As vaccination continues to spread, business leaders need to start planning for a post-pandemic workforce. It’s important to keep in mind that 77% of employees said they continued to work remotely, and another survey even found that 30% would leave their job entirely if they had to go back to their desks.
Still, many employees and employers recognize the benefits of personal work. This is especially true given that all the time people video conferencing during the pandemic, zoom fatigue has been rife. Furthermore, technology simply cannot replace the rich experience of collaboration and personal engagement.
A hybrid approach to work might be the happy middle ground for many. This model gives employees more flexibility in where and how they work. A hybrid approach can bring better work-life balance to employees, lower office costs for executives, and even attract more talent and loyalty.
To take advantage of a hybrid workforce, leaders should make the following considerations:
1. Clear guidelines and expectations
A hybrid approach should emphasize flexibility. Don’t think of a policy as a limitation, but as a guide that helps employees meet expectations from anywhere. Start with a solid understanding of how your employees work now, how they think they work best, and how they would most like to work in the future. Use this information to provide details such as office visit and work hours.
Are days in the office mandatory or completely optional? If you decide to require personal office days, be sure to state the specific reasons for doing so. If employees need to be online for a certain number of hours each day, set this in the policy. Add guidance and expectations on how employees should communicate times when they need to be offline during those hours.
“Effective hybrid work means becoming aware of how, where and when to work together across multiple work modes,” says Alexia Cambon, research director at Gartner’s HR practice.
2. New management practices
Managing a hybrid workforce requires different skills. In general, in a hybrid environment, the focus should shift from processes to goals. It’s not about how or where employees work; it’s what they do. When employees achieve their goals, they should be able to determine the workflows that will help them achieve them most efficiently. This approach gives employees more flexibility in determining how the hybrid environment can work best for them.
If your hybrid workforce policy allows employees to choose when or if to work from the office, managers must also be careful not to incentivize work in the office or reprimand employees for working from home. Employees need to feel they have real flexibility in making choices.
“Although executives have many decisions and challenges to juggle back to work in preparation for going back to work, one thing is clear – pointing out ‘job requirements’ as the main reason employees have to return to the office won’t work,” said Kristin Barry and Ben Wigert von Gallup in a recent blog post. Instead, employers should communicate the workplace value proposition if they want employees to stay in the office temporarily.
3. Compliance for a dispersed workforce
For companies that handle sensitive information, especially financial service providers, regulatory compliance deserves an even greater focus when employees work remotely. Employees may share information on personal devices or simply lack the same compliance reminders as in the office.
One way to help employees keep an eye on compliance concerns is to make it as easy as possible for them to get things done from anywhere – be it in the office, at work at the kitchen table, or on the go. For example, they should be able to report their contact with essential non-public information at any time without jumping through the hoops.
Jennifer Sun, CEO of financial compliance software solution StarCompliance, said in a recent article, “Every time you can simplify the self-certification process, you increase the likelihood that employees are doing the right thing about their access to MNPI – and and reduce the burden on your compliance experts to search for this information. “
4. Proximity to talent
A big part of a hybrid model is that it can open the door for talent recruiting from anywhere. However, if you take this approach, consider ways to bring the company closer to the company to facilitate face-to-face collaboration when needed.
“Some tasks can be performed from anywhere, but you may need local staff to commute to your new location during the work week,” said Subash Alias, CEO of the public-private economic development organization Missouri Partnership, in a recent article . “Also, about 68% of executives believe that employees should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a strong corporate culture. If the city or town you’re moving to has a strong talent pool, you can find the workforce you need to support your business expansion. “
The pandemic forced employees to adapt quickly and find new ways to do their best job. Smart business leaders will continue to embrace this innovation instead of jumping back into shape. Restructuring your work environment takes time and careful thought, but the flexibility it offers your employees and the benefits you see in return can be worth the effort.