Joorney’s Successful Hybrid Workplace Experience
With accelerated technological advances and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has come to stay. According to a McKinsey survey, 87% of workers in the U.S. embraced the opportunity to work remotely when offered, and Gartner’s 9 Future of Work Trends for 2023 list shows hybrid flexibility as the #2 work trend this year. Flexibility in the workplace has practically become the new norm. In light of this tendency, a mixture of on-site and remote work – commonly known as the hybrid workspace – has become the preferred choice for employees and many companies.
At Joorney’s offices in the Balkans, we have implemented a hybrid system that benefits everyone and allows each of our colleagues to pick and choose their work location preferences. Looking back, I think it was a combination of circumstances and a lot of effort, that have led to our successful implementation of this system.
Testing remote work was always part of our plan
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we all worked at the office year-round. However, exploring the work from home option was always on the radar. Due to the nature of our work, it was an interesting option to explore, with many potential benefits.
Our intention was to measure efficiency, motivation, engagement, and satisfaction in the remote work environment and ascertain if those benefits would be attainable in the long haul and therefore the new system worth implementing. Despite this, daily work and other – more pressing – development needs took priority, so this project kept being postponed. We were continuously – and still are – achieving high growth numbers, so sustaining such growth always took precedence.
Work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
With the outbreak of the pandemic and the subsequent implementation of lockdowns on a global scale, remote work not only became a priority – but the only feasible option. As nobody could predict how long this situation would last, we invested great efforts into adapting to the new work environment. Soon, it became evident that there were both positive and negative takeaways. Although such an environment provided additional flexibility – boosting overall satisfaction for many – such satisfaction was highly dependent on each of our personal preferences.
For example, some of our colleagues found it hard to focus at home, thus their workday became longer, making them dissatisfied with the remote work environment. For others, the work-life balance was altered since it was a lot harder to establish a clear beginning and end of the workday in a remote environment. Therefore, some colleagues felt exhausted, not even realizing that they ended up working longer hours at home than they otherwise would have done at the office. Moreover, for some new colleagues, it was more difficult to get to know their co-workers and feel part of the team because they only had access to virtual contact.
My experience as a leader of a continuously expanding team – that now counts over 100 people – has shown that an all-around, deep connection between teammates (that relies on at least some time spent together in-person) creates a greater sense of team spirit and an overall culture that people want to be a part of. In conclusion, the fully remote system did not prove to be the best option for our team.
The hybrid workspace surfaced as the top choice
After trying both scenarios – only in-office work and only remote work – and analyzing the pros and cons of both, it was evident that the hybrid option was the only one that would provide our team members with all the benefits of operating at the highest standard. The flexibility of remote work, coupled with in-office work benefits such as stronger culture building and interpersonal relations between colleagues, allows our team to excel every day.
Making the hybrid model as efficient as possible is a challenge. Out of the three options, it is the most expensive one to implement as it requires a lot of human and financial resources to be sustainable. Maximizing the use of equipment while people are shuffling between office and remote work in real time; establishing a system to keep track of this continuous flow without burdening anyone in the organization – these are just a few of the issues that need to be resolved in order to create a successful hybrid system. Moreover, such a system requires constant evaluation for continuous improvements. For example, we are currently working on implementing a new HRIS (human resources information system) – Bamboo HR – that will provide a higher level of support to the company’s structure and ensure seamless operations on a daily basis.
A glance at our version of the hybrid workspace
As part of our hybrid workspace, a colleague can choose to be predominantly office-based, with a certain number of remote days available; or predominantly remote-based, with the option of occasionally working from the office. This choice is not set in stone. On the contrary, we revise our choices at the end of every calendar year.
Colleagues who choose the first option have a guaranteed spot at one of our offices and a yearly count of remote days at their disposal. The remote days can be used at once or in intervals – there are no limitations or rules regarding the number of consecutive remote days that one can have – as long as this number does not surpass the agreed maximum at the end of the year.
On the other hand, colleagues who prefer working remotely have the option of occasionally working from one of our offices. This possibility is limited only by the number of available desks at the office of choice on a given day. To avoid overbooking, everyone who is predominantly remote-based reserves a table in advance.
What it takes to switch to a hybrid work environment
To sum it all up, in my experience the keys to a successful implementation of a hybrid work environment are:
- Dedicated resources
This is especially important during the initial stages of implementation for those companies that are transitioning from another system. Office space, additional equipment, and financial resources need to be adequately allocated in order to make the system sustainable.
For example: Will the company buy desktop or laptop computers? Is additional software needed for HR or work-related functions? A workflow with colleagues constantly shuffling their work location requires careful planning and a well-established system to ensure sustainability.
Furthermore, dependent on their location of work, people experience all job-related aspects differently, including the work itself, advancement opportunities, as well as team- and culture-building activities.
For example: those who work in-office are more likely to establish a closer bond, while those who do not visit the office frequently might find it hard to foster a sense of belonging. This is why having team members who are dedicated to a number of HR-related tasks is essential to nurturing seamless communication and an equal sense of belonging among different team members working in different locations.
- A sense of trust and established relationships
Having an exclusively in-office system previously, made it easier for us to implement the hybrid system, compared to those organizations that dove into remote work as part of their business model, without previously using the power of in-person interactions to connect with the rest of the team. We knew each other well and had already built strong interpersonal relations based on trust even before trying out the remote work option.
- Results-oriented approach
For companies like ours that are results-oriented – evaluating performance based on task completion and according to the deadline and expected quality – it is much easier to implement the hybrid system.
Although not impossible, it is not easy to successfully implement a hybrid system at a company that primarily focuses on processes, such as when performance evaluation is based on a certain number of hours logged in the system, as opposed to the number and quality of deliverables. Lower flexibility and more control over the workday may require burdensome actions on the part of supervisors to ensure that their subordinates have followed through the process while working from home. This potentially hinders the successful implementation of such a system.
In conclusion, even though there is no such thing as a universally-perfect system, the hybrid work option has proven to be the best option for us so far. As our corporate culture is one of continuous improvement, – as always – we will be on the lookout for potential upgrades that will allow us to continue growing together.