With so many companies trying to determine the best working model as we start to head out of the pandemic in the United States, the hybrid option seems to be the most popular. In fact, according to a recent report from McKinsey, nine out of 10 companies surveyed plan to offer some form of a hybrid model. With that number of companies moving towards a working model they have never provided, there are bound to be some opportunities for learning in creating a positive hybrid work environment and culture.
First, it is important to define what is a hybrid-workplace model. There are several different approaches an employer can take with this model. In short, a hybrid workplace blends aspects of in-office or in-person work with the remote work many employees have become accustomed to during the pandemic.
The most common option being considered is a hybrid workweek, where employees are in-person part of the week at the employer’s physical premises and remote the rest. The number of days an employee is in the office versus remote can be left up to the employee to choose, or the company can assign the days based on business needs.
Another hybrid option includes dividing the workforce up into teams that stagger schedules, swapping who is in the office versus who is working from home every other week or every couple of weeks. This can help when there are space limitations, and safety requirements as the employer keeps the same cohorts together, making it easier to contract trace if the need arises.
Finally, a hybrid workforce could include a mostly in-person workforce that occasionally works remotely, or the reverse where the workforce is mostly remote and only comes to the office for meetings and special requests. Now that we have a basic understanding of the hybrid workplace model, let’s discuss some of the missteps to avoid when establishing your optimal hybrid workplace of the future.
Hybrid Workforce Plans, Policies, or Guidelines do Not Exist. Like any HR initiative, it is important to have a policy or guidelines regarding your hybrid workplace and its application to employees. First, a transition plan including information on, what are the hybrid options, which employees are eligible, does an employee have to opt into the hybrid option, when will the change occur, and how, as well as any training employees, will be provided given the transition are all key elements to address.
Next, guidelines addressing how the integration of hybrid teams with a fully in-person or remote workforce will occur continued work expectations regarding hours of work, availability requirements, meeting etiquette, etc. are all necessary for helping employees understand the new workplace, in addition to creating an equitable workplace where employees can thrive in this new model.
Finally, do not set your policies and then never review or update them for changing times and business needs. Most employers have never had a hybrid workplace, so monitoring the situation, listening for feedback on what is working and what needs improvement, and adjusting policies and guidelines just make good business sense.
Not Prioritizing Technology – All employees need the appropriate equipment and tools to succeed at their jobs no matter where they are located. Having a successful hybrid workplace means you need to make it easy for employees to communicate and collaborate to be productive. Enter technology. Companies need to make sure they are prioritizing technology and equipping the office with technology that meets employees’ needs, and supplying employees who are remote with the same technology. Communication is a struggle in all companies, even when employees are on-site with one another. It becomes even harder for remote employees. When employees cannot just walk into someone’s office, they will need access to digital tools like online meeting platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.) and online collaboration sites (Google Doc, OneDrive, etc.). Ensure the platform can record important conversations or meetings so that key takeaways are always being shared and misinformation is minimized.
In addition, don’t forget appropriate training on how to use the technology efficiently. Nothing makes employees more frustrated than when a new system is rolled out, and no support is provided for best practice usage.
Companies will also need to make sure when employees are working remotely, the technology they have at home is adequate. For example, do employees have the appropriate high-speed internet to connect, a camera so they can be seen, and a microphone so they can be heard during virtual meetings? If not, consider providing these tools and/or offering a stipend to employees to make sure they have the appropriate technology in place to be successful despite location.
Relationship Building Opportunities Do Not Occur – Strong relationships between employees make for more productive and effective teams. When employees are both in-person and remote, it can be difficult to create those connections, especially if they have never met their colleagues face to face. Remember, all interactions between employees do not need to be work-related. Build in time to employee’s schedules and host team-building events that help establish relationships between employees.
Encourage informal communication like coffee chats, lunches, or happy hours to not just be based on who is on-site and who is remote. If only on-site employees are getting together to bond, for example, it can signal a siloed work environment that can negatively impact workplace culture. Being as inclusive as possible is important in relationship building.
Employees are Only Recognized While at the Office – Rewarding and recognizing employee’s accomplishments makes employees feel valued, important, and that the work they do matters to the organization. Only recognizing employees while they are present at the office sends a message that it is necessary to be physically present to receive praise or advance. It can also send a message that remote employees are not seen as part of the larger strategic plan for the company. Ensure that the digital communication tools you have implemented are utilized in this situation so all employees can share in the success of a colleague. Recognizing remote employees will also send the message that the company is committed to the hybrid workforce integration and includes all employees equally.
Executives Are Not Modeling the Hybrid Arrangement – Employees will always look to leadership to model the appropriate behavior that is acceptable in the workplace. Suppose Executives of the company are not participating in the hybrid model. In that case, it can indicate that employees who work remotely cannot be successful at the company long-term unless they are on-site at all times. Ensure that employees at all levels of the company are participating in the new work arrangement to send a positive message that it is okay to be hybrid.
While we have discussed some common mistakes made by organizations when creating a hybrid workforce, know that other factors may need to be considered based on your business and culture. Making sure you have these five added to your list will ensure you are on the path to a smooth hybrid workforce of the future. Employers Council can help; give us a call.