June 24th, 2:42 pm
The definition of a normal workplace is changing, and we are here to see it for the better. In a 2021 Microsoft survey, 73% of employees favored flexibility, while 67% want more in-person time. More and more organizations are also discovering that there are no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the way we work, as some of their employees still prefer to work in the office while some are fully adapted to working remotely. After a scramble from in-office to full-remote work last year, businesses came into a deep reflection that a hybrid working model post-covid is the way to go.
In this article, we'll talk about points on how to make a hybrid working environment successfully work for your organization.
This list contains the following:
As with any structural change, the most crucial step you must do before materializing a new concept is listening to your greatest resource - your people. While you may incur costs as you transition to this new work model, it will be your employees who will bear most of the brunt of the work. So, take the time to do the essential part of any change management process - ask your employees.
Do they like to work remotely full-time? Do they want to go back to the office permanently? Perhaps some of them may want to do two days of work at home and three days of office work. Aside from that, would you allow them to go on a flexible schedule, or will they stick to a 9-5 clock-in/clock-out? These are some of the questions that you may want to float around first before you start. For some who have been doing the hybrid workplace for quite some time now, it's also good to ask your people every once in a while.
By now, it's not a secret anymore if we talk about digitalization as a critical element in making a hybrid environment work successfully. It isn't about using the available technology simply because it exists or is trending in your industry. As with anything, technology is there to bridge a gap. In this case, the gap is between your physical space and your virtual space.
Connecting these contrasting spaces requires you to embrace technology and think of it as an ally rather than a disruptor. For example, think of video-conferencing platforms and messaging apps that help create a connection between you and your remote teams and vice versa. Whether in operations, training, or staffing, these and other technologies enable your business to cross the path towards a smoothly running hybrid workplace. However, don't just invest in any new technology just because it's out there. Instead, think of its benefits and what advantages will it bring to your organization.
The concept of the office has changed. For some working at home, the kitchen island, the coffee table in the living room, or the bedroom may be an office. When the ways of work are changing, are we ready to say goodbye to the office cubicles and the conference rooms? Most of us may be parting ways with the office being the only sole place of work. After all, we've proven for quite some time now that our homes can be workspaces too.
However, contrary to popular opinion, the office is still here to stay, but it may not have the same purpose as before. Rather than a place to grind for work, you can transform your office space to be a place for collaboration and unscripted socialization. You can redesign your office in a way that when one comes in, there are a lot of opportunities for that person to mingle with others, strike up a conversation, or even observe their co-workers in motion. Redesigning your office to serve a hybrid workplace is also thinking about its purpose now that almost everyone can live without it. Let it be a place for you to thrive on culture and engagement.
Disconnection can happen in a hybrid workplace. Some working in the office may have greater chances of getting information quickly and almost naturally, too. This may create a division among groups. There's no need to panic, though, as this isn't necessarily inevitable if you make information accessible to everybody. Whether one is working miles away or just sitting next to you in the office space, one should still feel informed. Should they also need to get information, they shouldn't be helpless about it.
You can make this happen by creating clear communication channels and leveraging technology. Gone are the days when a bulletin board memo will suffice. Instead, blast out your company updates via email, social media, or messaging apps. If you have an online employee portal in place, it's ideal for creating an FAQ page for policies, company announcements, training links, or virtual drop boxes. For small teams, encourage regular huddles where employees can discuss updates and best practices to ensure a regular touch base.
As with every transition, some work policies may need revamping to cater to your current workplace model. The organization's policies are there to support organizational culture, not to limit it. With this guiding principle, it's vital to assess whether your current policies serve their purpose. For example, is the current policy on facilities management supporting your redesigned office layout? Or do your people management policies complement your team structure now that your managers are handling hybrid teams? If these policies make your work more difficult or provide an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, you might want to revisit them and possibly implement a new one.
Here are some ways to know if your policies support a hybrid workplace:
And most importantly,
Aside from your executive team or your HR team, there's another group in your organization that will have to flex more muscles when you go hybrid; that group is your IT team. Embracing this new work model includes IT adaptation. Over the past year, we've seen how those organizations with robust IT infrastructures were able to transition quickly from the traditional office to remote work. From that to a hybrid work environment will require the same criteria. These include shifting manual processes to go digital, transitioning to software or cloud-enabled tools, and investing in data security.
One may argue that not everything can be equal, but that shouldn't be an excuse to strive for providing an equal experience for your employees. With that said, it's critical to make employees feel that they are not missing out on something just because they are not in the office. Your managers also need to avoid falling into a proximity bias towards the people they see face-to-face every day if they don't want their other team members to feel like outsiders.
To level the field and prevent discrimination, you can make informed and updates accessible to both employees, ensure employees that they are valued whether they are seen or not, foster open communication and create employee benefits that serve employee's whether they are working close to you or not.
Click here for more ideas on company culture.
According to Gallup, one of a worker's basic needs is having the right tools and equipment at hand for them to do their work. Although the equipment is essential, it's often the one thing that's taken for granted. Some organizations even make up the excuse of making things work with less to cover up on this. Please don't fall into this attitude and invest in what will help your people do their work well.
This may need more consideration for a blended environment since you'll be catering to more than one groupset. For example, for those working in the office, you may check if there are ample work desks and chairs for them, how the lighting is in their work area, and whether there are enough power outlets for charging. For those working remotely, you may need to ensure if they are provided with a laptop. Do they have an internet subsidy or a workplace allowance to buy an ergonomic chair or a work table?
After everything is set in place, from the redesigned workspace, the IT infrastructure to the employee equipment, you'd think you're ready to go live. Instead, you know it's the people on the ground who get to do much of the work. Without guidance, they may feel confused and burned out with the changes. Sooner than later, this stress may pass to their direct reports.
So, before you let your managers walk through that door, educate them first. Equip them with training on how to handle blended teams. You must provide them with the right resources on how to communicate with teams working in different setups. Some training can be in the form of workshops. While you can do classroom learning, it's best to supplement it with simulation exercises where possible behavioural scenarios they may encounter as they work with their hybrid teams.
Click our resources on training ideas for further reading.
This is a tip that is more specific to our current situation. With all that we experienced last year, companies have become more than just one's employer but an advocate for their employees' health and well-being. For those who'll be coming back to the office, ensure your people that they'll be working in an environment that is COVID-safe. They need to know what the company and the processes have taken precautionary measures in place in health emergencies.
Aside from physical health, mental health is also one of the most significant considerations today. In a recent survey, 56% of the respondents claimed they had experienced burnout while working remotely last year. So how do you make sure that your employees, whether at the office or home, take care of their mental hygiene? You can do this by holding virtual and in-person activities, having an open culture, scheduling regular breaks, and holding more intentional collaborations.
Check out our resources on how to improve mental health in the workplace.
Building a hybrid workplace is not work on paper. It involves a lot of time for planning, collaboration, and implementation. Different teams also get to put their heads together to make it work, from upper management to IT, marketing, HR, and even down to your rank-and-file staff. It's a total reorganization from top to bottom.
But while this may sound laborious, with the use of the tips outlined above combined with proper planning and execution, your organization can make it work not just now but for the years to come.
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