Org Design, Org Strategy

Building an Effective Hybrid Work Model

Expert author: Functionly Staff

Ever reminisce about the days when the only work-from-home days were when you were down with the flu? Or when a 'Zoom meeting' sounded more like a sci-fi concept than a daily routine? Ah, times have changed! With the turn of the decade, the working world took a huge twist, introducing us to the fascinating world of hybrid work models.

What’s a hybrid work model, you ask? Well, imagine having the best of both worlds: the camaraderie and synergy of office spaces combined with the comfort and flexibility of working from your favorite couch spot. Sounds like a dream, right?

In essence, a hybrid model is like a buffet. Some days you get dressed, brave the commute, and enjoy face-to-face meetings. Other days? Pyjama bottoms, slippers, and video calls (with the camera strategically angled to avoid showing your messy room, of course 😉).

Why this sudden love for hybridity in our workplaces? What's the magic behind it? Stick around, and let's unravel this together! 

The Leader's Sandbox: Planning Your Future Team or Organization in Minutes
In this 15-minute session, we'll show you how Carol, our fictitious (but very wise) CEO of a small 20-person startup uses Functionly as her organization sandbox. On the cusp of closing her series A funding, Carol wants to "play around" with what an expanded team might look like: what new roles will she need? How will the compensation budget stack up? How does the team balance out if she moves talent into different roles? What does her VP or Sales think of the structure she's planning? ​ In just minutes, Carol is able to design a potential future scenario from her current org structure — without pulling her hair out from the frustration of using messy spreadsheets and slides. ​ Join to discover how Functionly goes way beyond those simple org chart tools by utilising scenarios, roles and responsibilities, compensation forecasting, real-time collaboration and scenario comparison change plans.

Why the Shift? A Look Back at the New Normal

Do you ever wonder how we got here? One day we're neatly packed in cubicles, and the next, we're juggling between office desks and kitchen tables! Why this monumental shift?

Firstly, can we all just give a nod to that little thing called the pandemic? COVID-19 barged into our lives, pushing businesses to adapt or, well, shut shop. Remote work became not just a fancy option but a necessity. The good old office model? It took a backseat.

Next, the technological leaps we've witnessed are nothing short of magical! Thanks to tools like Slack, Zoom, and Teams, collaborating from miles apart became as easy as pie. Who would've imagined attending an international conference while sipping coffee in your living room a decade ago?

Then there's the undeniable allure of flexibility. Isn’t it fantastic when life isn’t dictated by the 9-to-5 grind? Need to pick up your kids? Want to hit that mid-day yoga class? Or maybe sneak in a quick nap (hey, we’re not judging 😉)? The hybrid model gives us a taste of this sweet freedom.

It’s clear that employees are all for it. Did you know, according to a recent report by PWC, over 70% of workers said they’d prefer a job that offers a mix of remote and in-person work? Yup! That’s how popular this model has become.

Lastly, the gradual change in lifestyle priorities also plays a role. As we evolve, so do our aspirations. Living in congested cities for work opportunities? Nah. A quiet countryside with a stable internet connection will do just fine, thank you!

So, there you have it. A blend of circumstances, opportunities, and personal choices have propelled us into this new era of work. The hybrid model isn’t just a temporary trend; it’s shaping up to be the workstyle of the future. Exciting, isn’t it?

bruno-cervera-azsk_6IMT3I-unsplashPhoto by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

Benefits of Hybrid Models: Why Companies Are Loving It!

Alright, let's get down to business (pun totally intended 😜). We've talked about the 'what' and the 'why' of the shift. Now, let's shine a spotlight on what's in it for companies.

1. Increased Productivity:

Ever heard the saying, “Happy employees are productive employees”? With the hybrid model, it’s not just about the happiness factor. The flexibility means fewer commutes, which translates to more focused work hours. Plus, a familiar and comfortable environment? That’s the secret sauce for peak productivity. Companies have noted a significant uptick in output since the inception of hybrid work. Score!

2. Enhanced Employee Satisfaction:

While this may sound more like an employee benefit, think of it from a retention perspective. The more satisfied your employees, the less likely they are to jump ship. And let's face it, recruitment is expensive! By catering to the varied preferences of your workforce (in-office buzz vs. homey calm), you're essentially saying, "Hey, we value your comfort." And guess what? They’ll value you right back. Win-win!

3. Cost Savings for Businesses:

Ka-ching! That's the sound of companies saving big bucks. How? Reduced overhead costs. Think about it: fewer people in the office mean less electricity, fewer supplies, even smaller rented spaces. Some businesses have even shifted to shared office spaces for the days when employees do come in, leading to significant savings. Dropbox announced in October 2020 that it would become a “virtual first” company, meaning that remote work would be the primary experience for all employees. As a result, the company planned to sublease some of its existing office space and convert the rest into flexible “Dropbox Studios” for occasional collaboration. Money in the bank!

4. Broader Talent Pool:

This one's a game-changer! Gone are the days when hiring was restricted to a specific geographical location. With the hybrid model, companies can tap into talent from anywhere around the globe. Imagine having a team member from Tokyo, another from Toronto, and yet another from Timbuktu! Not only does this lead to a diverse workforce, but it also gives companies a competitive edge in the talent market. Global domination, here we come!

In essence, hybrid work models aren’t just a fleeting fad. They offer tangible benefits that are hard for organizations to overlook. The future of work? It's hybrid, and it's brimming with opportunities.

Challenges of Hybrid Models: The Not-So-Glitzy Side

Just like that delightful chocolate cake with a surprise chili center, the hybrid model comes with its own set of unexpected challenges. And while the perks are definitely something to rave about, companies need to be wary of the pitfalls too. Let’s unravel them, shall we?

1. Communication Gaps: 

You'd think with all our snazzy tech tools, communication would be a breeze. But hold on! With employees scattered everywhere, it's no surprise that messages can sometimes get lost in the digital ether. Misunderstandings? They're more common than you’d think. Without the ease of just swiveling your chair to clarify a doubt, companies face the risk of projects going awry. The takeaway? A solid communication strategy is crucial for the hybrid setup.

2. Difficulty in Fostering Company Culture:

Remember those impromptu coffee breaks? Or team lunches where the best ideas were born? With the hybrid model, creating and maintaining a strong company culture becomes a Herculean task. There's a difference between chatting on Slack and actual face-to-face interactions. Companies are grappling with how to ensure their values, norms, and "vibes" resonate across virtual and physical spaces. It's a challenge, but not insurmountable.

3. Risk of Employee Isolation:

On the surface, this might seem like an employee-centric issue. But consider this: isolated employees are often less engaged, which can have a direct impact on their work output. Plus, the feeling of being 'out of the loop' can lead to decreased motivation. Companies need to be proactive, ensuring that no one feels like they're stranded on a work island. Regular check-ins, virtual team-building exercises, and ensuring inclusivity become paramount.

The hybrid model, while revolutionary and chock-full of benefits, does come with its own set of hurdles. But hey, no challenge is too big for a forward-thinking fast moving resilient company, right? The key lies in recognizing these potential pitfalls early on and strategizing effectively to overcome them.


Interactive chart: Functionly includes a comprehensive accountability library and can be used to easily view who does what in your organization.

Building a Hybrid Work Model: An Org Design perspective

Organizational design, at its essence, is a blueprint for structured efficiency and effectiveness. In a hybrid world, this blueprint becomes even more crucial. Why? Because while the transition from traditional to hybrid workspaces offers unparalleled flexibility, it also introduces a range of complexities. The effectiveness of a hybrid model doesn't just hinge on technology or policies; it leans heavily on the intricate web of how roles, responsibilities, and business units are crafted.

Consider the design of roles. In traditional settings, roles might have been designed around physical proximities or ease of access. The finance team sat next to each other, making collaboration a matter of swiveling chairs. In a hybrid setup, however, such spatial dynamics don't apply. Roles need to be carved out with a more deliberate emphasis on outcomes and outputs. The what of a role becomes more crucial than the where. And these roles need to be adaptable, accommodating the fluidity that hybrid workspaces embrace.

Then there are business units. These strategic groupings of roles must be realigned to the demands of the hybrid world. The interdependencies between units might evolve, and their design needs to anticipate and cater to these changes. Think about it: if your marketing team is majorly remote while sales are predominantly in-office, how does that dynamic reshape collaboration, information flow, or even decision-making processes? The design of these units should facilitate smooth interactions, irrespective of physical location.

Ah, and accountability. Possibly the keystone in this architectural marvel. As boundaries become flexible and roles evolve, the clarity of accountability becomes paramount. Every individual needs to know precisely what they're responsible for. But it doesn’t stop at individual roles. Units as a whole need to have clear accountabilities to ensure that the broader organizational goals are met, even when the office is half-empty (or half-full, for the optimists!).

By understanding and emphasizing these intricacies, companies can craft a hybrid workspace that isn’t just a blend of home and office, but a harmonious ecosystem designed for success.

So, let's take a magnifying glass to the importance of organizational design and explore five strategies that anchor it.

1. Define Clear Accountabilities and Responsibilities:

The core of effective organizational design lies in clear accountabilities. Who’s responsible for what? In a hybrid environment, there’s no room for ambiguity. Design roles with precise responsibilities, ensuring that overlaps are minimized and gaps are filled. Regularly revisit these roles to ensure they evolve with the changing dynamics of hybrid work.

Join Session: Make Amazing Accountability Charts in Minutes
In this 20-minute session, Functionly's Clayton Moulynox will show you how you can create and manage an org wide accountability chart — in just minutes — without pulling your hair out. ​ You'll learn why hundreds of companies, like Netflix, Spotify, Gartner and Honeywell, are using Functionly to empower managers and org leaders to build better organizations.

2. Streamlined Communication Channels:

In a decentralized workspace, communication can become fragmented. Design your organization in a way that fosters seamless communication. This might mean creating central hubs or platforms where information is shared, or even establishing communication protocols that dictate how and when updates are relayed.

3. Build Cross-Functional Collaboration Points: 

One of the risks of a hybrid model is siloed departments. Counter this by designing intentional collaboration points. These might be regular cross-functional meetings, project teams with members from diverse departments, or digital platforms that foster inter-departmental collaboration.

4. Reinforce Organizational Culture through Design:

Your organizational design should be a reflection of your company's culture. Ensure that both in-office and remote structures resonate with the company’s core values and ethos. This could mean designing virtual team-building exercises, or creating digital onboarding processes that instill the company’s culture from day one.

5. Implement Robust Performance Metrics:

In a hybrid setup, performance can’t be measured by time spent in the office. Design performance metrics that focus on output, results, and impact. Establish clear KPIs and ensure they align with the broader organizational goals. This not only ensures accountability but also fosters a results-driven culture.

In essence, creating an effective hybrid work model goes beyond mere flexibility; it demands a well-thought-out organizational design. With clear structures, strategic collaboration points, and culture-centric design, companies can navigate the hybrid world with confidence and clarity.

A Hybrid Work Real World Case Study: Slack

Ever thought about being a software engineer at Slack? Yeah, that super cool communication platform that's practically changed the way we work! Imagine loving your job to bits, but also wanting to jam in your PJs while sipping home-brewed coffee. The thought of commuting every day? No, thank you! But, oh, the joys of brainstorming with the team, sharing a joke by the water cooler... that’s hard to give up, right?

Well, for Slackers (yeah, that's what they call themselves 😎), it's a breeze! Slack’s not just changing the game with its platform; it's also rewriting work rules. Dive into their hybrid work model and bam! – you get the best of both realms. Work from home, leveraging the very tools you help create, or head into their swanky offices whenever you crave face-to-face interactions. It’s all about the freedom to choose your workspace mojo, as long as the job's done and you're vibing with your team's goals.

Slack, my friend, isn’t just walking the talk; they’re sprinting. They’re among the forerunners who’ve seamlessly blended home and office, and guess what? Their productivity? Up! Employee satisfaction? Through the roof!  By harnessing their own tech magic and brewing a unique work culture, they’re pioneering a vision – making work not just simpler, but a whole lot more pleasant and productive.

Nailing the future: It's all in the org design

Alright, let's circle back to where this all began: organizational design. We've journeyed through anecdotes, dived deep into strategies, and even peeked into the transformative world of Slack. But at its heart, what makes a hybrid model truly work is not just flexibility or tech tools. It's the intricate org design blueprint of how roles, responsibilities, and business units intertwine.

Think about it: a house, no matter how fancy its decor or tech-savvy its gadgets, stands tall and proud because of its foundational architecture. Similarly, a hybrid work model, regardless of its modern perks or digital platforms, thrives when its organizational structure is robust and well-defined.

Companies eager to pave the way into this hybrid future need to wear their org design nerd hats with pride. It's about crafting roles that resonate with outcomes, designing business units that pulse with collaborative energy, and weaving an accountability fabric that holds everyone together. It’s this design thinking that ensures hybrid models aren’t just trendy but transformative.

So, as we stand on the cusp of this work revolution, remember: it's not about choosing between home or office. It’s about designing an ecosystem where both can coexist, flourish, and drive success. After all, the future of work isn’t just about where we work, but how we're designed to succeed!


Feature image: Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

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