Who Survives & Thrives in a Hybrid Work Environment?
Workplaces everywhere are currently contemplating what the future holds for their work environment. The stay at home model which has been adopted by so many businesses is very likely to stick around in some form, especially with employees still hesitant about a full-on return to the office. Add in the many liability issues which could arise, and you’re left with a very tough situation for everybody. So what’s the answer? The truth is, there is no one-size fits all approach to the immediate future of the workplace.
One of the more promising options is the hybrid work environment, which allows certain employees to work from home on a full-time basis while others go to the office as they would prior to the pandemic. Alternatively, some employers may choose to allow some staff to work from home some days and work in the office others.
It’s important to note that the hybrid workplace is different from the flexible work environment - employees assigned to work in the office will always work in the office rather than having the option to work from home, with remote workers reporting from home permanently.
The hybrid work environment can be used by businesses wary about a full return to the office, allowing certain departments to continue working from the comfort of their home, while other departments can once again enjoy the conveniences offered by the office. As with any major change to the work environment, the hybrid model offers a number of unique benefits and challenges that will need to be addressed by businesses.
The advantages of adopting a hybrid work environment
Employees craving face-to-face contact with their colleagues can finally get back to some sort of normalcy, whereas those who enjoy the flexibility of remote work can continue to enjoy them without being forced back into the office. This mixture creates a safer environment for all employees by requiring only select departments to work in the office environment. That means fewer sick days, increased morale and mental health, and a huge decrease in the risk of a company-wide COVID outbreak.
The hybrid work environment presents companies with lower operating costs due to the reduced in-person workforce, and can also have positive effects on the environment since only part of the workforce will be commuting each day. Businesses will also be able to continue to enjoy the unsung benefits of the remote work environment, including an expanded talent pool for hiring, increased productivity by allowing people to work to their own strengths, and better accommodated employees with disabilities or medical conditions.
The drawbacks of the hybrid models and how to overcome them
The nature of having some employees in the office and some at home will inevitably cause feelings of isolation among your employees. Those working from home on a day-to-day basis will miss out on the coffee talk, water cooler conversations, and impromptu social events that come from working closely together in an office setting, and they’ll feel demotivated as a result. It also becomes more difficult to bounce ideas off colleagues because workers aren’t immediately present, making it challenging to work through new ideas or solve difficult problems together.
Workplaces will need to find a way to include all employees in things like meetings, team building exercises, and even non-work activities to maintain morale and give each and every employee a voice and sense of community. This can be easily done by implementing cloud-based productivity and communications solutions which enable your workforce to work together in real-time, no matter where they’re located or what devices they’re using. Colleagues can instantly launch video and audio calls to brainstorm, management can regularly check in with remote employees, and remote workers can feel like they’re a part of the team despite distance.
Businesses interested in a hybrid work environment may want to assign certain managers exclusively to oversee remote teams, ensuring that these employees aren’t left behind and that they’re being included in all activities being held by in-office teams. This gives management the chance to regularly check in with remote employees to gauge how they’re doing and identify any risks or red flags before they can emerge. Management should consider productivity intelligence solutions to gain valuable insight into how their employees are working on a day-to-day basis, and who may require immediate attention.
Other problems will also need to be addressed, including the heightened risk of cyber attacks on those who are working remotely. Businesses may feel the need to invest in more complex cybersecurity infrastructures, maintain strict policies and guidelines regarding customer data, and require employees to use company networks in order to reduce this risk. This could very well mean retraining remote employees on best practices and how to keep data backed up and secure, as well as the creation of internal data recovery plans in the event of a data breach or data loss.
How can you tell who will do well in a hybrid work environment and who won’t?
Overall, good workers are good workers no matter what kind of environment they are in. People who can’t manage their time or focus on work are probably not in the right job to start with. But using a hybrid work environment as a new model does give managers an opportunity to realize better performance from those good workers.
At this point in time, managers probably already have a good understanding of who is thriving from home and who isn’t, and can create schedules accordingly. You may have employees who have done a better job at home who are eager to get back into the office to see their friends, or people who don’t love distractions at the office who want to continue to work from home.
It’s important to ask employees about their preferences rather than make assumptions based on performance or productivity but caving in to individual preferences can create chaos for the company. Routine is important, especially to people who require more structure. Managers have to decide on one homogenous model that creates better overall performance and deal with complaints about it on an individual basis. It is also important not to show favoritism. A parent, for example, shouldn’t get more work-from-home time than someone who does the same job simply because they are a parent; this could lead to job dissatisfaction from people who have chosen not to have families.
With the right approach and the appropriate changes made by management, a hybrid work environment could be the best way to approach the workplace in a post-COVID world. Employees can continue to enjoy the flexibility of working from home, while those who wish to resume operations in the office can finally do so. With the right mixture of cloud-based business applications, productivity intelligence and communications tools, your in-office and remote teams can be brought together seamlessly to boost productivity, enhance communication and collaboration, and ensure that no employee is left behind going into the future.
Prodoscore is a productivity intelligence tool that can help managers understand whether the strategy is working. It will allow you to see right away if an employee’s productivity dips or excels when and if they return to the office, and give you a clear picture of their performance over time. That way, you can tweak your hybrid model as necessary to find that perfect balance that works for both your people and the company.