For many employees, hybrid work is here to stay. It grants the kind of flexibility people experienced working remotely during the pandemic, while also letting folks feel connected to their co-workers and experience the sense of belonging that comes from sharing physical office space.

But while hybrid work promises a seemingly infinite range of ways to work, there is also a seemingly infinite number of ways for leaders to get it wrong. Careful planning and execution are essential.

“A big mistake is jumping into this form of working without taking the time to critically think it through,” says Roberta Sawatzky, a consultant and business professor at Okanagan School of Business in Canada. “Hybrid is not about doing things the way you’ve always done them, only with some people physically present and others remote. Embracing hybrid calls for a total rethink about not only what you are doing and how you are doing it, but why you’re doing it.”

To aid employers in defining, refining and sharing information on their approach to hybrid work — a phenomenon that has taken off globally — we gathered advice and insights from a range of experts to help everyone at your company thrive.

Involve the whole team

“The amount of innovation and ‘out of the box’ thinking that can be realized by co-creating, rather than deciding and dictating, is amazing,” Sawatzky says. “Employees will also have much greater buy-in when they have been invited into the discussion.”

Before embarking on its hybrid journey, the software company HubSpot gathered input about workplace issues from its nearly 6,000 employees. The workers were surveyed not just about their preferences when it came to working in the office or at home, but about a range of issues, including company culture, communication tools, burnout and mental health.

The results showed, for example, that 40 percent of workers had missed spontaneous, in-person connections with their colleagues while working remotely, and that 30 percent of workers wanted the company to invest in engagement and team-building in order to foster a strong culture.

Surveying employees on a wide range of issues drew leaders’ attention to new priorities and potential pain points — all useful insights for defining, fine-tuning and managing a hybrid arrangement where employees feel seen and supported.

Practice location-agnostic recruitment

Beginning in earnest in 2021, HubSpot has intentionally created and advertised positions that are “location-agnostic” — that is, jobs that can be done remotely, on-site or with some mix of the two.

Location-agnostic recruitment, says Meaghan Williams, the company’s manager of hybrid enablement, allows the company to tap into a broader talent pool. “If your hybrid policy allows folks to work from an office if they want, or work completely remote if they prefer, you’re removing the barrier to entry for so many potential candidates,” she says. “You’re opening the door for those who don’t live in big cities, those who don’t have the time to commute, those who need flexibility in their day to be a parent or caregiver. You can hire the best possible candidate, no matter where they live.”

HubSpot uses its job listings to direct interested job seekers to its website, where they can find out more about the specifics of the company’s hybrid policies. 

In a similar way, job listings for the tech company Intel specifically mention the hybrid nature of the role where applicable. (Example: “This role will be eligible for our hybrid work model, which allows employees to split their time between working on-site at their assigned Intel site and off-site.”) “We believe in transparency,” says Cindi Harper, vice president of talent planning and acquisition at Intel, “and that candidates should have a clear understanding of a role’s expectations before applying.”

Instill a sense of common purpose

When employees are working in a hybrid model, a strong sense of common purpose is key, says Manabu Morikawa, head of the CHRO office at Fujitsu, the computer hardware and IT services company. 

“Individual employees want to clarify their connection to their company,” Morikawa says. “With hybrid, it’s increasingly important for leaders to share the company’s philosophy and purpose with its employees.” At Fujitsu, Morikawa explains, leaders hold regular town hall meetings to communicate the company’s values, short-term objectives and long-term mission.

Evaluate on output, not on visibility

One of the risks of a hybrid model is proximity bias: On-site employees get preferential treatment over remote workers who are out of sight. “We do not want to go back to the presenteeism of the past, in which evaluation was based on physical attendance in the office,” Morikawa says.

All workers — remote or on-site — should be evaluated on the quality of their work. “In an environment where employees can autonomously choose when and where to work, we need to shift more and more to evaluating performance focused on output,” Morikawa says.

This principle applies to career growth opportunities too, says HubSpot’s Williams: “Every employee should have the same opportunities to grow, both personally and professionally, whether they work from an office or a home office.” Managers need to understand the importance of treating remote and on-site teams equitably, Williams says. “We’ve invested more time and energy in ensuring managers have the resources they need to get internal communications right, to make sure employees feel engaged and supported, no matter where they are located.”

There are other ways to avoid alienating remote, and therefore less visible, workers. Something as seemingly simple as the way a meeting is conducted can either encourage feelings of inclusion and belonging among workers or cause alienation.

At HubSpot, for example, part of the job of the video meeting facilitator is to ensure that remote team members are included equally in conversations. 

At productivity start-up Coda, team members have an easy way of leveling the playing field between on-site and remote workers: “Hybrid doesn’t work when 20 people are in a room and one person is on Zoom,” says Lane Shackleton, head of product and design at Coda. “It’s easy for a few more people to jump on Zoom from their desks so that the meeting feels more balanced. Teams do need to be intentional about this, especially in key decision-making meetings.”

Let different kinds of work happen in different places

Hybrid models combine the human elements of in-person collaboration with the latest tech tools to connect people from afar. It’s a powerful combination that’s inspiring new thinking about focus, teamwork and creativity. 

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, a University of Oxford professor and director of the Wellbeing Research Centre, says different settings lend themselves to different kinds of work. There needs to be a distinction, he says, between collaborative tasks like creative brainstorming that are more suited for the office, and individual and asynchronous tasks, which are more suited for working from home, like answering emails and writing reports.

The crucial part, De Neve says, is a rigorous initial analysis, where the whole team is involved in deciding which tasks belong in which categories. For example, is gathering feedback on a proposal best done spontaneously in the office, or asynchronously, giving employees more time to gather their thoughts? “To get hybrid right, the whole team needs to identify the tasks which they can do better together, and which are the tasks that are better done as individuals.

“We’re moving to a hybrid world — I think that’s a given at this point,” De Neve adds. “If we get hybrid right, there will be gains in both wellbeing and performance. But we need to approach hybrid in a way that is intentional, coordinated and smart.”