6 Models for Working Remotely to Consider for Your Organization’s Future
Embracing the Digital Transformation Can Look Different for Every Business
During the early days of the pandemic, organizations were in crisis mode as they shifted to remote work. There was no time to strategically plan the transition to the current work-from-home state. Over two years later, teams are still learning to operate outside of the office.
As organizations look to what’s next for their post-pandemic workforce, it’s time to lay out a strategy for what your remote or hybrid teams could and should resemble.
Models of Remote Work
A successful remote (or hybrid) team doesn’t happen accidentally. Instead, a remote group thrives by intentionally and strategically using workforce modeling. There are many ways an organization can customize a virtual workforce.
Featured here are the six primary remote work models to consider when deciding which workforce type will be most effective for your organization’s digital transformation.
1. Asynchronous Working Remotely
In a fully-remote work model, an organization does not have an office. Staff might occasionally get together for meetups and retreats, but not at any permanent location. Everyone is working remotely.
At an asynchronous, fully-remote organization, employees conceivably can live anywhere in the world; their communication and work is independent of time constraints. Their time zones don’t matter because the organization relies on asynchronous communication to keep work moving forward. Work could theoretically go on around the clock if employees live in multiple time zones around the world.
An asynchronous, fully-remote model gives employees greater flexibility because they can work when and where they choose, from their own remote offices. For organizations with a global membership, this model allows you to provide member or customer services and programs around the clock.
While flexibility and around-the-clock coverage are two primary advantages of this model, policies and protocols need special attention to secure success. Managers need to ensure employees meet expectations, as well as support and protect their time and personal boundaries.
2. Synchronous Working Remotely
In a synchronous, fully-remote organization, employees must operate within core working hours and usually – but not always – live in specific time zones.
The synchronous approach is more practical for timely communication, meeting scheduling, and member service if members live in the same time zones. While asynchronous communication will still be a pillar of collaboration, synchronous companies place a larger emphasis on real-time interaction from the remote office.
A variant of the synchronous option is the co-located remote model. In this model, employees are fully remote, but they must work in the same geographic area (determined by the organization – this could be within one city or as large as a state), so in-person meetings are easier to arrange.
3. Hybrid Work Model – Flexible
Of the two hybrid work models, flexible is more common. Everyone (or almost everyone) in the organization works remotely a few days a week and a few in-office as directed by management. This could mean employees filter through the office in coordination with their teams or project groups, or the cycle of office time could be individual to each employee.
Some flexible hybrid organizations use the hoteling approach to their office space. Employees (or their managers) choose when they will work in the office, and, in some cases, can reserve a workspace for those days or weeks.
Because every employee is trained and comfortable with remote work, this hybrid work model prepares employees for a possible or even eventual fully remote office future. This model also reduces operational costs related to the office. However, the budget still needs to be allocated for home office expenses.
4. Hybrid Work Model – Fixed
In the fixed hybrid work model, some employees work in the office almost all of the time, and some work remotely nearly all of the time. Each group typically has a permanent location – either remote or in-office/onsite. Management may mandate where employees work or grant them freedom to choose their desired workplace. Companies may choose to set boundaries around the extent of geographical spread or time zones in which their employees operate.
Thanks to the smaller office footprint required, the hybrid work option reduces operational costs. However, you still must budget for home office equipment allowances and travel expenses for staff who come into the office for occasional meetings.
A big advantage of the hybrid work model is the ability to recruit talent outside of your area, which is especially helpful in competitive markets where specialized skills are in high demand. If your organization is considering a transition to fully remote work, but is hesitant about taking such a drastic step, the hybrid work model gives you an opportunity to experience a new way of working without going all in on.
However, the most significant risk of this model rests with managers. Managers must be trained and prepared for managing a hybrid team because a cultural divide can quickly grow between employees working remotely and those working in the office.
- Remote employees may feel isolated and out-of-the-loop because they find it challenging to build rapport and camaraderie with coworkers. They may not have the same access to people and information as their in-person colleagues. Managers must be extremely intentional to ensure they don’t fall victim to the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome, which overlooks opportunities for their remote employees’ growth, assignments, transfers, and promotions – just as they do for employees within close proximity.
- Office-based employees may envy the real or perceived schedule flexibility of their remote teammates, work/life balance, and lack of commute. If the comparison game begins, employees in the office may become resentful or expect more from those working remotely.
5. Remote-First Work
In a hybrid, remote-first workplace, the majority of employees work remotely – that’s the norm. Only a few employees work in the office, for example, those who need daily access to special equipment or meeting rooms due to the nature of their jobs.
In a partial remote, remote-first environment, employees spend the majority of their time working remotely, while coming in for occasional meetings and other operational needs, with no set weekly schedule or amount of in-office time required. This is slightly different from partially remote work, wherein team members are expected to work from the office on certain days of the week, and/or for a certain amount of time each week.
6. Office-First Work
In an office-first workplace, most employees work from the office. Employers expect employees to spend most of their time on-site. However, they may be allowed to work remotely part of the time. This model is known by many names:
- Remote as an option
- Occasional work-from-home
- Office-based with remote flexibility
Usually, in an office-first workplace, a specific amount of time is allocated for working remotely, perhaps one day a week or 16 to 24 hours per month. This model’s flexibility can be useful for reducing the need to use vacation or sick time when personal issues arise at home.
Another office-first option specifies one or more days a month when everyone works remotely.
Remote work might also be allowed on a case-by-case basis. For example, even though working in the office is the norm, some employees were hired with the understanding that they could work remotely. The takeaway is that the vast majority of time, employees are working onsite (as compared to hybrid where it may be more even or leaning toward remote).
Note that this type of arrangement, specifically where remote eligibility is decided on a case-by-case basis, can cause equity issues or resentment among staff. Carefully consider objective criteria when giving employees this option. If you are unsure how to do this, we can help.
Organizations using this model likely never intend to convert to a remote office, but are providing this flexibility as a perk for employees. An office-first model offers the flexibility employees want to take care of personal issues and reduce their commuting burdens.
Get Expert Guidance in Your Organization’s Workforce Transformation
Several nuances and factors go into choosing the right workforce model for your unique company. If you are debating the future of remote work and are unsure what model is best for your organization, contact us.
Achurch Consulting can help you walk through different scenarios, consider policy and cost impacts, and develop a plan for your future of work.