graphic designer and needs a large monitor, a tablet, and various other pieces of hardware. What happens if the only space available to them when they arrive at the office is an open table? And what if Employee B feels that they're most productive when they're in a team environment, or perhaps they need more quiet? Different employees have different preferences for the kinds of spaces that help them work at their best. By not ensuring the availability of a variety of workspaces to meet most needs, a company gambles on productivity levels and overall employee satisfaction, which could lead employees to walk away from their roles altogether.
Desk hoteling mitigates many of these stressors by allowing employees to reserve their preferred space before commuting to the office. A desk hoteling setup also allows employees to see exactly when and where their coworkers will be in the office space itself. But it is not without potential drawbacks. It's still possible for Employee A to reserve a space and not show up, rendering the reserved space unusable to any other employee. Many desk hoteling solutions have solved the accountability problem by introducing check-in systems and a check-in panel for a conference room.
You are not requiring or getting valid check-in data
Checking in is an essential component of getting accurate usability statistics, and the way it's done matters. QR Codes serve many purposes today, including desk booking. QR codes may act as a safe way to check in with a touchless process, but they are far from secure. They are easily fooled and require multiple steps like opening a camera app, scanning the QR code, opening the attached link, and then successfully logging in. The QR code photo could be used to check-in, even when the user is not in the office. A lack of accurate check-in data means a lack of visibility into space usage trends and no usable insight into what is working and what is not.
Even though desk hoteling seems to be the most practical solution thus far, and many providers are attempting to solve the space management challenge with technology, most miss a crucial element: potential. The right tools can help manage scheduling chaos and provide much-needed insight into what is required for the team to function at its best today and in the future. Manual approaches to hybrid models will not work for long and will seriously hamper productivity and team collaboration.
Setting your workspace up for success
Like most things, putting an end to the hybrid scheduling chaos requires the right tools. Manually compiling spreadsheets every time a schedule changes is counterproductive. Empowering your team to control their schedules and workspaces is ideal. The most intelligent approach is to use a solution that provides employees with control and you with the data-backed insight you need to make space decisions.
- Work with a solution provider who is willing to get to know your organization and work with its unique needs.
- Choose a platform that is easy to implement and use. There is little more frustrating to employees than simple things that have been made unnecessarily complicated. Look for solutions that implement in less than a week, offer training support, and are built with an employee-first approach.
- Ensure your team will adopt it. Reducing friction in using the office will go a long way in making your space the collaboration hub you need. Your team needs to be empowered to control their work for that to happen. Look for solutions that follow an employee-first approach and that can integrate with the tools they already use to manage their day.