How to build your best hybrid work environment with Zoom
With work happening everywhere from the dining room table to the coffee shop to the hotel room, the way we think about the office has changed. It’s not a rigid place of traditional cubicles and conference rooms, where employees need to clock their eight hours of work a day, five days a week. It’s a hybrid work environment for collaboration and connection.
A growing number of employees are returning to the office in some capacity but have the flexibility to work remotely sometimes. Research tells us that as of February 2023, 41% of people with remote-capable jobs are working a hybrid schedule (at the office some days, at home other days), up from 35% in January 2022.
That flexible approach offers the best of both worlds for many employees, but a hybrid work model poses a challenge for workplace and facilities teams. After all, you need to find a way to provide the best experience for all employees, whether they’re in the office five days a week, working from home half the time, or fully remote.
At Zoom, we know the challenges of building an effective hybrid work environment — we’ve faced them ourselves. While many of our employees, whom we call Zoomies, are remote, living and working in places around the world, the rest are on a structured hybrid schedule, going into our globally distributed offices twice a week.
Our offices are a working example of how anyone can use our technologies to build an effective hybrid workplace that promotes connection, collaboration, and trust among distributed teams. They’re hubs where we get to know each other, work together, and use the products we build so we can make them better.
By embracing a hybrid work environment, we come together to improve our own technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers with solutions that help define the hybrid work experience.
If you’re facing the challenges of setting up a successful hybrid workplace, one that truly supports what your employees need, here are some tips and strategies you can incorporate.
Challenge #1: Finding the right technology to support dispersed teams and hybrid work
The Zoom platform has always been designed for hybrid collaboration. Even before the pandemic, we had dispersed teams working together across our global offices. We know there are benefits to remote work, like being able to attract and hire the best talent regardless of location and support colleagues with different needs and abilities. We also understand the benefits of being together in person: organic conversations, team building, and social experiences.
Our technologies bring everyone together no matter where they’re working, with team chat, phone, video meetings, mail and calendar, whiteboard, virtual work spaces, and employee engagement tools helping foster connections between people in the hub and the distributed workforce.
In this new world of hybrid work, we’re seeing a need to make meetings more equitable and inclusive. Remote employees don’t want to have a second-rate experience, unable to see everyone in the conference room or take part in side conversations. In-office employees want to be able to join meetings quickly and easily like they’re used to back home. They want the technology to just work, without worrying about cables and connections that require an AV expert to untangle.
“Living in rural England has meant it’s always been tricky to make it into the London office for our in-person team meetings,” said Ash Thornley-Davies, a healthcare account executive who works remotely. “In the past that meant feeling almost like an afterthought — a side note on a screen while the conversation happened around the table.”
Zoom Rooms provides everyone with a simpler, more equitable hybrid meeting experience, no matter where they’re joining from. Workplace teams building more flexible offices will appreciate how easy it is to bring HD video collaboration into any space, from a small, two-to-three-person huddle space to an executive boardroom to a presentation room.
For employees in the office, reserving a room and joining a meeting is as simple as using their phone or laptop.
“The simplicity is what makes it such a positive experience,” said Jeff Harling, head of digital support, based out of Zoom’s Denver office. “One button push, and you’re in! Screen sharing is easy too. Ease of use is so helpful when I’m meeting with my team, which includes people right next to me in the office and others scattered globally, all at the same time.”
And with Zoom Rooms’ intelligent director, remote employees get a better look at their in-office co-workers in larger spaces, avoiding the dreaded “bowling alley view” so common in conference rooms. Intelligent director uses multiple cameras and AI technology to determine the best angle to display up to 16 individuals in a Zoom Room within their own video tile.
“I get to see everyone and the real expression on their faces as we speak to each other. It finally makes me feel like I’m in the room with my team,” Ash said. “I may be remote by geography, but I’m there in the London office, too.”
A high-quality hybrid experience is essential for your most important meetings with top clients and executives. Having the latest AI-powered innovations like intelligent director in your executive boardroom can create a more immersive, engaging, and dynamic way of meeting, so that all board members and leaders can be clearly seen.
Challenge #2: Meeting employee expectations, which are higher than ever
Employees who come into the office want to do so purposefully. They want to use their time in the office for activities that work better in person — meeting clients, holding brainstorming sessions, collaborating on a project, or getting to know their team over lunch.
In a survey of global Zoomies, our employees said their top reason to come into the office was to socialize with their colleagues.
“Our hybrid work model has helped me build deeper connections with my co-workers, which has a positive impact on my mental health,” said Jamonique Fletcher, a diversity, equity, and inclusion specialist who works at Zoom’s headquarters in San Jose, California.
If employees are going to go through the trouble of leaving home, fighting traffic, and finding parking, they want their time to be well spent, without having to worry about logistics.
“Employees want a clear understanding of what to expect when they come to the office,” said Jeff Smith, head of Zoom Meetings, Spaces, and Whiteboard. “They don’t want to get here just to find out that they can’t sit next to their teammates, or that all the conference rooms are booked.”
Employees can use Zoom Workspace Reservation to book a desk ahead of time for a specific day, or make a recurring reservation. You can customize Workspace Reservation for your office layout and give employees visibility into where others are sitting, so they can choose a desk near their team or by the coffee machine if they prefer. You can also create neighborhoods within your layout to make it easier for people to sit near others in their department.
Workspace Reservation’s AI-powered smart suggestions recommend the best seat based on an employee’s preferences or the date when more of their teammates will be in.
Our own Zoomies use Workspace Reservation to plan ahead and reserve everything they need to work comfortably and productively, from workstations and conference rooms to parking spots and lockers. They can even find workstations that have special equipment like height-adjustable desks or dual monitors.
“Workspace Reservation makes it seamless for me to reserve my space so I can effectively collaborate with my fellow Zoomies in person and remotely,” Jamonique said.
But what if an employee will be meeting with a customer and wants to make sure the room is set up correctly? Workspace Reservation lets you add a custom questionnaire so you can ask employees if they plan on hosting clients, giving your office staff a heads-up. Ask employees if they’re staying for lunch or leaving early, too. This helps your workplace team plan more efficiently for food orders, resource allocation, and more, for a smoother employee experience.
When employees get to the office, digital signage can help guide them to where they need to go, offer friendly reminders, and communicate other important information. You can set up digital signage to display whatever content employees will find helpful, from Workspace Reservation maps to event calendars, lunch menus, and office rules.
“The digital signage displays throughout the office help me stay up to date on the latest updates and reminders from the company,” Jamonique said. “My favorite part is seeing the menu for the lunch provided that day!”
Challenge #3: Providing the best value with a shrinking budget
With employees looking to get more out of their office visits, facilities teams are under pressure to create a desirable hybrid work environment that’s worth the commute. That includes technology that works just as well as (or better than) an employee’s home office setup, and workspaces that support their desire to socialize and collaborate with colleagues.
If you’re worried about how much these upgrades will cost, you’re not alone. In a time of economic uncertainty, many companies are finding ways to cut back on their spending. In a 2023 Deloitte report, 54% of finance leaders said their CEOs are asking them to focus on cost reduction, and real estate and office space are some of the highest costs for a business.
Workplace teams need to find ways to breathe new life into existing investments, using flexible technology solutions that work with the hardware you have.
Start by adapting your spaces to fit what employees need today — and reconfigure spaces that are no longer being used. Data can help you understand how employees are using your office, so you can make informed decisions.
For example, Workspace Reservation and Zoom Rooms allow you to see how many desks are being reserved and checked into on a daily basis, which conference rooms are being booked most often, and which are rarely used. You can cut costs by consolidating your operations onto fewer floors and reimagining rooms that no longer serve employees’ evolving needs.
For instance, you might find that your largest conference rooms are no longer needed because in-person meetings are smaller than they used to be. You can use room dividers to break up the space into smaller, informal gathering areas.
Many organizations are looking to bring video into a large number of smaller spaces without breaking the bank. Zoom Rooms helps you turn any space into a hybrid meeting room, with the power to join a Zoom meeting at the touch of a button. You can often use the hardware you already have, or choose from a flexible ecosystem of partners like Neat, HP/Poly, Logitech, and DTEN, to set up Zoom Rooms quickly and cost-effectively.
For ultimate flexibility, put an all-in-one device like a Neat Board or DTEN D7 on a cart so you can turn any corner of the office into a hybrid meeting space with video, screen sharing, and whiteboard capabilities.
“In the end, there is no one optimal way to set up an office because it all depends on your employees and what they need to collaborate most effectively,” Jeff Smith said. “Flexible solutions are key here — having technology that adapts to the space and the way employees are using it.”
Zoom helps you solve the challenges of hybrid work
Every organization is going to have a different answer to the question, “What is hybrid work?” For us at Zoom, it means having some employees work remotely and some on a hybrid schedule, with specific days in the office. We see the office not just as a physical place, but a destination that draws employees in, a hub of creativity and innovation that brings Zoomies together in person and virtually.
With the right technology, your office can be a space for collaboration, communication, and connection, designed for your employees’ current and future needs.