The Commotion Around Hybrid Workplaces

The Commotion Around Hybrid Workplaces

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Recreate Your (Now Hybrid) Organization in the Image of Your Employees

Organizations are having to do a complete rethink when it comes to recruitment, retention and employee management in a hybrid work environment. While some forecast a full return to “normal” in the weeks and months ahead, many if not most others are grappling with what “normal” will actually look like. The commonality is that this is new territory.  

Chris Dyer, Consultant, Best-Selling Author, and a WorkTango webinar guest cautions: “If you think returning is a must, ask why. There are jobs that require someone to be in a certain place at a certain time. But, if you are returning out of habit, to appease a senior leader, or out of fear … the future of work is about to pass you by.”   Download the webinar slides here.

His reasoning? 

More than half of employees responding to a recent McKinsey study say their preference going forward is to work from home for three or more days a week. 

The same study tells us that if there’s insufficient flexibility some 30% of employees say they’re likely to switch jobs if they have to return to fully on-site work.  

Another study involving research from more than 2,000 knowledge workers and 500 HR directors in large U.S. corporations and mid-market businesses also tells us that in future job searches 86% of knowledge workers will look for a new position that offers “complete flexible hours and location.” 

So, if leadership’s vision at your organization is to carry on business as usual, buckle in for an exodus of talent unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before. 

Inspiring Workplaces checked in with 101 top influencers for insights and advice around fusion-style work environments. One of those is WorkTango’s own Rob Catalano. A return to the office isn’t by any means returning back to “normal,” Catalano says. “Your strategy today shouldn’t be about ‘returning to work’ but rather a strategic narrative towards a remote/hybrid workplace to attract and retain talent that have this new expectation of an employer. Embrace remote/hybrid work.”

hybrid work - Rob Inspiring Workplace Quote

What does a remote/hybrid work model look like?

That’s the beauty in all of this. Every organization now has the opportunity to recreate itself in the image of its employees. To do this, deploy a return to work readiness survey offered for free by WorkTango.   

A compelling observation identified in the McKinsey report is that having more than 20% of the workforce working remotely three to five days a week is as productive as if they were working at the office.   

Increased efficiency however, also comes with the threat of burnout. A modernization of policies and practices is a recommendation of Catalano’s to help people establish and stick to work boundaries.  

A reconsideration of productivity, performance and employee sentiment measurements is also inevitable. Conventional metrics no longer apply in environments described by Inspiring Workplaces as being inclusive of:  

  • People who never plan to return to the office full time  
  • Cases where remote work doesn’t work 
  • Industries that require collaboration or work that must be done on-site 
  • Employees who don’t have a comfortable working environment at home  
  • People whose mental health has suffered from the blurred lines between work and home 

Legacy practices like long-established annual appraisals and every-year-or-two engagement surveys, for instance, don’t offer real-time insights that hold leadership accountable and facilitate greater agility.  A more structured, frequent rhythm for gathering and giving feedback will intensify as hybrid environments take form. 

A remote or hybrid workplace requires flexibility

Creativity and flexibility are synonymous with a return to work that works for everyone. Visionary leaders are steering their ships toward people-centric initiatives and giving employees the opportunity to chart their own development, explore their full potential and discover their best selves. A workforce empowered to design their own career growth is a workforce that’s efficient and engaged. Trust plays a huge part in this.   

People make 35,000 decisions a day. They’re making them in and out of your office. “When we give employees the choice of where and when [and how] they work, we get the best results – and there is a mountain of evidence to support this. So, for employers who are struggling, take the lead from your people” says Gethin Nadin, Director of Employee Wellbeing at Benefex.

Information flow is crucial in a hybrid environment

In a hybrid-steeped culture, the “lead from your people” Nadin refers to, comes from more frequent and intentional two-way communication.

Whether your employees are at home, at the office, in a coffee shop or anywhere else, open and ongoing channels of communication are vital. From employees, this involves open, authentic and regular feedback. From leadership, it involves expressions of empathy and gratitude, a focus on the personal and professional development of people, and actions that demonstrate feedback is valued.   

Solid two-way communication involves establishing new rules of engagement. Building expectations around working hours: when employees are expected to be available and when they’re not. Defining what communication channels are appropriate for regular conversations or for situations when help is needed fast. It involves checking in to find out the impact of newly introduced measures or adaptations. Refining tactics if feedback suggests so, and checking in again.  It involves continuous Active Listening, an approach fundamental to sustained engagement and ever-improving efficiency. 

Alarmingly, the McKinsey study discovered some 40% of organizations haven’t clearly communicated their vision of what the workplace is going to look like in the future. It may be a matter of uncertainty. Or the baffling numbers of considerations that have never been on the radar of executive teams, until now. Or a lack of reliable data to guide the next steps.

That’s why this is the first in a series of posts addressing the hybrid workplace.

Future hybrid workplace topics include:

What experts have to say about employees returning to the workplace and the matter of vaccination 

Why some people want to stay remote, some want to go back to the office,  others welcome a bit of both… and how these differences can be accommodated 

Emerging training and career development trends 

What behavioral bias looks like in a hybrid work model and what to do about it 

The top questions to be asking employees about a hybrid workplace, and 

What metrics to look for 

“Very few organizations can be a great fit for everybody. But a hybrid environment is an opportunity to be more accepting, open and collaborative for the most people possible.”

– Chris Dyer