The COVID-19 pandemic sent millions of Americans out of the office, then back in and recently out again. Running a company out of the office this way is no design for success, pushing many companies big and small to create a hybrid business model, which isn’t difficult but does take some work.
Castleigh Johnson, the creator of My Home Pathway, an app and website that teaches users how to achieve homeownership, had to move his company to a hybrid work model and said the first step is identifying how your company works.
The first step is to evaluate how your company functions. Some service companies like ours are much easier to transition to a hybrid working model,” Johnson told BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“Once that is confirmed, then you have an assessment of what roles can be hybrid, if you have the team members that can work with that model or how to find them and what tools and resources are needed to effectively execute on the model. All of these steps must be taken into account before you decide as an executive team to transition to the hybrid work model.”
Johnson experienced working in a hybrid model long before it became popular, having worked in financial services, which began using business continuity planning post 9/11.
According to The Digital Workplace, the four types of hybrid business models are office-based with limited flexibility; office-based with generous flexibility, digital-based with an office, and digital-based with no dedicated office.
Each comes with its pros and cons. Office-based with generous flexibility may be convenient for your employees, but may lead to communication problems when you can’t find someone.
A digital-based model with no dedicated office meanwhile may be flexible, but bringing employees together in one office may require time. You will also have to determine how many days of the week and what days of the week your staff will come into the office.
Kelly Ifill, the founder of Guava, a digital community bank for Black small business owners, told BLACK ENTERPRISE about her experience working remotely.
“Our team is remote right now and we’re kind of distributed across the country and some of us haven’t met in person yet,” Ifill said. “So just trying to carve out space to get to know people on a personal level is really hard because we’re a small team and it’s a startup and things are constantly moving and changing.
Ifill added that small things such as connecting with team members, ensuring a soft landing when new employees join her team, and being casual on Zoom calls goes a long way toward making it easier when her staff does meet in person.
Another big decision is how to connect with your team remotely. Business communication platforms such as Slack and Monday and Microsoft Teams can help co-workers share documents, information, and communicate digitally or face-to-face digitally. Companies may also want to keep digital meetings to a minimum to keep employees from Zoom fatigue.
“One factor of digital burnout that we’ve experienced in our program is what we call ‘Zoom fatigue,’” Mona Potter, MD, medical director of McLean’s Child and Adolescent Outpatient Services said. “This fatigue arises after spending hour after hour sitting in the same space looking at the same screen.”
Working in a hybrid setting also involves higher communication and more trust in your employees; Because employees aren’t in the office everyday under the eyes of their managers, companies are forced to trust their employees more. Everyone in your office will have to increase lines of communication because they may not be in the same state depending on your hybrid work model.
“Trust is added to the communication because of the level of communication with in-person, phone, text,” Johnson said. “And so you’re missing the in-person cues, so those things can make communication a little harder and tricky, but setting the tone for how people communicate, how people respect each other.
“On the trust side, people can work from anywhere, they can decide to move to Idaho or Montana, South Dakota. It’s on you to do your due diligence and say if I go here I’m still going to be able to execute on my work because people are still going to be relying on you.”
There are many positives to creating a hybrid work model, including employees having a bit more freedom and responsibility in managing their work.
“I think we are paying more attention to each other’s humanity, I think we are more candid about needing extra time and we’re showing up more authentically to work and with less of a glossy facade,” Ifill told BLACK ENTERPRISE. “And as a manager and a leader, I’m more thoughtful about that; I give people more grace realizing that were still in a pandemic.”