The work-from-home honeymoon has ended. While some employees thrive in this environment, others have realized that they need a set office structure and prefer in-person meetings over endless Zoom calls and emails. While many companies are calling all of their workers back to the office, others are opting for a hybrid model: they’re letting some employees continue their remote work or setting up a flexible schedule that accommodates both in-house and remote work opportunities. This new hybrid model was not part of most businesses’ plans pre-pandemic, so it’s leaving many scrambling to set up safe, fair, and flexible policies. Here are a few companies embracing the hybrid work style and some takeaways they can teach us. Citigroup Will Prioritize Work Schedules for Independent and Collaborative Projects Some people would be happy never sitting through another Zoom meeting. They see returning to the office as a way to resume in-person discussions and check-ins. However, the hybrid workforce will likely still be dependent on video calls, even when half the team is in the office. “New videoconferencing technology will be added to help in-person, and remote workers feel as if they’re on a level playing field,” says Jena McGregor at the Washington Post. “Managers will undergo extensive training to fight against the instinct to give workers in the office preferential treatment.” When an employee works remotely, they can feel disconnected from the office—even if they’ve been with the company for many years. Videoconferencing can help bridge this gap, but distance still makes collaborative projects harder to execute. As a result, the team at Citigroup has aimed to mitigate this issue by reprioritizing work schedules. McGregor talked to Jane Fraser, chief executive at Citigroup, about their flex-schedule plans. Fraser explained that employees will work in-office 3 days each week. They will balance independent work at home with collaborative work in the office. This can help limit the half-digital meetings that still use video calls and allow for more cohesive communication when needed. Google Is Altering Their Physical Offices to Be Hybrid-Friendly A year ago, most people thought the pandemic would be over in a few months, and then life would return to normal. The workspace might have more hand sanitizer stations, but the pandemic was a temporary problem. A year later, employers are realizing that the pandemic will forever change the way we work together—both in-person and remotely. One of the most notable companies switching to a hybrid model is Google. While the company has been flexible with remote work over the past year, the organization is restructuring its offices for the new workforce—converting much of their “open office” into safer workstations. Implementing these changes will take time and money. Existing office spaces need to be redesigned to account for social distancing while also creating a welcoming place to work and collaborate with people both in and out of the office. “We may experience increased costs as we prepare our facilities for a safe return-to-work environment and experiment with hybrid work models, in addition to potential effects on our ability to compete effectively and maintain our corporate culture,” the company said in its financial statements. Companies are moving away from open floor plans where germs can spread easily—especially if there aren’t assigned workstations. They’re limiting office sharing and spacing out meetings in larger conference rooms. These changes may last for years as temporary adaptations become permanent. Boston Consulting Group Says Flexibility Is Needed for Hybrid Work As companies develop plans for the hybrid workplace, they need to keep employee equity in mind. The work-from-home period during the pandemic was meant to be temporary. When people worked hunched over the kitchen table or crammed into a tiny workspace next to their spouse, it was only supposed to last a few weeks. However, this has been the reality of some workers for months. Not everyone can afford a living space with a dedicated office. Even fewer people don’t have kids or caretakers to watch those kids as they attend virtual school. For these employees, going to the office means having a place to concentrate and get work done reliably. “At the corporate level, no single policy or program is likely to fit all circumstances and combinations of remote and onsite work,” the team at Boston Consulting Group explains. “Even in organizations where returning to the physical workplace is an option, health-vulnerable employees may need to continue to work from home.” There won’t be 1 silver-bullet solution to creating a hybrid workspace. Companies will need to consider the specific needs of their workers, lest they create unsafe working conditions for some or accidentally punish others. Hybrid Work Is a Learning Process Dozens of well-known companies, from Target to Facebook, are developing hybrid work models to implement in the coming months. These policies might have similar traits, but each company will likely have its own guidelines and expectations. If your organization is grappling with the development of a hybrid work policy, know that you’re not alone. This whole pandemic has been a learning process—and we’ll have to continue learning as we return to society again.