Is hybrid work the cure-all we expected when it was the pandemic solution?
Employers needed hybrid work – a way to keep employees safe and healthy while getting the job done. Employees wanted – and in some cases, demanded – hybrid or remote work.
Schedules and resources split between two locations has some downsides.
“People, over the last two years of working differently, have felt disconnectedness,” says Niamh Graham, SVP of Global Human Experience at Workhuman. “But 2022 is a new beginning and people want that stability.”
Many HR leaders and their organizations found ways to make the most of hybrid work. Some have even done better with it. And hybrid work done right can provide the stability employees crave, possibly causing a reverse on The Great Resignation.
To that here are five trends in hybrid work – and how HR leaders can capitalize on them to make their plans work even better:
Here to stay
Some form of hybrid work will likely exist well into the future, if not forever. So you need a plan to incorporate or manage it, regardless of the size of your business or industry.
Even hands-on businesses, such as those in manufacturing, will need some ground rules on hybrid work for office roles. Plus the evolution of technology will only improve employees’ abilities to get their work done from afar a few days a week.
And it makes sense for companies: 63% of high-revenue, growing companies already embraced “work anywhere” models, according to research from Accenture.
“There’s a pattern emerging in the post-pandemic workforce – the ‘productive, anywhere’ worker,” says Christie Smith, Senior Managing Director and Global Lead of Accenture’s Talent & Organization/Human Potential. “This new workforce segment consists of individuals who remain productive – whether on-site or at home – and who have the strongest personal and organizational resources.”
So it’s important to create a hybrid work plan that includes (at least):
- a master schedule that everyone can access
- availability expectations, and
- workflow protocols.
Help them focus
Hybrid work can be distracting. If and when employees need to move equipment between locations, they lose time and attention to the set up and tear down.
But they also face distractions at each location that can hurt productivity. According to research from The Economist Intelligence Unit, employees working at home are distracted by:
- temptation to relax (28%)
- household chores (25%)
- other house mates’ (kids, spouses, pets, parents) needs (22%), and
- uncomfortable home work setup (13%).
Employees working from home at any point need to be as productive as they would be on-site. So you might want to establish criteria for work-from-home setups. Include requirements for:
- quiet, dedicated space
- freedom from caregiving responsibilities during work hours, and
- minimal technology capabilities (such as internet speed and audio/visual equipment).
On-site, help employees avoid the biggest distraction cited in the Economist study: interruptions by co-workers. It happens even more often now because employees have limited time together and they try to connect more while on-site.
Encourage employees to post virtual or physical calendars, blocking off time for personal work, meetings and “open to collaborate.”
Keep them connected, celebrated
Hybrid offices probably won’t have the same feel they had before the pandemic. Culture and community is bound to change.
“Having your workplace community is vital,” says Graham. “Now companies need to reimagine their way forward and reenergize their community.”
So hybrid work groups will likely need to make extra efforts to stay connected because they don’t see each other as much. The organic kinds of recognition, camaraderie and collaboration don’t happen as often.
So you might try one of Graham’s tips: Thank. Talk. Celebrate.
It pays off: Employees who are recognized in some form at least monthly are twice as likely to be engaged, three times as likely to find meaning and purpose at work, and four times as likely to be happy at work. They’re also less stressed than employees who don’t feel the love, Workhuman researchers found.
Give employees tools to publicly or more quietly thank each other for help or great work.
Also give them time to schedule conversations that are centered around priorities, goals, initiatives and plain old “how are you doing?”
Finally, give them tools or times to celebrate life events – such as weddings, births and sports or arts accomplishments – and professional milestones such as certifications, promotions and goal achievement. You might do it through an app, town halls (virtual and physical), online newsletters, press releases and meeting room board announcements.
Make days on-site meaningful
We talked about the importance to remove distractions from work, even when employees are on-site. But you’ll want to make on-site days a force for good.
You might plan a monthly or quarterly day when all employees come on-site for training, teambuilding and beyond.
At Workhuman, they call for “Key Core Days,” Graham shares. The leadership team plans town hall meetings to share information and get employee feedback. They also add a fun element or community event so employees can laugh, bond and connect again.
Another example: Tim Rowley, COO at People Caddie in Chicago turned their former “Off-Sites” into “On-Sites.” The team used to take annual trips to train and boost morale. Now he brings the mostly remote team on-site for a few days to do all the morale-building activities and training again.
Acknowledge the divide
Some employees will love their time on-site. Others will look forward to the time working more individually at home. So you’ll want to continue to cater to both of their needs and preferences.
“With hybrid, you need wellness, business support, learning and training that covers at home and on-site,” Graham says.
For instance, you might offer an wellness allowance that employees can use toward their preferred exercise or well-being choice. Some may want a gym membership or on-site yoga instruction. Others may use it toward meditation apps or home subscription exercise bike services.
When it comes to training and career opportunities, create materials that employees can access remotely or on-site. That way employees can choose where and when they’re most comfortable learning.
“Companies that are going to focus on a workplace experience – no matter from where – will achieve better employee engagement and profitability,” Graham says.