As technology turns remote work from a trend to a norm, hybrid workplace models are becoming increasingly popular. In fact, IBM’s CEO predicts that 80% of employees will enjoy the benefits of hybrid work post-pandemic – a huge shift toward digital transformation in more and more industries! But what exactly is a sustainable hybrid model, and how do you build one?
A sustainable hybrid workplace model supports a blend of in-office, remote, and on-the-go workers, the focus being on employee experience and satisfaction. Employees are offered the autonomy to choose to work wherever and however they are most productive. This is cost-effective and convenient for everyone; plus, it promotes high efficiency and it supports equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Another advantage of the hybrid model is that access to larger talent pools allows companies to hire people with specialized skills, gain a competitive advantage, and tap into new markets. Hybrid offers the best deal for both employer and employee: productivity around the clock, and an uncompromising company culture where people are treated with respect for their effort and contribution, regardless of where they work from.
All the more reason to look at a few tips for transitioning to the hybrid workplace model!
Establish a Clear Virtual Work Policy
A company’s approach to hybrid workplace model will be critical as employees reevaluate their relationships with work. Establishing a clear virtual work policy should be the first step; employees need to know when they are required to come to the office, if there are mandatory days for certain teams to be there, and if there is a minimum number of days per month they need to show up.
As splitting time between the office and home becomes the new normal, it’s important to be mindful and respectful of everyone's time. There's no reason to bring everyone into the office only to have them sit in cubicles with headphones on anymore. Managers should carefully consider when teams must work together in person, and when it's just as fine to let them have a virtual meeting.
Clear Communication and Expectations
Team members need clarity about their roles and responsibilities. Clarity improves execution skills, the ability to change direction with confidence, and overall employee satisfaction. Managers should establish communication rules and schedule regular 1-to-1 meetings with their teams to check in on project status, determine if anyone needs additional support, and ensure engagement is high.
Define Outcomes and Let Your Team Deliver
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to hybrid working. Flexibility is the key to performance in this environment. Managers simply need to know that physical proximity is not a prerequisite for creating a work environment with high employee engagement, and instead focus on making sure employees have the tools and resources they need and know what is expected of them.
Broaden Your Definition of Flexibility
Employees should be able to choose to do their work when they are most productive. Early in the morning? Great! Late in the evening? No problem. An employee who is overwhelmed with problems at home may have trouble prioritising and focusing at work. But if you give them the freedom to organise their work to fit their home life, they'll work when they are best able to – and deliver better work for it.
Offer a Few Options
Not every employee has to follow the exact same schedule, but having a few options to choose from will ensure order. For example, employees can work in the office most of the time but work from home one day a week, or work from home most of the time but have to come in for one or two days a week. Then trust them to decide when and where they work, and be rewarded with loyalty and higher productivity.
Invest in Remote-forward Advocates
Devote time and attention to designing your digital workplace. New tech tools may seem fantastic to you, but they may not be right for everyone. Sometimes, people are overwhelmed when they have to learn new tech – so why not select one person from each team to serve as a point of contact for the new digital tools? They can then report on and make suggestions regarding the overall digital workplace experience.
Make the Most of Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are voluntary, employee-led groups aiming to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace, and create a safe space for employees who share a common identity. But ERGs don't just offer friendship; they also give employees the chance to develop skills and create cohesiveness and camaraderie. Plus, ERGs designed to address a specific topic or issue can help keep leaders in the know.
Train Managers on How To Manage in a Hybrid Setting
It’s easy to focus on the employees who work on big projects or who come into the office every day, but managers must take the time to appreciate the contributions of all team members – near and far. Hybrid work environments require leaders to show empathy, listen, and see the human in each other. In the age of remote work, a manager's focus has to be on fostering meaning and connections between remote teams.
Be Less Supervisor, More Coach
Employees everywhere need direction, resources and recognition for a job well done. A manager can be the coach who helps team members learn and push themselves daily to do their best, engaging in two-way conversations that benefit both parties. When employees see that you are investing in them and their development, their confidence, engagement and productivity will only increase.
Give Your Managers the Tools They Need To Be Successful
Understanding managers' needs and providing them with the right software and performance management & collaboration tools will pay off. Help them have more open and honest communication with their teams and take the time to understand why they want to work certain hours or from certain locations. After all, the more managers know about their team members’ reasons, the better they can support them.
Gather Continuous Feedback
Make sure your employees have more than one way to voice their opinions on a regular basis. You could set up a Slack channel dedicated to employee feedback, or conduct quarterly surveys to gather feedback from your employees. This will help you improve your business, increase employee engagement, understand the tech people enjoy using, and create a hybrid workplace model that thrives.
Schedule Regular Meetings
It’s helpful to schedule regular team meetings. It's a way for employees to gather, exchange ideas, share feedback, and learn from each other. Employees who work primarily remotely can feel disconnected from their teams and meetings can reduce this. How often you schedule them depends, of course, on their purpose. Still, maximize the face-to-face time by only focusing on work that’s truly best done in person.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make Adjustments
Every workplace culture has its own nuances and challenges to respond to. To make your hybrid work environment a success, encourage a growth mindset among employees. Consistently analyze and ask for feedback to see what works and what can be improved. Good planning and communication will always go a long way toward building a sustainable work environment.
Create a Great Workplace Experience
Even if your employees are not on site every day, you need to make sure they still look forward to coming into the office from time to time. Otherwise, you may end up with more and more employees not showing up and a deteriorating on-site experience for those who do come. That’ d be a waste of on-site resources and investment, and it'd go against the spirit of a hybrid workplace model – that is, the best of both worlds.
Survey Your Employees To Find Out What They Need
To develop a hybrid model that works for your organization, talk to each employee. Not every employee has the same needs and lifestyle, so asking only some employees is usually not effective. Ask questions about the type of work they would feel most comfortable doing and begin to adjust your work model accordingly. Just be honest about what is and isn’t possible within the workplace model you are planning.
Invest in Company Culture
This is even more important in a hybrid workplace model where it's not always possible to stop by someone's desk or have a conversation during lunch break. Invest in ways to engage your employees. Consider how you can create experiences for the hybrid work landscape that align with your company's core values. If your company values teamwork, you could organize a virtual team building activity!
Support Mental Health & Inclusion
Supporting employees' mental well-being is critical, and managers should make it clear to their teams that they are there for them. That's why it's important to always include team members who are not present and create socially engaging activities for all team members. Companies need to use software to bring people together for team or company-wide meetings.
Keep Health and Safety Front and Center
Make the health and well-being of your employees a top priority. Consider investing in virtual health screening tools to see if employees show any symptoms before they come to work. If possible, adjust leave policies to allow sick employees to quarantine at home without losing income. Encouraging employees to work remotely when they feel unwell will help keep your workplace safe for everyone.
Check In Regularly on Who Is, and Isn’t, Getting Promoted
Employees who are less visible are unfortunately less likely to be promoted than those who are. In a hybrid work environment, managers must work hard to ensure that projects and promotions are distributed based on performance, not visibility. Check which groups of workers are most likely to be found on job boards and learn what you can do to better retain – and promote – your employees.
Build the Infrastructure That’ll Support Flexible Work
Hybrid working bridges on-site and remote environments. Your employees can collaborate easily, but you need to invest in technologies that make it possible – on-site communication tools and video conferencing equipment – and adopt company-wide best practices. You can also create office schedules: decide who works on-site on which days of the week, or allow individual scheduling.
Plan To Use Technology
Digital transformation is a necessity if you’re moving to a hybrid model. There are lots of different software that can make it easier for employees to collaborate – communications software, video conferencing software, and cloud-based file sharing software. Technology is the lifeblood of any hybrid business – use it to narrow the gap between employees wisely.
Optimize Your Office
If you move to a hybrid workplace model, you are likely to have a lot more empty desks and spaces! For this reason, it's important to optimize your office for the workplace model you are using. This can be especially useful if there are aspects of your current office setup that are not working effectively. Analyzing how your employees use the office is helpful in deciding what is needed.
Lead with Culture
What happens to culture when we move to a hybrid work environment? We adapt it, of course! What brings us together is our culture, and culture has never been about the desks or Friday drinks. Culture is all about how we connect, how we communicate and how we see, trust and treat each other. Culture transcends time zones and miles, but it’s entirely up to us to get it right.
Be Clear in Job Listings
When hiring, be open about how your company operates. This helps candidates make an informed decision about whether your company is a good fit for them before moving forward. Mention in the job listing that your company offers a hybrid workplace model, and have recruiters explain the work options available during the interview. This way, everyone can make the best decision possible early on.
Share Important Files & Information
Working from home means that, sometimes, you do not have access to the files you need to do your job! However, that should not happen. It's important to set policies that everyone can follow to avoid security breaches that could affect the company, and employees need to be careful when handling sensitive information – but they should always have access to it.
Don’t Stop Investing in Virtual Work
Employees who work from home need to feel as much a part of the team as those in the office, so don’t forget to set up video conferencing for all meetings so that they feel like they are working at the same level as everyone else. You could also invest in virtual social activities: staying in touch with all of your employees is essential and virtual happy hours are a great way to ensure that!
Each work model has its own unique strengths, of course. But because you can customize the hybrid workplace model to your company's needs, it can be considered a prominent example of a win-win scenario. Learning how to work together in the hybrid era requires rethinking how, where and why work gets done – but master this shift and you'll lead your team to higher productivity, stronger engagement, and a more satisfying experience.