As widespread vaccination continues to unfold, business leaders must begin planning for a post-pandemic workforce. It’s important to consider that 77% of employees said they would like to continue working remotely, and another survey even revealed that 30% would quit their jobs entirely if required to return to their desks.
Still, many employees and employers do recognize the benefits of in-person work. This is especially true as all the time people have spent videoconferencing during the pandemic has made Zoom fatigue prevalent. What’s more, technology simply can’t replace the full experience of collaborating and engaging in person.
A hybrid work approach could be the happy medium for many. This model offers employees more flexibility when it comes to where and how they work. A hybrid approach can bring greater work-life balance for employees, reduce office expenses for business leaders, and even attract more talent and increase retention.
To realize the benefits of a hybrid workforce, business leaders should address the following considerations:
1. Clear policies and expectations
A hybrid approach should emphasize flexibility. Think of a policy not as a restriction but as guidance to help employees understand how to meet expectations from anywhere. Start with a solid understanding of how your employees work now, how they feel they work best, and how they would prefer to work in the future. Use this information to inform specifics such as office attendance and working hours.
Will days in the office be required or entirely optional? If you decide to require in-person office days, be sure to outline the specific reasoning behind it. If employees need to be online for a set number of hours each day, outline that in the policy. Include guidance and expectations for how employees should communicate times they must be offline during those hours.
“Effective hybrid working means becoming intentional about how, where and when to collaborate across multiple modes of working,” said Alexia Cambon, director of research in Gartner’s HR practice.
2. New management practices
Managing a hybrid workforce will require different skills. Generally, the focus in a hybrid environment should shift from processes to objectives. It’s not about how or where employees work; it’s about what they do. If employees are meeting goals, they should be able to dictate the workflows that help them do so most efficiently. This approach will offer employees greater flexibility in discovering how the hybrid environment can work best for them.
If your hybrid workforce policy allows workers to decide when or whether they will work from the office, managers must also be careful not to incentivize in-office working or reprimand employees for working from home. Employees must feel they have true flexibility to choose.
“While leaders have many decisions and challenges to juggle in preparation for a return to the workplace, one thing is clear — pointing to ‘job requirements’ as the primary reason employees must return to the office will not work,” Kristin Barry and Ben Wigert of Gallup wrote in a recent blog post. Instead, employers should communicate the value proposition of the workplace if they want workers in-office part of the time.
3. Compliance for a dispersed workforce
For companies that deal with sensitive information, especially financial services providers, regulatory compliance deserves an even greater focus when employees are working remotely. Employees might be sharing information on personal devices or just lacking the same compliance reminders they might have in the office.
One way to help employees stay on top of compliance concerns is to make it as easy as possible for them to complete tasks from anywhere — whether in the office, working from the kitchen table, or on the go. They should, for example, be able to report their coming into contact with material non-public information at any time without jumping through hoops.
As Jennifer Sun, CEO of financial compliance software solution StarCompliance, said in a recent article, “Any time you can simplify the self-reporting process, you’re making it likelier that employees do the right thing concerning their access to MNPI — and reduce the burden on your compliance professionals to seek out that information.”
4. Proximity to talent
A great part of a hybrid model is that it can open the door to recruiting talent from anywhere. If you do take this approach, however, consider how you might be able to bring the business closer to them to make in-person collaboration easier when it’s necessary.
“Some roles can be performed from anywhere, but you might need local employees who can commute to your new location during the workweek,” said Subash Alias, CEO of public-private economic development organization Missouri Partnership, in a recent article. “Plus, about 68% of executives think employees should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a strong company culture. If the town or city you move to has a strong talent pool, you’ll be able to find the workers you need to support your business expansion.”
The pandemic forced employees to adapt swiftly and find new ways to do their best work. Wise business leaders will continue embracing that innovation rather than jumping back into the way things once were. Restructuring your work environment will take time and careful consideration, but the flexibility it will bring to your people and the benefit you will see in return can be well worth the effort.