The working world is changing: More and more people no longer work in the office, and even after the pandemic there will be no complete return to the old model. At the same time, the demands on teams are becoming more diverse and changing faster and faster. The answer to these challenges is a so-called hybrid workforce, consisting of permanent and freelance employees working together from different locations.
Hybrid Workforce: What Does it Mean?
Hybrid workforce is a ubiquitous term when it comes to the future of work. But what does it mean exactly? The word "hybrid" has two dimensions here.
On the one hand, there’s the spatial aspect. Teams are no longer gathered in one place, but work in a distributed manner - from home, in a coworking space, or even from abroad. The office will still exist in many companies, but its use will change. It will become more of a flexible space for personal contact and creative meetings and will no longer be the place where employees spend all their working hours.
On the other hand, the structure of teams is also hybrid, and the percentage of freelancers is growing. Back in 2018, a study by SAP Fieldglass showed that external resources (freelancers or other service providers) already accounted for 44 percent of workforce spend. Due to the uncertain circumstances during the pandemic and the desire for flexibility, this share has probably increased further in the meantime. The hybrid workforce thus consists of both permanent employees and freelancers who reinforce teams on a project-by-project basis.
The Advantages of Hybrid Teams
Companies can benefit from the Hybrid Workforce concept on many levels. They save costs, achieve better results and increase happiness. Here are just a few benefits of hybrid teams:
- Specific skill sets: Each employee has an individual skill set. However, it’s easily possible that a specific project requires a completely different combination of skills. The hybrid team can quickly be supported by precisely those freelancers who have the required skills.
- External perspectives: It is particularly important for freelancers to keep their skills up to date. They also work with different clients on a variety of projects. Their experience can provide a valuable stimulus and open up new perspectives for the team.
- More flexibility: With a hybrid team, companies remain flexible and keep a lean cost structure. At the end of the project, the freelancer contract ends and workforce spend goes down without the need to lay off employees.
- Greater employee satisfaction: Although working from home can present some challenges, it’s attractive to most employees. They enjoy a more flexible daily routine and less time wasted commuting to work. A hybrid team is therefore often a happier team.
- Lower office costs: Office space accounts for a considerable portion of companies' fixed costs, which can be significantly reduced with the hybrid workforce. Those who no longer need to accommodate their entire workforce can downsize their space or even move to a coworking space.
Hybrid Leadership: The Right Mindset and Skill Set
Managing hybrid teams often requires a change in mindset. Trust and empowerment play a central role here: Managers must trust their employees who work from home at least as much as they did before in the office - and communicate this to them. When employees feel this, the independence they gain can be a real productivity booster. And team leaders should also give freelancers the benefit of the doubt so that they feel like an equal part of the team right from the start.
The unifying element for the hybrid workforce is the corporate values and culture. They strengthen the sense of community, motivation and identification with the company. This also applies to freelancers. A true hybrid leader communicates the values continuously and lives them every day.
A productive working atmosphere and effective communication are essential for good collaboration. The team leader should create the right conditions for this - regardless of where the employees are working. This includes suitable office equipment on site and for remote workers as well as efficient and clear communication channels between all team members.
The issue of further development is particularly important for permanent employees. However, this can fall short while working from home if there are fewer opportunities for personal exchange. Team leads can schedule regular conversations with team members to see their wants and needs. And perhaps working with freelancers offers opportunities for knowledge exchange in an internal training format?
Implementing a Hybrid Workforce in Three Steps
Establishing and living hybrid work is an ongoing process - which is precisely what the future of work, with its continuous change, is all about. Nevertheless, three essential elements can be defined for companies to implement the Hybrid Workforce concept:
- Develop the right mindset: At the beginning there are many questions: How do we want to work together, what are our values, and what is our culture? The company should establish a mindset characterized by flexibility and trust as a basis.
- Put hybrid teams together properly: Both the permanent employees and the freelancers should fit the company and have an appetite for hybrid working. Skills and values therefore play a particularly important role in recruiting. Reliable freelancers with precisely fitting skill sets can be found, for example, via platforms such as 9am.
- Find the best office concept: Who works from where and when, and what do we use the office for? These questions form the basis for hybrid working, which is not born out of necessity, but combines flexibility and personal contact in the best possible way.