Hybrid Work Policies: A Beginner's Guide for Businesses

Hybrid Work Policies: A Beginner's Guide for Businesses

While the global workforce was increasingly shifting toward remote work before 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to quickly adapt to remote work environments. While some companies continue to support entirely remote workforces, others now require team members to work in the office either full-time or on a hybrid basis.

With a hybrid workplace model, determining who is required to work in the office and when, along with other considerations, can be complicated. Because of this, developing and implementing a hybrid work policy can help ensure a smooth process for both team members and the business as a whole.

If you’re in the process of developing or updating your organization’s hybrid workforce policy, consider engaging an independent workforce management specialist on Upwork. A workforce management professional can share their best practices and expertise to help you develop a hybrid workplace policy that delivers maximum value for your business.

But if you want to learn more about how to develop a policy on your own, and the value a workforce management specialist can bring, read on.

Table of contents:

What is a hybrid work policy?

A hybrid work policy is a formal document that defines guidelines, processes, and expectations related to how, when, and where team members in specific roles or filling certain functions work. An effective policy clarifies information about how often and which days team members will be required in the office and working hours, among other details.

Key components of a hybrid work policy include:

  • Remote work options and requirements
  • In-office expectations
  • The policy’s effective date
  • Working hours
  • Opportunities for flexible work arrangements and accommodations
  • Collaboration and communication best practices, processes, and tools
  • Technology, equipment, and office access guidelines and resources
  • Workplace safety procedures  
  • Security and compliance regulations
  • Contact details for follow-up questions related to the policy

Importance and benefits of hybrid work policies

Many companies embrace hybrid work models to continue offering workers the flexibility and autonomy of remote work, while also improving in-person teamwork and collaboration. However, in the absence of a well-defined policy, hybrid work expectations and requirements may be unclear to workers, which can disrupt employee engagement, retention, and productivity. According to a survey of 7,300 professionals conducted by Fishbowl, about half of respondents didn’t understand their employer’s hybrid work policy.

Here are some of the benefits of a documented hybrid work policy:

  • Increased clarity and transparency about the requirements and expectations of hybrid work
  • Decreased misconceptions and misunderstanding about work schedules and protocols
  • Minimized bias by defining standardized hybrid work requirements across departments and teams
  • Enhanced worker motivation and engagement by outlining the reasoning behind hybrid work arrangements, such as opportunities for team collaboration
  • Improved legal compliance and risk mitigation by ensuring the policy complies with labor laws, regulations, and employment standards  

Key considerations before developing your policy

Before developing a formal hybrid work policy, address key questions to ensure your policy is clear, concise, and meets the needs of both the business and workers.

Consider the following questions before creating your policy:

  • How many team members live within a reasonable distance to commute to the office?
  • Would any workers need to relocate to meet the hybrid work policy requirements?
  • Can certain roles remain fully remote if necessary?
  • Which work tasks or responsibilities require face-to-face collaboration or office resources?
  • How will your management team determine when certain workers are expected in the office versus others?
  • Will team members be assigned workspaces in the office or use desks on a first-come, first-serve basis?
  • Will you offer any flexibility for workers to choose which days they’ll work in person?
  • How will you communicate the hybrid arrangement across the organization and answer any related questions?
  • What process will you implement to track and hold team members accountable for adhering to the policy?
  • Do you have a succession plan in place to help backfill positions if team members choose to leave the organization for a fully remote role elsewhere?
  • How will your organization support effective communication among onsite and remote employees?
  • What tools and technology will be provided to support collaboration between in-office and virtual workers?
  • Who will be responsible for ensuring onsite workers have access to the office and any necessary resources?
  • What are the legal implications and compliance requirements of hybrid work?
  • How will you measure the success and impact of your hybrid workplace policy?  

How to create a hybrid work policy

Creating and implementing an effective hybrid work policy is a collaborative effort that involves input from teams across the organization, including leadership, human resources, legal, finance, and information technology.

Include the following steps as you create your policy:

  1. Assess work roles and responsibilities
  2. Develop clear communication guidelines
  3. Implement technology and security measures
  4. Establish performance and productivity benchmarks
  5. Address health and safety concerns
  6. Leave room for flexibility

1. Assess work roles and responsibilities

Individuals in some roles or with certain job duties may benefit from more in-office time than others. For example, roles such as creative directors, project managers, and sales managers often brainstorm and collaborate closely with team members and would have more opportunities to do so in the office. On the other hand, positions such as web developers, researchers, and data analysts may require more heads-down, focused time away from office distractions.

Review your organizational chart to determine how you may balance when certain workers will come into the office. Individuals in highly collaborative roles may work in the office three or four days a week, while those in more independent roles may come in twice a week or have more flexibility to continue working remotely.

As part of this process, keep your office capacity in mind to ensure workspace is available for all workers on any given day. Also, try scheduling entire teams for the same in-office days, so individuals can fully benefit from in-person work rather than needing to video conference with some team members while they’re in the office.

When assessing the best-fit work arrangement for roles and responsibilities, also consider opportunities to embrace a hybrid workforce model. While a hybrid workplace model refers to workers dividing their time between the office and a remote setting, a hybrid workforce model means a company’s workforce includes both in-house team members and independent professionals. Engaging independent talent can help your team access expert remote workers for projects that require specialized skills and experience.

2. Develop clear communication guidelines

Communication plays a critical role in building trusting relationships, facilitating collaboration, and achieving business outcomes. However, navigating communication between in-office and remote workers, across time zones and around team members’ availability, can be tricky.

The following communication best practices can help support effective communication in a hybrid work setting:

  • Leveraging communication and collaboration tools, such as email, messaging apps, project management software, video conferencing solutions, and shared documents
  • Defining guidelines and expectations for when each communication channel should be used (for comments in project management software for quick updates and team meetings for brainstorming and more in-depth conversations)
  • Training new team members on collaboration tools and communication expectations during onboarding
  • Recommending asynchronous communication to simplify correspondence between in-office and remote workers, as well as across time zones
  • Hosting a recurring team check-in with a set agenda
  • Planning virtual team building activities to develop camaraderie among team members
  • Scheduling one-on-one meetings with direct reports to discuss progress toward goals, share feedback, and answer questions
  • Distributing surveys to collect feedback on how to improve communication across the organizations

3. Implement technology and security measures

Managing security and technology in a hybrid workplace can be challenging and, without effective measures in place, can pose significant security risks to the business. According to data from Lookout, 32% of remote and hybrid workers surveyed use apps or software not approved by IT and 92% perform work tasks on their personal tablet or smartphone devices.

Hybrid work policy considerations from a technology and security standpoint include:

  • Providing workers with necessary equipment for remote work or offering reimbursement stipends for required technology
  • Ensuring workers have secure remote access to company resources
  • Offering remote and in-office information technology support
  • Maintaining a list of apps and software solutions approved by the IT department
  • Outlining security guidelines and requirements for workers who access company information on personal devices
  • Requiring all workers to install and regularly update antivirus and related cybersecurity software
  • Administering security and compliance training to all team members
  • Equipping the office with necessary technology resources, such as high-speed secure internet and extra computers, monitors, keyboards, and other equipment for workers who cannot bring them from home
  • Providing in-person workers with key cards, lock passcodes, and other necessary clearance to access the office
  • Having a process in place to terminate access to company systems and equipment when team members leave the organization

4. Establish performance and productivity benchmarks

Performance metrics and productivity benchmarks will vary depending on each individual’s role and goals. Implementing a formal process to write employee evaluations and conduct performance reviews can help keep the process organized and ensure all team members are evaluated on the same scale.

Here are some steps your organization can take to set performance benchmarks and measure team member success:

  • Establish a standardized employee performance review template
  • Align individual performance goals with overall team and business objectives
  • Identify goals that are SMART—specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound—for each team member and track progress during recurring check-ins and performance discussions
  • Use clear and objective language when sharing performance feedback
  • Allow time for individuals to share feedback and questions
  • Identify insights or trends across all team members to improve overall performance and productivity

While many aspects of performance management remain the same whether you have a remote, hybrid, or in-person workplace model, you can also adapt certain parts of the process as part of your hybrid policy.

For example, to the degree possible, encourage managers to schedule performance management discussions for in-office days. Also consider including feedback or specific metrics related to how team members handle communication or meet deadlines and goals when they’re in-person versus remote.

5. Address health and safety concerns

Whether team members work in the office or remotely, their health and safety should be a top priority. Your organization can enable this by maintaining a comfortable, safe office environment and offering workers resources to support their health and productivity at home.

Some ways to address health and safety concerns include:

  • Conducting team member training about office safety protocols
  • Securing office entries and exits
  • Regularly cleaning and sanitizing workspaces
  • Offering ergonomic office furniture and stipends for at-home office equipment
  • Encouraging workers to stay home or take time off if they’re sick
  • Supporting a healthy work-life balance
  • Checking in with team members regularly about their workloads
  • Offering workers access to mental health and well-being resources

6. Leave room for flexibility

After spending time as a remote worker, many individuals don’t want to return to the office and one of the top reasons for this is that requiring in-office work minimizes the flexibility and autonomy of fully remote work. In fact, a survey of 1,000 workers conducted by Clarify Capital found that 68% of respondents would rather look for a new job than return to the office, while 34% say they would need flexible working hours to be willing to return to the office.

Here are some best practices to support flexibility in your remote work policy:

  • Giving workers the option to choose at least one day of the week they work in the office
  • Enabling team members to shift their hybrid work schedule if they have a doctor’s appointment or other personal priority on an in-office day
  • Setting standard in-office hours as 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and allowing workers to adjust if necessary
  • Scheduling meetings at times when most or all team members are in the office or available online
  • Recording meetings and sharing recordings as-needed with individuals unable to attend  
  • Allowing workers to occasionally work remotely on scheduled in-office days if they need to complete independent, focused work without office distractions
  • Adding benefits or perks, such as commuter or child care reimbursements, to ease the transition from remote to hybrid work
  • Supporting a gradual transition period for team members returning from parental leave, such as allowing full-time remote work for the first few months before returning to hybrid work
  • Offering a flexible holiday schedule, so individual team members can take days off or work remotely on holidays most meaningful to them

Potential mistakes to avoid

While a hybrid work policy can be updated over time, aligning with stakeholders across the company on a clear, concise document is essential before communicating the policy to the broader workforce. This approach can help ensure you avoid miscommunication, confusion, or disengagement among team members.

As you develop your hybrid work policy, avoid common mistakes to support the successful implementation of the policy.

1. Lacking clarity and specifics

Vague language can lead to worker confusion and frustrations. Ensure all details in your hybrid work policy are as clear as possible. For example, instead of broadly stating, “The company is transitioning from a remote to hybrid work arrangement,” consider wording like, “The company is transitioning from a remote to hybrid work arrangement on April 1. Team members can continue to work remotely for three days each week and will be required to work in the office two days a week.”

Also include details about whether workers can choose which days to come into the office or if the schedule will be determined based on individual teams, departments, or managers.

2. Showing favoritism toward certain workers or roles

Your hybrid work policy should be fair to all team members and avoid showing favoritism toward individuals or departments. Successfully implementing a hybrid work policy requires adoption and support starting at the leadership and management level. Set expectations and hold leaders accountable for coming into the office on their team’s assigned days. This will in turn set an example for team members to adhere to the policy.

While flexibility is important, avoid getting too lax with the hybrid work policy. When a manager or other team member wants to swap in-office work for remote work days, confirm they have a legitimate reason for doing so.  

3. Not providing clear reasons to work in person

A common reason workers don’t want to return to the office is that they don’t see the reason or benefit behind doing so. Instead, many believe they’re required to return to the office so employers can monitor them or because leaders don’t believe they’re productive at home.

To help workers better understand why they’re required to work in person, explain your rationale. Leverage data to show how in-person collaboration improves engagement and business outcomes. Also plan to intentionally schedule team brainstorms, strategy sessions, and other collaborative meetings on days when team members are in the office, which can show workers the firsthand benefits of hybrid work.  

4. Overlooking critical components

A comprehensive hybrid work policy should include all key components, from requirements and expectations to technology guidelines and security and compliance regulations. If any critical elements are left out, this will only lead to additional questions from team members and may pose a risk for potential legal and compliance issues.

Before finalizing your hybrid work policy, circulate the document to key stakeholders across your human resources, leadership, legal, and finance teams for feedback and to flag any components that should be added.

Regularly review and revise your policy

As business needs and worker expectations continue to evolve, regularly reviewing and updating your hybrid workforce policy is important to long-term success and collaboration across the organization.

Some ways you may consider revising your policy include:

  • Soliciting team member feedback and updating your policy based on specific trends across the workforce
  • Clarifying points in the policy that come across as unclear or raise questions from team members
  • Offering fully remote roles on a case-by-base basis, such as when the local market near your workplace is highly competitive for a critical role
  • Increasing remote work and flexible work options for positions that require more independent, focused work, rather than collaboration
  • Adapting your hybrid requirements as your organization evolves, such as fewer days in the office for certain teams or expanding your office space to accommodate increased headcount
  • Rethinking performance metrics and productivity benchmarks used to determine the success of your hybrid work arrangements
  • Implementing new technology solutions and other resources to drive efficiencies across your hybrid team
  • Monitoring the latest legal, regulatory, and employment standard requirements and addressing updates in your policy

Access flexible talent on Upwork

Whether your organization is implementing a hybrid work policy for the first time or refreshing one you already have in place, the process gives you an opportunity to take an in-depth look at your existing workforce, as well as identify potential skills gaps.

Experienced professionals are available on Upwork to help you fill critical skills gaps and drive positive business outcomes, while reducing operational costs. Through Talent Marketplace™, access talent with more than 10,000 skills across a wide range of specialties, including artificial intelligence (AI), design, finance, marketing, and more.

This article is intended for educational purposes and should not be viewed as legal or tax advice. Please consult a professional to find the solution that best fits your situation.

Upwork does not control, operate, or sponsor the other tools or services discussed in this article, which are only provided as potential options. Each reader and company should take the time to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situation.

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Author Spotlight

Hybrid Work Policies: A Beginner's Guide for Businesses
Beth Kempton
Content Writer

Beth Kempton is a B2B writer with a passion for storytelling and more than a decade of content marketing experience. She specializes in writing engaging long-form content, including blog posts, thought leadership pieces, SEO articles, case studies, ebooks and guides, for HR technology and B2B SaaS companies. In her free time, you can find Beth reading or running.

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