The past two years have been a startling period of test and trial methods. After the pandemic hit us all by surprise and disrupted what we knew as normal life, no one knew the right way to go about it. Without a guide, textbook or instructions to help navigate the COVID-19 crisis, we had to react fast and identify the most appropriate response without knowing if it would work.
It started with remote work and virtual recruitment and it worked for some time. But despite the numerous benefits, 22 percent of remote workers find it hard to unplug after work, 19 percent are lonely and 17 percent struggle with communication. Because of that, business leaders and HR professionals knew they must find a solution that could work for everyone.
The introduction of hybrid work
People still crave human connection and want to spend time with their co-workers. However, the majority would prefer if that could be flexible, allowing them to switch between a physical and virtual office. That is how the conversation moved from remote to hybrid work. Seventy-four percent of U.S. companies currently use or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model.
Moreover, a recent survey found 83 percent of respondents believe at least a quarter of their workforce will remain hybrid post-pandemic. Although 88 percent of companies are concerned about the digital disparity between in-office and remote employees, 89 percent plan to purchase the necessary tech in the next 12 to 18 months to support their on-site and virtual workforce.
But despite the investments they’re putting in, organizations might not have stable grounds that ensure employees can thrive in the future where hybrid work is the new normal.
Hybrid work: Do you have what it takes?
Switching to hybrid work takes time, effort and resources. It is not a change a company can make overnight, despite having experience with remote work. If you rush the process and fail to prepare your staff, they might find it challenging to adjust. For example, employees could struggle to understand whether expectations and work hours have changed.
The slightest doubt could affect their productivity and hinder the transition to hybrid work. So before you take this step, ensure a steady foundation. That way, you’ll develop talent that can succeed in this brave new world. Check whether your company is ready for hybrid work by posing the following questions:
- Does every employee have the necessary infrastructure for hybrid work?
If your company already has units operating remotely, you likely have resources that support virtual work and employee efficiency. However, if you’re new to this, you should audit your technology and whether it can accommodate hybrid workers. Consider what software you’ll use and how you’ll maintain a sense of connectedness among teams. Ensure you have platforms that enable continuous collaboration and data sharing.
Moreover, think about your remote employees and whether they possess the necessary tech infrastructure to work outside the office. Decide how you’ll equip those without the required technology or internet connection. Perhaps you’ll increase their wage to ensure they can afford platforms needed for remote work, or you’ll set an arrangement with a reliable internet provider.
In addition, guarantee the office is safe for on-site work and compliant with COVID-19 health measures. Consider where employees will turn when they want to know what’s going on and meet up. Is it in the physical space or virtual office? Sort that out before rolling out hybrid work; it ensures consistency and makes procedures coherent.
- How many employees will need to change the way they do their work?
Think about who gets to switch between on-site work and remote work. Does everyone get this ability or only those who live far away from the headquarters? Perhaps you prefer executive employees to stay in the office during the week or everyone works from home from, for example, Wednesday to Friday. Thus, consider whether hybrid work will affect your workers’ assignments and the tools they use.
If the answer to these questions is yes, ensure they are ready for this change and have the necessary means and skills to adjust. Have a conversation with your workers to check whether they’re comfortable with different work hours, programs and tasks.
- How will you measure efficiency and productiveness?
Managers often believe it’s easier to track employee engagement and success in-office because they can monitor their involvement in the assignments and job completion. Decide what a good job means when workers are out of your sight. Consider whether remote workers have set deadlines and if they only show up in the office once they finish their projects.
Avoid tech for tracking how many hours they worked and how long their breaks were because it could make employees feel uncomfortable and continuously supervised. Instead, implement relevant metrics to measure efficiency and productiveness. You could track absenteeism, self-discipline, effective communication or the time workers take to complete their tasks.
- Can you support your employees (e.g., mental health programs, flexible schedules)?
Hybrid work can be challenging and some employees might take more time to adjust to this change. Not everyone is ready for this arrangement. Ensure you can provide necessary support to your workers. Implement a comprehensive mental health program that helps them navigate the new normal and hybrid work.
Offer counseling and channels that allow employees to reach out when in need. Think about their work-life balance and whether their schedules are overwhelming. Consider adjusting the work hours to each employee to provide an arrangement that leaves them time for family and hobbies.
- Will a hybrid setting affect employee performance (e.g., high performers suddenly become demotivated or can’t handle the new realm)?
Evaluate employees’ strengths and weaknesses before switching to hybrid work. Consider their personalities and whether they’ll feel comfortable working from home or going back to the office. Not everyone finds remote work exciting and thrives independently. Some employees generate motivation and ideas from teamwork and feel isolated otherwise.
That could cause high performers to become less productive and struggle with loneliness. On the other hand, on-site work could be overly stressful for those who like to dictate their own pace and work alone. Talk with your employees before making drastic changes and explain how the new system will work. If someone feels uneasy about it, find solutions together and help them adjust to the new realm.
- Will employee recognition and acknowledgment programs stay the same?
Consider how hybrid work will affect recognition and acknowledgment programs and whether they require tweaks. Treat everyone equally and ensure on-site and remote employees have the same possibilities and rewards.
- Will employees get the necessary training to work in a hybrid setting?
Hybrid work typically requires new technology, skills and expectations. Consider providing training for employees to ensure they have what it takes to work efficiently from home and in the office.
How to help talent thrive in hybrid workplaces
Here’s how you can help employees across all levels grow at the same speed they did before:
- Ensure you have the necessary technology: Provide every employee with tech platforms they’ll need to work from home and organize training to teach them how to use it. Workers should communicate smoothly, regardless of their location and find it easy to share projects, ask questions and receive feedback.
- Maintain continuous communication across all departments and hierarchies: Find efficient collaborative platforms and software to support seamless communication across all units, teams and departments. Every employee should have access to smooth data sharing tools and know where to find information and resources for their projects.
- Provide employee training to prepare them for work in a hybrid setting: Organize an all-encompassing training at least a month before rolling out hybrid work. That way, everyone will adopt the necessary skills and knowledge to work efficiently, regardless of their location.
- Assign coaches and mentors to every employee and guide them throughout the process: Executives and managers should mentor employees and help them navigate the transition to hybrid work. That way, workers can turn to their coaches for questions, feel more comfortable about the change and learn how to drive their own progress.
- Consider introducing hybrid work setting simulations to enable workers to see the benefits: Atransition to hybrid work doesn’t necessarily need to be drastic and foreign. The best way to prepare employees and see how they will behave is to roll out a simulation period before implementing this change. For example, start a test period and slowly have employees switch between on-site work and remote work, or invest in VR tech and create a digital environment where they can experience this form of work firsthand.
- Provide personalized learning opportunities and programs: Employees should know hybrid work doesn’t diminish their opportunities for professional growth. Assess their needs, potential and abilities and provide personalized career development programs to help them thrive in the post-pandemic world. You can also audit skill gaps in your company and blend them with employee training.
- Provide continuous feedback: Let workers know when they’re doing something well and what they could improve to reach their full potential. Remember to provide regular and constructive feedback. Also, ask them to tell you what strategies could make hybrid work function better.
- Acknowledge effort and reward stellar results: Recognition is essential for employee productivity because it acknowledges effort, good performance and discipline. Whenever your workers complete their projects successfully and contribute to team results, let them know you see and recognize their input. However, you should also implement financial incentives and foster fair and regular promotions.
- Establish efficient well-being programs: Develop well-being programs and organize mental health support to promote employee wellness and offer help with the struggles workers encounter in the post-pandemic world. You can also create thorough surveys, ensuring you address their needs and offer relevant help.
- Help employees set short-term and long-term objectives: Make it easier for workers to find their way in the post-pandemic world and make the most of hybrid work by helping them set achievable and relevant short-term and long-term goals. Suggest tools they could use to track progress and acknowledge their growth and ambition.
- Track and measure productivity and employee satisfaction: Identify relevant KPIs to measure employee productivity and share regular surveys to track satisfaction. Consider using apps that help you track workplace sentiments and collect feedback.
Before switching to a hybrid work model, ensure your workers are ready for the change, invest in the necessary infrastructure and provide continuous support. It is how you’ll introduce an efficient model and create an environment where employees, both on-site and remote, can fulfill their potential and be high performers.