Hybrid work might be the best recruiting and retention tool these days, but it comes with snags.
From efficiency to security – and lots of details in between – hybrid work has drawbacks HR pros and front-line managers must face.
Yet, it’s here to stay. About half of American workers say their job can be done remotely at least part of the time, according to a Gallup study. About half of employees who are hybrid-capable expect to keep that kind of arrangement.
Generally, leaders want to honor the flexibility good employees’ rally for. But realize that sustaining team performance and group dynamics when people don’t work together is more difficult. They’re also concerned about maintaining a company culture when the workforce is dispersed.
“Culture’s not just what you surround the work with,” said Matthew Whiat, Founding and Senior Partner at Chapman & Company Leadership Institute when he spoke at Workhuman Live 2022. “It’s also the work itself and the chance to improve it.”
That’s the ideal for hybrid work: Employees won’t always be in the office, but they’ll always be working. So you want to keep them focused on improving their roles, efficiency, culture and overall well-being to make your hybrid workplace better.
Here are four factors to boosting efficiency and security:
Control the schedule
We’ve hit on this before, but the research bears repeating: Companies can gain peak efficiency in a hybrid situations when managers set work schedules.
When employees know exactly when they have to be in the office, they stay more focused on work on-site, and can walk away to enjoy life, which improves work/life balance and engagement.
Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economics professor and codirector of the Productivity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, found managers can increase employee satisfaction and improve productivity when teams work together on-site at the same time.
What’s more, Bloom found in his research that managers often eliminate biases, improve career development and promotion equity, and promote diversity when they respectfully select and mandate hybrid work schedules.
If possible, managers can work with their teams to determine the best in-office days and plan collaboration and fun events then.
Make Wednesdays matter
Turns out, one of those “best in-office days” will likely be Wednesday. It’s kind of turned into the new Monday, according to workplace electronic access data from Kastle. It’s the peak day – when 46% of the workforce is on site, as opposed to Mondays and Fridays when just about 30% are.
Many employees transition out of home mode and into office mode midweek.
Unfortunately, employees and teams might become inefficient once on-site. That’s because many companies shrunk their physical footprint during the pandemic. And limited space and resources can impede work.
Get ahead of the issue by starting to track the number of people on-site each day and the space and resources they use – perhaps with your building access or health check system. That might help you determine if you need more communal space and less desk space for individual work. To help employees settle in, you might try a “hoteling” reservation system – when employees can sign up to use the same desk or office at different times throughout a day or for their full in-office day.
Managers don’t want to micro-manage and employees don’t want to be micro-managed. But it’s critical for hybrid efficiency that leaders work with employees to break down job responsibilities and expectations so they’re doing the right tasks at the right place.
This practice can improve efficiency in just about any work situation – whether employees work on-site, remotely or hybrid. It helps everyone identify the best time and place to do certain work. It can also help you determine how much employees need to be on-site. For instance, a person in one role who does 70% independent work may only need to be on-site one day a week. On the other hand, a front-line manager who coaches and collaborates across departments might need to be on-site four days a week.
Ask employees to do a self-assessment of their duties and the percentage of time spent on each. Compare it to their direct boss’ assessment and align it with similar roles.
Then work with employees to determine the percentage of independent, quiet work they do compared to collaborative, team-oriented work. Ideally, you can set on-site schedules so the team is in office to get their collaborative work done together.
Protect data, productivity
Hybrid work means employees could be working from anywhere from the office or their home to a coffee shop or the public library. And that means many employees access confidential information from a variety of devices and IP addresses day-in, day-out, which can be a threat to your data.
Any breach will stall – or even completely halt – productivity, potentially shutting down operations entirely.
We won’t claim to be IT pros at HRMorning. But we can emphasize that it’s critical to work with your internal IT pros and vendors to ensure all of your data is secured for the level of hybrid work you allow.
For instance, do employees need to have access to all documents and programs via VPN when they aren’t on-site? Or can IT limit access to the most sensitive and confidential information? What about your internal communication apps and project management apps such as Slack, Workplace from Meta or Monday? Do you need to limit who has access to the documents and exchanges?
A couple of less-techy tips on data security for hybrid work:
- Create a cybersecurity awareness program. Most data breaches are caused by human error. Employees click on malicious links and reuse passwords. Work with IT to:
- Set clear goals that address your business needs and expectations.
- Focus on the most important threats to your company. Teach employees to mitigate the threats that will most likely come at them.
- Measure success. Try a phishing simulation before and after the training to be sure it sunk in.
- Reward employees who complete the training.
- Encourage clean desks to help prevent data breaches. Create guidelines on what employees should and shouldn’t print and keep at their desks. Encourage less printing and more saving in your cloud. Provide a lockable storage space to secure documents when employees aren’t on-site and using them.