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How to Make Your Hybrid Workplace More Efficient in 2024

With fewer days at the office, founders are getting creative about enabling their teams' productivity and connection.

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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When it comes to workplaces, the new normal is hybrid.

In the U.S., 62 percent of companies now allow some degree of remote work, up from 51 percent at the start of the year, according to recent data from the hybrid work software company Scoop Technologies.

On average, companies require two to three days of in-person work per week, which workers seem to prefer. Research from Harvard Business School found that employees who spent two days a week at the office reported "greater work-life balance, more job satisfaction, and lower isolation from colleagues."

Shifting to a hybrid work routine that works for everyone might require reorganizing how and when to assign certain tasks, schedule meetings, and bring coworkers together, however. "It's really important for organizations to not focus on how many days a week they're in the office, but what types of activities you should do when you go to the office," says Naomi Titleman Colla, founder of Toronto-based talent consulting company Collaborativity. "What you do with that time is what's most important."

Here's how to make your hyrbird workplace more efficient in 2024.

Optimize for remote work and in-office work

In-person workdays should be grounded in social interaction, deep collaboration, and relationship building, experts say. That means using the time you are all in the same room to work on things like onboarding new employees, mentoring less experienced workers, brainstorming new projects, and professional development training. "That's the stuff that makes people feel like their office trip was worth the commute," says Sadow. 

At-home work days should be reserved for "heads-down" work such as reading, writing, research, and analysis, which people often prefer to do in quiet environments with minimal disruptions, according to Collaborativity's Colla. Workers will have the most success performing these tasks from home when their company doesn't equate showing up to an office with doing work, Colla says.

Cut down on virtual meetings

Hybrid companies need to be wary of an organizational pitfall: overcompensating. In an effort to recreate the water cooler effect during work-from-home days, companies have fallen into the trap of over-scheduling employees into far too many virtual meetings. 

"Hybrid organizations are really struggling with meeting overload," says Sadow. "People have 30-minute Zooms back to back all day every day."

To combat meeting creep, companies can trim down the number of recurring meetings, empower employees to decline invites to certain meetings and set boundaries for when meetings can be held. At Scoop, Sadow implemented a no-meeting Wednesday rule and found that carving out time in the middle of the week was an effective way for people to knock out their priorities, which were set on Monday and Tuesday. 

For the meetings that can't be an email, Titleman Colla suggests considering which communication mode matches the agenda. Hybrid meetings, split over multiple video feeds and conference rooms, tend to be the most difficult to manage because of technological glitches and people struggling to know when to weigh in without speaking over someone else, so Titleman Colla advises avoiding them if possible. Virtual meetings are more productive for one-way communication like a presentation, whereas in-person gatherings offer more ability to collaborate and facilitate two-way engagement. And if you're bringing everyone into the office for a meeting, ensure that engagement constitutes more than a question-and-answer session. That time together should be used to get to know one another.

"There should be a point in the agenda that allows for relationship building," says Titleman Colla. "It may feel unproductive, but it's actually exactly what needs to be done when you're together in person."

Budget for fun

One of the ways to make the most of your time with employees in the workplace is to organize regular events together outside of the workplace. For most teams, budgeting for fun every 90 days, or once a quarter, is the happy medium.

"Just getting to know each other as human beings--that's the currency that you have to solve for that you don't get the same way if you're not in the office five days a week," says Sadow. 

Boompop founder and CEO Healey Cypher built his San Francisco-based online marketplace for corporate offsites and retreats on this concept. Cypher says demand for corporate events has remained strong despite a number of macroeconomic headwinds facing entrepreneurs over this past year, like layoffs and spending cuts. For Boompop's clients, these outings have trended towards two areas: interactive group activities, like a session with an improv comedian, or outdoor activities. "If drinking is a cornerstone of your event, you're being lazy," he says.

Whether your team decides to practice their standup skills or hike a mountain, the point is creating a shared experience that gets coworkers out of their comfort zone and usual groups. "We spend a third of our lives at work," says Cypher. "You're investing a big part of your existence with these people. You may as well enjoy it and have fun."

Photo Credit: Getty Images.

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