Given the events of the previous year, it's difficult to imagine a period when businesses would not even consider allowing their workers to work from home. Yes, there may have been a few companies that worked entirely from homes, however, most organizations had only dabbled with the world of remote work before 2020, allowing some of their employees to work from home on a strictly ‘as-needed’ basis. The majority of businesses that have enabled their employees to work away from a central location during the pandemic have largely found it to be a win-win situation.
Now that companies and employees have had the chance to experience the two extremes of full-time office versus full-time remote work, most have settled on hybrid work as the standard in the future of the workplace. Businesses were already preparing to move in that direction during pandemic year one. According to a 2020 survey conducted by 451 Research, 67% of all employers intended to enable more workers to work from home for the long-term or permanently as a result of the pandemic and since then Mercer Canada found that 87% of employers would continue to offer workplace flexibility on a greater scale post-pandemic.
Hybrid Workplace Contingent on Human Experience
It seems that we’re nearing the end of imposed lockdowns and government restrictions, returning individuals to their jobs however, will be a lengthy process. For those that haven’t been planning for a hybrid work environment, they will now need to work quickly and prepare for the transition to a model that allows employees the luxury of choosing which days they work from the office and which they work remotely, based on what’s convenient for them. It might also be that a portion of core staff is based in an office while the remainder of the workforce works from a location of their choosing. These considerations are merely logistics however.
Aside from the practicalities of hybrid work, many surveys have noted employees' wish lists for the new office environment extends further than just the physical space they’ll be returning to. They want to have flexibility in the hours and days they commute to a workplace of course, but they also want employers to create an environment that supports them in their choices and benefits everyone equally, hybrid worker or not. Much of the success of the hybrid workplace will therefore come down to the employee’s ‘experience’ of their working arrangements; so much rests on the employer’s ability to create a workplace that fosters positive human experience.
Creating Positive Human Experience in a Hybrid Workplace
There are a number of critical aspects and basics hat enterprises must take into account in order to operate productively and retain key talent in a hybrid work environment...
The ability to communicate in a structured and transparent manner is essential in a hybrid workplace. Communication is required for a variety of everyday tasks such as allocating work, checking on progress, deliberating on initiatives and several other tasks. All these channels need to be kept open and for employees to feel like they can communicate openly on concerns and have their voices heard.
In order to establish successful communication, executives must devise strategies and implement digital technologies that can break down physical boundaries that exist between remote workers and those physically present in the office.
Aside from that, seamless inter-departmental coordination is necessary for the business to remain agile and innovative which oftentimes rely on solid systems and processes that enable easy sharing of ideas.
Many organizations will have an ingrained culture, built up through the course of their existence and hopefully that culture instills a sense of employees being highly valued by their employers. It will take a considered approach to maintain that culture so that employees know that the company cares about them no matter where and when they get the job done.
Team leaders should convene conference calls to not only address work-related issues but also to regularly evaluate performance, provide feedback and share success stories or even to engage the team in group leisure activities as appropriate.
Every employee has had a unique experience when working remotely, whether it was due to the nature of their tasks or just their living circumstances. In order to motivate employees to express their issues, a culture of inclusion needs to be cultivated and the challenge with a hybrid workforce will be ensuring that everyone is offered choices without causing division between remote and in-person workers. Employers need to reinforce that it’s a transitional phase for everyone and it’s OK for each person to go at their own pace.
Simple Accessibility of Information
Although the pandemic forced some employers to review and update their I.T. systems and processes, many will still be working with siloed systems that each perform a different function for different team members. This highlights potential productivity concerns as a large portion of dispersed employees are switching between multiple programs on a daily basis.
Employees want a centralized search tool that allows them to access all of the information related to their position, responsibilities, interests, geographical location, and other factors. Employers need to work closely with I.T. teams during the transition to identify where efficiencies could be made and whenever possible have a single method of communication between employees no matter their location. Again, employee feedback on how to make their jobs easier will be vital in this respect.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
A hybrid workforce when managed thoughtfully, will be beneficial to both businesses and the individuals who feel valued and trusted to carry out their duties wherever they might be.
Whilst people have been working at home during the pandemic, ironically, employers have been forced to get to know more about them as people and their lives. Working, living and playing at home meant concessions had to be made if a child or pet made an impromptu appearance but if there is anything good to come from the past two years, employees’ now seem to be recognized for the capable, resilient individuals they are.
The best examples of hybrid work will be employers that show patience and empathy towards the different concerns of their workforce returning; some will be reluctant from a health perspective, some will be worried about how they’re going to manage childcare and others will be dreading a return to a long, stressful commute. Whatever the concerns, good employers will listen, identify the best ways of working for each person to have a positive experience and they will communicate successfully that you’re all ‘in it together’ - after all it’s a learning curve for employers too. Human experience will truly be the fabric that knits the hybrid workforce together.