The traditional work model that prevailed before the global pandemic is no longer seen as a viable workplace model.
Only 11% of business leaders expect their employees to return to the office full-time, indicating a more permanent shift to hybrid working. (Source: Owl Labs May 2021)
The change brought on by the pandemic has made a significant impact on all workplaces. Remote work has triggered a structural revolution in how we think of ourselves as employers and employees. Long-held beliefs are not easily relinquished, however, organizations are now adopting new workplace models - such as flexible hours, remote-first, and hybrid.
Outlined below are some practical considerations and recommendations to help Leaders plan a Hybrid workplace model in the post covid era.
What is the Hybrid Workplace Model?
Simply put, the hybrid workplace model is a mixture of remote work and on premises work. Post Covid there has been a rise in flexibility in relation to remote work and off premises work.
Francine Katsoudas is the executive vice-president and chief people, policy and purpose officer of Cisco, a worldwide leader in technology that powers the internet recently stresses this fact ‘ Hybrid work allows us to redefine what’s possible by bringing out the very best of work by empowering flexibility, choice and inclusion for both employers and employees alike.’
Post Covid Hybrid Work Challenges
Return to the office has accelerated numerous challenges for organizations. 31% said that they would be "extremely likely" to look for a new job if they lost the ability to work remotely.(GoodHire's State Of Remote Work In 2021 study )
- Demand for Digital Solutions
From education to the medical field to the industrial industry, every sector has seen a considerable shift to digital. Consumers are demanding digital solutions, and their expectations are increasing as they interact with your business. This has created an increased demand on organizations and employees to meet the shifting needs of consumers. There are winners and losers in this acceleration of digital transformation.
- Virtual Talent
Having worked through lockdowns without seeing a massive drop in productivity has created a paradigm shift in workplace expectations. While each employee will have their preference - fully remote versus hybrid versus the desire to go back full-time - the reality is that it is now seen as an imperative to offer role flexibility.
According to Owl Lab's and Global Workplace Analytics' State of Remote Work report, 50% of employees in the US plan to quit and move to a remote-friendly company if they are unable to continue working from home "all or most of the time." Flexibility is no longer a perk but a necessity to keep top talent and attract an increasingly global pool of remote employees. Attracting a remote worker to your organisation requires the organisation to show a demonstrated culture or remote-friendly practices.
- Work Life Balance
69% of Millennials would swap work benefits for better workspace flexibility. Notably, remote work.(source CBRE’s Live Work Play report )
Leaders in the modern post covid workplace need to emphasise and foster flexibility. How and when work is completed is less important than the quality of the work that is being done. Output-driven performance, as opposed to presentism, is what is driving organisational change. It is a challenge for leaders to manage and support employees in this flexible climate. Making your culture open and taking away the stigma of nine to five will take time and need to be continually emphasised. Taking breaks, watching for burnout, and encouraging a balanced approach to the working day all start with the leader.
- Zoom Fatigue "You're on Mute" was arguably the work phrase of 2020 and, for many, summed up the new workplace of endless back-to-back video conference calls. Zoom fatigue has had a much more profound impact on teams than organisations fully understand. While recent research by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics found that most remote workers find video collaboration to be either the same level or more productive than in-person meetings, it has come at the cost of causing huge burnout challenges for leaders. Managing the load of video conferencing is something that each leader is carefully navigating with the return to the office of at least some of the workforce. Making sure remote and on-site team members get equal access to decision-making will be a vital process leaders need to get right in the new hybrid workplace.
Hybrid Workforce Positive Habits
HappyTeams People Science and Organisational Psychology teams have consulted and worked with thousands of HR leaders throughout the pandemic to understand the deeper pain points and challenges of returning to work safely and effectively supporting a Hybrid workforce. Based on this research and experience, the following behaviours are positive organizational habits to introduce into your workplace.
- Two-way dialogue - open and often
Each workplace is different. Company cultures are different, and how each sector operates pre and post covid has a massive impact on how successful the hybrid strategy is. The first question we often get asked is, “Should I survey the employees?”. The answer to this is not straightforward. Feedback is vital, and it is going to be nothing but a positive to be seen to ask for feedback; however, it is also crucial to remember that if you ask for feedback, it can not happen in a vacuum.
"Our biggest problem has been that we ask for feedback, and by the time we gather the answers, understand the data and make an action plan, the situation can shift - such as new regulations, new consumer demands, or indeed a new lockdown. This is why our solution needs to be continuous listening as the situation is so fluid” HR Leader Telco.
The Hybrid model needs to be fluid. Regular feedback capture is imperative. Having a mechanism to capture feedback regularly and in a manner that does not feel like “ another HR task” is vital to the integrity of the data and feedback capture.
- Feedback with Action
As we know, feedback is only as good as the action and change that follows. Communicate often and communicate with compassion. Workers, in some cases, have been out of the office for quite some time and have real existential challenges getting back to the commute. Others have real insecurities in the new work environment or have lacked the interpersonal skills to come back to normal office environments due to Covid anxiety - as reported by the American Psychological Association that a full 48% of vaccinated adults are hesitant to return to in-person contact.
In summary, take feedback, take it often. Report back on this feedback as often as possible and evidence that the strategy is fluid. There is a good chance that people will change their minds about where and how they prefer to work after employees have tested new routines for several months. Ongoing feedback will allow you to remain flexible and adapt to employee needs.
Start a continuous listening strategy today to make the return to work and the hybrid workplace safe and effective. Your decisions should be based on real-time data. To support you in your efforts, the HappyTeams People Science team is offering a FREE consultation and FREE trial to help leaders in what is an unprecedented array of challenges.