5 ways to make hybrid work, well… work!

I’m an optimistic guy – and I love to see the glass half full. The potential end to this pandemic is in sight, and the new roaring 20s can finally begin.

We know this decade will represent an era of change, with 2021 marking the beginning of what many are calling the post-COVID world. As things begin to reopen, companies worldwide are asking themselves one simple question—what will “work” be like? Some companies, like Twitter and Spotify, are talking about going fully remote and implementing a “work from anywhere” policy forever. Others, like Netflix and Goldman Sachs, are going back to the office on a more regular basis.

In my opinion, neither approach is right for TravelPerk. We aren’t going fully remote. But we aren’t going back to the office full-time either. We’re going hybrid. And I don’t mean in a Prius.

How and why TravelPerk is going hybrid

We’re going part in-person and part remote. We’re calling it ‘FlexibleWorkPerk’, and we’re giving all employees the opportunity to work from home and come to the office a few days a week.

Why did we do this? We asked our team what they wanted, and they answered in kind. We carried out a survey and found that 58% would be most productive combining work from home and office work, and 63% would be happiest that way. So, that’s exactly what we gave them. As soon as it’s safe to do so, all teams will be coming to the office 2-3 days a week. They’ll work from home the rest of the time if they want to. And of course, they can come to the office as often as they like. You can learn more about that decision by reading my email to the whole team here.

If you think about why our team, for example, feels the most productive combining both options, you come to the bottom line of why hybrid is the right choice. It’s because, in an era of distributed teams, meeting face to face is more important to company culture than ever before. Think about your own life — most (if not all) of the major milestones you experienced happened face-to-face. It’s the same with work. But, there is one thing that modern businesses need to understand.

Not every meeting matters. But for the ones that do, you can’t beat meeting in person.

The meetings that matter happen in person

So, how can you make sure that you strike the right balance between working remotely and bringing people together for the meetings that matter? Here are 5 things you can try:

  1. Empower your teams to identify the meetings that matter: Have you seen that Instagram account “Dude with sign”? One of his most viral posts is of him holding up a sign saying “that meeting could have been an email”. Don’t be that company or that manager. There’s nothing more irritating than time lost due to bad planning or coordination. Empower your people to identify which meetings are important and will add value to their working day, and which ones won’t. Things like creative brainstorms, team buildings, 1:1s, or strategy sessions would definitely be valuable meetings to have in person. Quick tactical calls, however, can happen via Zoom.
  2. Help your teams to meet in person: After so long apart, we found that teammates were looking forward to coming back together. In fact, occupancy of our office space grew to the point that we needed to rent more room just to make sure everyone had a seat. We also assigned specific working days to each team where they would be guaranteed a space to work together. To make the hybrid model work well, companies need to facilitate these in-person meetings so that teams can enjoy and use them to the fullest.
  3. Find ways to bring the whole company together: Once it’s safe to do so, bring the entire company together. This builds your culture, motivates your people, gives them energy and pride in what they’re doing, and fosters an incredible sense of belonging. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve continued to do this to the best of our abilities while keeping everyone safe. We introduced hybrid events whereby whoever wanted to stay home for whatever reason could still connect and enjoy the festivities. We’re also bringing back in-person events, and provide free antigen tests for everyone to make sure they’re COVID-free before attending.
  4. Give remote team members the tools to do their best work: The transition between in-person and online needs to be as seamless as possible. That comes from a number of factors. First, you need to give team members high-quality equipment for their home office. Second, move things to the cloud so that they can access everything they need anywhere, anytime. Third, invest some time and money in meeting rooms with great video-conferencing equipment so that those at home and those in the office can still work together. Don’t underestimate the value of good tech.
  5. Safety comes first: This goes without saying. Whatever model of work you’ve opted for, always keep your employee’s health and safety as your #1 priority. Include wellness benefits in their compensation package, implement a fair time-off policy, make sure they feel that it’s OK to stay home when they’re sick… Basically, be both human and humane. And of course, in times of COVID-19, stock your office up with hand sanitizer. Introduce a mask-wearing policy when employees are moving around or meeting in groups. Disinfect everything.

Final thoughts

We’re doing everything we can at TravelPerk to bring our teams back together in-person, safely. Our teams spoke and we listened – they wanted to come back to the office, but not every day. That’s why we implemented a hybrid working model that makes our employees happy and productive! It was definitely the right choice for TravelPerk and I’d wager it will be the choice for many other businesses. For those companies I strongly advise as a first step, to talk to your team and make sure you involve them in the decision-making process, and make that feedback the basis of your hybrid work strategy.