When the pandemic hit and we were forced to work from home to remain socially distanced from our colleagues, few people expected that way of working to last so long. There was an expectation that, after a few weeks, we would all return to the office and pick up where we left off. But as the pandemic persisted, discussions about ‘hybrid work’ – combining the best of remote and in-person working – began to emerge.
While some workers have gone back to working onsite, many employees can now take advantage of a hybrid model. Thousands of organizations are planning to use this model, but how can they ensure it brings the best of both worlds?
Reality of a Hybrid Work Model
A hybrid model seems simple because it blends two well-established models – work in the office and work from home. In reality, there are many new factors to consider, including a whole range of team norms. In many cases, there are subtle changes that, if not well managed, can become significant challenges.
- Health and Safety: Whether it’s ensuring employee access to home office ergonomic equipment or shifting to a combination of in-person and virtual customer appointments, the health and safety of employees and customers are paramount.
- Work and Life in Balance: Working remotely gives staff greater flexibility to juggle the demands of their personal lives. Concerns about team members taking advantage of the flexibility may crop up, but by establishing open communications and trusting team members to do what is best for the organization, the team, and themselves, a healthy balance can be had by all.
- Maximizing the Office Environment: For many, the in-office time may be best spent in brainstorming, planning, and connection meetings, and being intentional with that face-to-face time, while remote time is best served for focused “heads down” work. Once teams determine what is best for them, it is easier to establish a schedule fitting team members’ work needs.
- Different Departments, Different Approaches: To best meet the needs of the company, the customer, and the employee, a blanket approach will likely not be productive or well received by employees, particularly after many feel that the past year has proven remote work does work. As such, each department should adopt its own approach – best suited to its employee.
- Maintaining or Re-establishing Culture: Because of the dispersed environment that comes with hybrid work, it can put a strain on an established culture and reveal gaps due to a new way of working. Often a strong culture and the people who support it are significant pieces of what keep employees at an organization. By being very intentional and consistent about team norms – what they’ve been, how they need to change, and what the team thinks is the best approach – you can quickly reset key cultural factors and ensure team members understand what to expect.
- Connection and Inclusion: Without bumping into others in office hallways, it can be easy for employees to feel disconnected from others. With so much shifting occurring outside of the organization’s control, it is essential to provide frequent, meaningful communications with updates about what those changes mean for operations, the employees, and customers, and provide channels for feedback.
- Deliverables Over Impressions: With in-person work, there was more opportunity for performance to be evaluated based on observation and qualitative feedback, but with more work being completed out of sight, it can make it difficult for managers to have a sense of how an employee is performing. Leveraging concrete metrics and confirming employees are meeting agreed upon expectations removes that barrier when it comes time for performance check-ins and annual reviews and reduces the chance for subjective evaluations.
- Widening the Talent Pool: Hybrid and remote work open a whole new world of job opportunities for employees – and a whole new talent pool. To take advantage, organizations must develop a coherent, coordinated approach that consider classes of jobs across organizational units and geographies. This can enable the development of employee resource groups, which can further support the retention of talent and establish the organization’s reputation as an employer of choice.
Achieving Success through Change Management
Change Management helps to drive all of the factors outlined above and implement metrics to evaluate how the organization is tracking with them. By identifying clear business objectives associated with adopting a hybrid model, analyzing the groups impacted, and developing tools to help managers and supervisors lead candid discussions about team norms and performance expectations, organizations can achieve a successful hybrid working model.