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Since the pandemic, much of the U.S. workforce is moving towards a hybrid work model. This change impacts employee management, technology, hiring practices, and more.
Human resource professionals need to be aware of these changes so they can adapt company policies to meet those changes while ensuring the company still runs smoothly.
Let’s explore the future of the hybrid working model and what you need to know to embrace this challenge.
The workforce goes hybrid
This year, Microsoft released its first Work Trend Index. An independent survey firm surveyed over 30,000 people across 31 countries to uncover work trends that can improve productivity. What they learned provides much insight into the future of remote and hybrid work.
The data showed that high numbers of workers want both flexible remote options and more time with their colleagues. They also found that an important issue affecting productivity is employee exhaustion.
While remote work may sound ideal, meetings, emails, chats, and other digital communications have increased substantially. Employees are spending an overwhelming amount of time online, a trend that is neither healthy nor as productive as it sounds.
Yet, remote work is still desired. Research from Upwork in 2021 shows that remote workers enjoy flexible work hours, reduced commute time, and greater autonomy.
The logical solution? Create hybrid work options for your teams.
Creating hybrid work models
Transitioning from either working full-time in the office or at home to a hybrid model can be stressful for employees. It is, however, the best option to alleviate the struggles workers currently face.
Work-at-home employees feel the loss of socialization and miss the camaraderie of working in person with a team. However, working full time in the office can be a strain with new, post-pandemic measures. A hybrid work model solves those issues, helping staffers with family obligations, improving work-life balance, and even increasing productivity.
Creating a hybrid work model for your staff should be comparable to setting standard work hours. You cannot accommodate every single employee’s request. However, you can design a system that balances the best of both remote and in-office work modes.
Corporate America is leading the way to overcome the obstacles of hybrid work plans:
- Insurance giant Prudential has repurposed its office for more collaborative and open spaces.
- General Motors asked for remote employee input before changing its workplace.
- Food services and facility management company Sodexo is relying on conversations with and feedback from its employees to create their new work options.
Every company can take a different approach, but it must, at its core, keep employees united and focused on corporate goals.
Using video to keep teams together
To create a functioning hybrid work model, you can take a few simple starting steps to integrate video in a way that helps everyone to work better together:
- Hold fewer “in-person” meetings, especially if you have frequent meetings that drag on for a long time. Invite critical staff and record it so everyone can watch on their schedule.
- Pre-record important pieces answering common questions or providing information that everyone needs for the transition.
- Use a cloud-based system for employees to work together and share videos and other recordings. Allow staff to access these at home.
Video is one way to support a crucial element that supports a hybrid work model: communication with staff.
Communication is key
No matter what goals you decide to set, the most important thing to address when creating a hybrid work model is to keep your staff in the loop. Open communication is vital for creating trust whether workers are returning to the office or spending more time working from home. Technology should support collaboration among all employees, no matter where they work.
While the goal is, of course, to ensure a steady transition to this hybrid model, failing to address staff concerns can hurt productivity. While you do need to set work standards, you must also provide autonomy to empower workers.
After the pandemic, some employees may be hesitant to return to an office setting. It’s critical to understand the source of their hesitancy to help you properly design a better work model. Survey your employees beforehand.
Questions that address post-COVID19 work policies as well as hesitancy to return to the office include:
- Do they have worries about the virus in the workplace?
- Are they challenged by finding childcare if their children are still in remote schooling?
- Are they caring for a high-risk family member?
- Have they now rearranged their lives so that returning to the office is more costly or complicated?
Whatever policies you choose to create, you must continue to stay engaged with your employees. Employ communication tools that will empower the staff with options like communities, groups, feeds, announcements, and more. These keep everyone up-to-date with any evolving or changing policies.
Empowering your staff
First, you must tackle work safety with protective policies. These will also require you to take into consideration state and federal mandates, as well as suggestions from your Department of Health, OSHA, and the CDC.
Be aware that there may be future lockdowns or additional mandates that will impact your office. Address these possibilities as well.
However, HR and management should also take this opportunity to build a comprehensive corporate culture that empowers employees to be engaged and productive.
For example, the diversity and inclusiveness of a company may improve revenue. It also helps employees feel safe and secure. Addressing these issues with transparency and diligence can build a diverse and robust work atmosphere.
Cultural inclusion, diverse recruiting, and employee reward programs are goals that help build your firm. Continue to collect data and metrics on your progress to benefit your employees and your company in general. Work towards creating safe, cost-effective ways for everyone to return to work with a hybrid model.
Designing your workflow
Where do you begin designing hybrid or flexible work options? Begin by creating an efficient workflow model. It starts by putting your employees at the center of your plan. How do you get them to effectively and efficiently succeed while achieving your company’s purpose?
Continue to drill down by looking at several elements, such as:
- Your organizational culture
- The stakeholder’s priorities
- Existing policies
- Decision chains
- How the departments fit together
- Current workflow
Once you understand these corporate elements, you can now build a system to empower the staff around your corporate goals. Brainstorm different ways to achieve them. Eventually, you will want to test your ideas, including hybrid options and ways to transition.
Transitioning your staff
Next, you need to address the transition to a permanent hybrid work model. You can stagger how and when people return to the office. For example, if key functions have become more difficult without certain teams in the office, those can be the first people to bring back to the office.
Another decision to make is how to alter your current 40-hour workweek standards. Will there be one day a week at home? One day a month? Shorter hours? There are 20 different alternative work schedules that you can customize to create the right model for your company. Factor in time for trial and error until you get these systems right.
Some of this design will come from employee feedback. For example, if some employees cannot work early morning due to obligations, you have several choices. You can stagger work shifts or have certain days start remote and then have people come into the office.
Keep in mind that some employees will benefit more from a standard in-office, 40-hour workweek. Are you willing to do that, or would you prefer to close the office on certain days? Remember that closing the office will save on company bills as well as reducing your carbon footprint. It may even allow you to move to a smaller, more cost-effective office location if you need less space.
Your choices will matter to your employees, all of whom will depend on the right technology to make this run smoothly.
Technology for remote work
One of the biggest technological challenges of remote work options is ensuring that your corporate data remains secure. The challenges of the “Internet of Things” (IoT) must be addressed. That's when technology connected to the internet sends data and does tasks without human assistance. Security systems, for example, protect your home or office by alerting authorities about intruders when you are not there.
Unfortunately, this can create opportunities for security breaches such as stolen data, malware installation, or vulnerabilities when software is not properly updated. Users can also get into trouble when they unwittingly use technology in risky ways.
Work with your IT department to provide solutions, such as blockchain, to improve IoT security. Blockchain is a way to spread data in secured pieces rather than just in one location. Access to this data is highly monitored. There are plenty of pros and cons, so speak with your technology team to see if this is the right choice to protect your company.
When transitioning to a permanent hybrid work model, there are many factors to take into consideration. The well-being and productivity of the staff should be your first consideration. Keep the lines of communication open, empower employees, and design workflow utilizing the best tools and technology as you do.