4 Things to Consider When Transitioning Your Business to Hybrid Working
By: Amy Miller
The rapidly expanding vaccination plan is putting more COVID-19 shots in the arms of American workers, prompting more companies to begin considering how their workplace will look when prohibitions against gathering are lifted.
But with more than a year’s worth of remote working, some employees – and their employers may be more inclined to continue a work-from-home environment into the future. It’s understandable that companies may want to continue working from their corporate headquarters or office space, but, given a rise in productivity with our new virtual workplace, companies may also want to consider allowing employees a few work-from-home days per week. In fact, a Gartner survey conducted last year found 82% of executives plan to allow employees to work remotely some of the time.
This concept would be a hybrid working model and comes with its own unique set of challenges, the details of which are still being ironed out as we transition into new territory. Companies considering transitioning to a hybrid working model should keep a few things in mind, including what their staff wants, creating new office guidelines, and finding ways to maintain company culture.
Surveying Employees’ Wants and Needs
Before making a final decision on your company’s working model, consider surveying your employees to better understand how they want to work.
First, consider asking why they want to work from home – Is it a child care issue? Do they want to cut down commute time? Do they feel less distracted and therefore more productive at home? Also, consider asking how many days your employees would like to work from home, and get a feel for any concerns they may have working on a hybrid team.
These answers should help shape your company’s hybrid working policy, putting your employees’ considerations first. But they also give your Human Resources department a chance to conduct a check on employee wellbeing and gauge concerns on health and wellness in a new era.
Further, the answers will give managers a chance to better prepare for what their teams may look like in the future – including how many permanent and flex-space desks they should prepare for – in order to begin thinking about creative ways to manage a hybrid group.
Ensure Proper Working Space, Both In-office and at Home
Managing a hybrid team means also managing a hybrid workspace. In-person workers should obviously follow all health and safety guidelines in your state and city, including mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing.
At-home workers may have additional needs met to ensure a functional workspace, including ergonomic seating, proper (and safe) technology, and virtual access to work functions, like meetings or scheduling.
A proper workspace also relates to scheduling – an at-home employee should not be required to work off hours simply because they have easier access to their laptop. Make clear the guidelines for work hours and ensure your employees, both in-person and at-home, are following them.
Think of Ways to Improve or Maintain the Culture of Your Business
One challenge of a hybrid workforce is a big one: How do you maintain the culture of your business while some of your staff are not present in the office? In fact, the Gartner survey found 30% of business leaders identified this as their top concern as they move into this new space.
Informal meetings give at-home and in-person employees a chance to replicate the catch-you-at-the-water-cooler experience. A great idea from entrepreneur Jodie Cook, whose team has centered their meetings around a specific theme, whether it’s sharing a childhood or pet photo, answering questions about your interests outside of work, or sharing a favorite recipe.
Also, consider a happy hour on Friday afternoons or sending goodie bags to employees’ homes – maybe they’re missing the regular donuts and coffee surprises that in-person workers get.
Empower Frontline Leaders to Set the Tone
As we navigate this new landscape, it’s clear there will be some growing pains. It’s important to empower your company’s frontline leaders to embrace change and respond to fluid situations with grace. Employees will follow their lead.
Notably, managers should make the employee experience their priority and be open to adjustments as their team responds to the new normal, particularly when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
This is why it’s important to hire management capable of handling a hybrid team. A sharp vision, and one that can be conveyed clearly to the team, will not only help motivate employees as they work through the new normal, but it will guide decisions and provide a roadmap for the workforce.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details but remember this is territory few of us have navigated before. Ultimately, a hybrid environment could prove to be a better setting for your team than before COVID-19. Some thrive at home, while others thrive in the office, and giving your team the option could satisfy induvial needs and surface some unexpected benefits.